As I’m sure you’ve heard, on Monday Microsoft officially released the public preview for Office and SharePoint 2013. And although the NDA is still in place (super special people only), there’s a wealth of knowledge now in the public domain for consumption.
One highly touted new feature of SharePoint 2013 is the new app model that will be referred to as “apps for SharePoint.” Office also got its own version of this called “apps for Office.” Although you’ll eventually see some really cool apps that touch both worlds, this article will touch only on apps for SharePoint. Here’s a link to the current publicly available apps for SharePoint.
Disclaimer: The information provided below is public information, but it is in draft format. The details are subject to change before the RTM version of SharePoint 2013 is released.
Before I explain how everyone will be happy with this new feature, let’s get down to the basics of what is changing from 2010 to 2013. Currently in 2010, applications and customizations are typically deployed via solution files. These solution files (.wsp) can either be deployed at the farm level or at the user level, which are sandboxed.
Farm solutions require a farm administrator to deploy, as they require full trust to the farm. Farm solutions are then available for activation in every site collection. Sandboxed solutions can be managed by a site collection administrator, and they operate within specific guidelines for resource utilization as well as the site collection that they were uploaded to.
The current model is actually quite good. It helps make the development and deployment process much easier, as the entire solution (no pun intended) can be packaged within a solution file. The solution can be upgraded quite easily, and sandboxed solutions are a great way to pilot new code or deliver unique experiences in a multi-tenant environment, like Office 365.
With that knowledge in hand, let’s dive into some of the great new strides Microsoft is making in regards to how applications can be delivered in SharePoint 2013.
1. Cloud App Model
Microsoft is fundamentally changing how organizations deliver experiences to its users with the new cloud app model. The idea is simple, really. Apps for SharePoint are stand-alone applications that are easy to install, use, manage, upgrade and remove. Not only will cloud-based and hosted SharePoint 2013 environments take advantage of this, but so can on-premises ones.
I’ll take an example from the current list of available apps for SharePoint. A user in your organization needs to organize a series of tasks for an upcoming company project. The user doesn’t really have the time to figure out how to get this done in SharePoint without guidance, so they browse the App Store to see if anything is available. Sure enough there’s an app for that (sorry Apple, I just had to say it!), and the user rejoices after clicking one button to add it to their site. I’ll say it again. This will fundamentally change the way organizations deliver experiences to its users.
2. Uses Web Standards
3. Isolated Apps
For those who are worried about security, the new app model uses isolation to separate the app from the main domain. Apps are literally deployed to their own web site in their own domain, which serves to further protect from unauthorized access of sensitive data. This helps drive adoption for on-premises environments looking to utilize the Public SharePoint Store. The key words in this point are to further protect from breaches, not fully prevent them from happening.
4. User-Friendly App Lifecycle
Just about everybody can relate to the ease-of-use of managing personal apps on a mobile device. If your organization utilizes the new app model, Public SharePoint Store or Internal App Catalog, you will be giving your users the ability to find, install, upgrade and even remove apps without ever calling someone from IT.
If you’re worried about this, IT still has control. You can choose to restrict access to the public SharePoint Store and create your own Internal App Catalog. Regardless of which you choose, the experience is the same. The user chooses which apps they want to install and work with, and they even have the choice of when to upgrade them when a developer makes a change.
5. Existing Solution Model Still Available
As exciting as the new app model is, many organizations will be sticking with the existing solution model. As with anything else in technology, specific business requirements should guide how that technology is actually used. Time will tell just how quickly cloud apps will catch on in the enterprise. Until then, the existing solution model will be widely used and supported in SharePoint 2013.
We’re all about to see a tremendous increase in innovation from creative developers looking to leverage this new technology. The good thing is, you can jump right into this today and test drive it yourself.
Editor's Note: To read more by Mike Ferrara: