Microsoft has some pretty ingenious partners out there. One that is recently in the news for a really beneficial "hack" (their words), is Bamboo Solutions, a provider of SharePoint Web Parts. They have developed a way to help simplify development of SharePoint solutions called SharePoint on Vista. This solution enables developers who have Vista desktop to do SharePoint development outside the server environment.
This is some pretty interesting capability. Until now, if you wanted to do SharePoint development you had to either have access to a server with SharePoint -- MOSS or WSS -- installed on it, or have VM technology installed on your workstation. SharePoint on Vista removes both of these requirements.
Vista SP1 Internet Information Server (IIS) is almost identical to IIS on Windows Server 2008. There are a few exceptions, but nothing that prevented Bamboo Solutions from finding a way to install WSS or MOSS on it.
Curious about this new tool, we asked the company a couple of questions about it and Microsoft's response to its creation. Steve Gaitten, Director of Online Operations, was good enough to answer them for us.
As this was the first time we had heard of this "tool", we were wondering if it was a beta or production version. According to Gaitten it's not really even Beta at this time, which is why they are referring to it more as a "hack". This was something they created to help them with their own development; it was never created as a product to sell.
They have made it available for open download for anyone to use, hoping to get some good feedback that will help them improve the solution. Bamboo Solutions has a developer community called Bamboo Nation where developers can download the tool and provide feedback on how it works.
Based on this feedback -- and you can be sure there are lots of developers out there willing to try it out -- Bamboo Solutions will release new and improved versions. "We are strongly encouraging interested parties to post comments on our blog, and participate in the online forum we have dedicated to this tool. Bamboo Solutions is committed to being a community-driven engineering shop."
Gaitten stressed that the SharePoint on Vista tool is free and will continue to be. They have no plans to charge a fee for its use. "Sharing this breakthrough is a gesture of goodwill to the SharePoint development community, the people best positioned to appreciate the products and services we offer. Again, this was really just one of those creative solutions our engineers [Jonas Nilsson] came up with to save time and work more efficiently." Gaitten says that it highlights the technical capabilities of their team.
In many ways, SharePoint on Vista is a great marketing tool for this company.
Supporting the Tool When Microsoft Won't
Microsoft wasn't quiet on the topic of this new tool. Although they were quick to praise Bamboo Solutions for their "useful" tool, noting that they have heard many reasons why people would use it, they were just as quick to say they wouldn't support it and had no plans to test or support it in the near future. According to Chris Johnson, a program manager for the WSS team, "However, I imagine that this will not bother many people and we will end up seeing this being a popular option."
How does Bamboo Solutions feel about Microsoft's response to SharePoint on Vista? "We have been flattered and gratified by Microsoft's response to this development. While it seems that Microsoft won't be in a position to formally support SharePoint on Vista in the very near future, the informal communication we've seen suggests that they fully understand the demand coming from the development community, " says Gaitten. Bamboo Solutions is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, so it's unlikely you would hear them say anything negative against Microsoft.
As for support then, Gaitten says that they will offer support via their community site Bamboo Nation. "Based on the scope of the offering, we are confident that the online resources we put out there will give folks everything they need to make it work and streamline their SharePoint development."
In addition, they are launching "Bamboo Labs" soon. This is a site where developers can get early access to products and software from Bamboo like the SharePoint on Vista download.
Not Every Developer Will Use it
Although this is a good solution for developers who aren't allowed to have VMs or server operating systems installed on vms, not everyone is saying they will use it. Some prefer to have separate, clean installations of SharePoint on a VM for each project. So it may depend on the developer and the development shop on how useful this tool can be.
The fact that it requires Vista and can't run on XP ( IIS in XP Professional lacks the features required to run SharePoint) may be another deterrent for this product.
Regardless, we expect that the Bamboo Nation community will be alive with developers dying to try this download out and Microsoft will eventually come to the table and play.