Bamboo Solutions Offers Data Integration Platform for SharePoint Remember those guys who figured out how to hack Vista to allow you to run your SharePoint environment directly on the desktop and not within a vm? Well they are hanging out at Microsoft TECH-ED NORTH AMERICA 2008 this week and they have a product announcement that may interest many SharePoint developers. It's called Bamboo MashPoint and it's a free data integration platform for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0. Note that important point -- it's for WSS3.0 which means you can start developing and integration enterprise applications into WSS without the need of MOSS and the Business Data Catalog. Most of you don't need an overview of the difference between WSS3.0 and MOSS. Suffice it to say that if you want integration with backend systems and enterprise applications you need to be running MOSS - Office SharePoint Server -- and use it's Business Data Catalog to do the integration. Now that's not to say that there aren't workarounds to this -- the BDC is just the standard way to develop these types of integrated solutions. Until now... We took a peak at the MashPoint offering on Bamboo Labs - Bamboo Solutions community site for sharing early release information and downloads on their products and services.

What is MashPoint

MashPoint is a "unifying framework". You can access databases, web services or custom providers (like maybe some of those new social networking products just recently announced) using this framework. They say it's built on the architecture that the SharePoint BDC is built on. As a matter of fact, any application that runs on the BDC is also supposed to be able to run on MashPoint. mashpoint.jpg

MashPoint is a SharePoint Shared Service. Bamboo Shared Services Administration is installed to Central Admin and you create instances of this Shared Services similar to other Shared Services like Excel Services. MashPoint works almost exactly like the SharePoint BDC including the use of the metadata database where you store Application Definition files for each datasource you want to connect with. These Application Definition files are loaded in the MashPoint SSP and can then be accessed via Web Parts and applications using the BDC Object Model. MashPoint also provides support for all authentication options including anonymous, basic, windows and integrated. MP_datasources.jpg

Suffice it to say, this is not basic functionality. Which means it wouldn't hurt to download the BDC documentation and understand how that works. And although it emulated the BDC in WSS and MOSS, there are some limitations that Bamboo says it will address in future betas. “Our customers want to use SharePoint Products and Technologies as a way to aggregate all kinds of existing information within their organizations,” said Michael Tanner, CEO of Bamboo Solutions Corporation. “Our vision for Bamboo MashPoint is to make it easy to accomplish that goal. Most importantly, MashPoint will let customers of SharePoint Products and Technologies maximize their investment in time and effort, and simplify the migration to SharePoint Server 2007 should they decide to do so in the future.”

Bamboo Solutions SharePoint WebParts

Of course, Bamboo Solutions is a provider of SharePoint Web Parts and solutions. This is their bread and butter. They have developed a number of web parts that you can purchase that can sit on top of the MashPoint framework. Web Parts such as Data Viewer, Virtual Map, Chart, Calendar and more. “Bamboo Solutions has been focused solely on enhancing SharePoint Server with Web Parts,” said Tom Rizzo, director of SharePoint at Microsoft Corp. “With MashPoint, Bamboo is attempting to maximize the power of Web Parts solutions, bring all corporate information into Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and provide investment protection for SharePoint Server customers to upgrade to SharePoint Server 2007.” But you don't have to buy these to leverage the MashPoint framework. You can just go away and build your web parts and custom applications. Important to know you have options.

Why Would You Want to Use MashPoint?

So why would you want to use MashPoint again? The biggest reason is that it replaces the need for the BDC. This means you can install it -- for free -- on WSS3.0 where you can't install the BDC and have enterprise data integrated into your SharePoint sites, lists and applications. Are you a small business who can't afford full blown MOSS? MashPoint will give some of that enhanced functionality without going there. Even more important though is that if you later decide you are ready to upgrade to MOSS, you haven't wasted time and money on application integration in WSS with MashPoint. You can take all that work and effort with you.

Bamboo Labs and MashPoint

You can preview the MashPoint platform at Bamboo Labs. Bamboo Labs is their online pre-release testing ground for new editions of products and services. These previews enable Bamboo to gather important feedback from the community as well as market their solutions well before they go to market. It provides a hosted demo environment, user cases, documentation and downloads. Bamboo Labs is a testament to a company that stresses the value of community. While you are on the Labs site, have a read of a Q&A with Jonas Nilsson is the principal architect of MashPoint, the engineer behind both the Vista hack and MashPoint. Bambo Solutions will be demonstrating MashPoint tomorrow (Tuesday June 10) at Tech-Ed. This is really something you need to take a closer look at, whether you are a small to medium company that only works with WSS3.0 or you want to evaluation the SharePoint platform before you big and purchase the full server suite.