Sunday, 30 July 2017

Tech Megatrends in 2017 - The bigger Picture

Problem: What are the major technology changes that are going to shape the enterprise over the next 5-10 years? 

Initial Hypothesis: Working within technology and making businesses more competitive I see the speed at which technology changes.  Working with multiple large customers, I know that people are generally looking at a handful of strategic technology trends.  While technology trends are actually all connected and a hierarchy.  Basically, I am classifying the significant tech trends and not drilling down to lower levels such as Mobile application patterns or particularly technologies such as O365.

While technologies are not so kind as to make themselves easy to segregate I feel the big trends are:

Analytics - Storage, mining, analyzing data and reporting.  Basically, this is an old industry with new trends such as larger data sets, new data sets e.g. social media, additional reporting formats/media, AI is really trended recognition on steroids.  The trend has been to make analytics available closer to real time and not it's moving into predictive.  Robotics is a closely related working with data. 

Security - We have so much more data and devices, the old world of protecting your own assets and monitoring outside people in a regulated fashion is no longer the main way of securing.  Key is understanding that identity is king.  Be this an individual or a computer; we need to be able to know the person or system are whom they say they are (non-repudiation).  Block-chain - While I think it's important and in some industries absolutely critical, this to me falls under security.  We need to trust and share between machines and transactions. Once again an old industry with a shift in focus in that identity and collaboration is now central to security and not using a centralized castle like security models.

Cloud Computing - Low-cost computing paid for on demand is simply a continuing trend for businesses, only now we are good at virtualization and cloud computing and the big three (AWS, Azure & Google) are getting better quickly.  Cloud computing ties to Analytics and security. Virtualization has progressed and we are getting better at providing computing safely and at a lower cost.

Sub Trends:

Robotics/Automation - Automation goes manual steps on behalf of a human and historically this has been more around manufacturing.  Going forward I see it taking over rudimentary information worker roles.  Ingesting legislative data is a great example and coupled with machine learning, we can build up models to identify what laws are applicable in different jurisdictions. Medical diagnosis are often referred to under AI is not intelligence, it's pattern recognition and analytics to determine a likely problem from the data picked up and cleaned.  The medical example will be essential to us thriving on this planet; doctors will only get complex issues, the rudimentary stuff will disappear and be dealt with better meaning fewer returning patients.

IOT - not exactly new just we have to do it better on a larger scale.  So while technology is changing, systems communication is not.  I see drones more as a subset of IOT, hardware devices using analytics.  Pretty similar to fully automated self-driving cars.

Augment Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality - will be big but like block chain will have unique application is different industries.  It relies on Analytics and security as its underpinning.

Here is some research I gleaned from 5 key firms on current technology mega-trends (this is how I see these firms views on the tech mega trends,):

Artifical Intelligence (AI)
Augment Reality (AR)
Drones (UAV)
Virtual Reality
3D printing

Artificial Intelligence - Cognitive learning
Robotic Automation (RPA)
Internet of Things (IOT)

Dark Analytics
Machine Intelligence
Mixed Reality
Inevitable architecture (cloud computing)
Everything as a service (cloud computing)

Big Data & analytics/AI
Cloud Computing
Cryptocurrency/Digital Payments
Virtual and augmented reality - stock and glasses -Google glasses


Possible Resolution:  Most people in technology are aware of the mega trends, how relatively important each trend is and the details of how quickly change is happening.  For me analytics, speed to market and trust need to underpin everything I deliver.

Friday, 23 June 2017

IE11 cannot save meta data when inside an iFrame

Problem:  I have two SharePoint sites, I am iFraming once site collection within a PageViewer control on the other SharePoint site.  I have disabled the iFrame security restrictions.  When I try edit the list item field columns, the data will not save in IE11.  Using IE 11 on the Order pages (without the iFraming) works.
The error manifests in that the Title is validating as if the title is blank when it's already filled in and most of the metadata is not saved/persisted on save.  MMS term data is the only data saved.

Initial Hypothesis:  As Chrome and lower level browsers work, the issue has to be with the implementation of IE.  I can see console errors in the IE developer toolbar "attachEvent" withi the SharePoint init.debug.js file is throwing the console JavaScript error. It appears that the issue only occurs in IE 11 when editing or adding list field data when the SharePoint site is within an iFrame.   So not common scenario but if you are using iFrames, it will affect a large portion of my user base.

Resolution:  Edit the master page in the Orders site collection to ensure the init.js uses the alternate path so the code shall save.

Posts on the iFraming issue Series:
IE11 not saving field data iframe Issue (This post)
Term Store/MMS musing when using iFrames (WebTaggingDialog)
Displaying SharePoint Site Pages in iFrames

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Term store mussings with iFrames

Problem: I have a SharePoint site (ClientOrders i.e. being iFramed in another SharePoint site (Portal i.e., to iframe in the ClientOrders site collection.
I want to iframe in the list within the Portal page, show the list for my customers orders and allow the user to select a different term set when editing the order metadata i.e. Language.

Initial Hypothesis:  In the site Order Site Collection, I need to allow the site to be iFramed, I do this by suppressing the iFrame HTTP header that stops sub domain iFrame using the server control: AllowFraming.  See this post for details.  Once the pages on the Order site collection can be iFramed, I use a Page Viewer Web Part in the Portal site collection on a page and now I can see my Orders inside the Portal SharePoint site collection.  All is good up to this point.

The user edits the order item metadata and when the reach the language they with to change from English to Spanish.  The user clieck on the select termset icon (two tickets) and the popup (webTaggingDialog.aspx) fails to load with the Security exception.  This aspx page uses it's own master page on the 15 hive than can be updated (watch out for CU's overriding the change).  The information below highlights the change should you be prepared to change system hive files:

When adding term set meta data to a SharePoint list item, the SharePoint use a Root hive/15 hive file, WebTaggingDialog.aspx:

Resolution: In my case, I need to allow the Order Site Collection page to be iFramed so I had to go to the WFE's and change the hive (as this is a share system page), I changed the master page to suppress the SameOrigin HTTP response (using theAllowWebFraming server control).  I added the X-Framing-Options header back with the SameOrigin and allowfrom using IIS.  So just plain horrible.  The WebTaggingDialog.asp does not use the site collection master page.  I amend the dialog.master file.  the page now opens but it does not load the treeview control used to display the term set data e.g. Language

Problem: Now the problem is that the WebTaggingDialog is not loading the treeview control to display the term set.

Initial Hypothesis: JS lazy loading issue or it is using the iFrame parent page (Portal) rather then (the calling page) to build up the display.

Workaround:  I don't want to mess with the root hive dialog.master or webTaggingDialog.aspx as these are system pages and I need to write custom JavaScript and inject it to make the tree control work.  I simply uses JavaScript to hide the term store popup page (I never open the webTaggingDialod.aspx).
In the end, I disabled the Term set picker control by hiding the icon (2 tickets image shown above) and type ahead works for selecting content types and I do not offer the WebTaggingDialog.aspx.

Posts on the iFraming issue Series:
IE11 not saving field data iframe Issue
Term Store/MMS musing when using iFrames (This post)
Displaying SharePoinnt Site Pages in iFrames 

Friday, 9 June 2017

SharePoint on-premise reporting options

Overview:  As always this really depends on the circumstances but my broad view on reporting for SharePoint is outlined below.


  • Power BI on-prem. has not been release but will work for SSRS reports and have the Power BI functionality that shall be embedded using an iFrame into SharePoint.
  • The upgrade path from SSRS SharePoint integrated mode is going to be hard, whereas the upgrade path from SSRS native mode will be simple.
  • Power-BI on-prem is not going to support SAML.  Use WAP (Web Application Proxy)/reverse proxy to get NTLM ot Kerbros tickets for authentication.
  • SSRS SharePoint integrated mode shall be available only in SP2013 and SP2016 and not have any continued path going forward.

SharePoint 2013 Options:

SharePoint 2013 BI Options SharePoint 2013 SQL BI Options
Excel Services
SharePoint KPI/Filters
SSRS SharePoint Integrated Mode
Power Pivot for SharePoint

The table below shows what you client probably uses historically and the challenge is to map them out to a supportable solution on SharePoint going forward.

BI in SharePoint and the Microsoft stack has drastically changed over the past 2 years.  The next 12 months should keep this pace up with the release on Power BI.  As my knowledge in this area improves I'll update this post.

Other Posts that may be useful:
A good post to read as of EOY 2016 on BI  for SharePoint
SP2013 with SSRS 2012 SharePoint integrated Mode Overview
Installing SSRS on SP2013 Reporting Post

Monday, 5 June 2017

Enforcing Authentication using the Windows IdP

Overview: SharePoint farms often have multiple Identity Providers (IdP) such as Ping or SiteMinder and you always need to have Windows for the Search and other reasons.  Often you need to force the browser or CSOM code to use a specific IdP, in my case, the Windows IdP needs to be used.

In Fiddler, I have added a header as shown below to enforce the browser uses the Windows IdP:

CSOM HTTP Header added to force usage of the Windows IdP:

Simple Code for a CSOM SharePoint Test Rig

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Xamarin is fantastic-

Overview:  I am enjoying working with Xamarin, easy for any C# developer with a little experience and forethought to build decent applications.  Microsoft/Xamarin really reduces the barriers and makes building native mobile applications very achievable.  Nothing to do with SharePoint but maybe my next out of hours project will encompass O365.  I saw a demo at an Azure conference 2 months ago and thought it looks pretty straight forward.

Proposed Solution:  Scratch card game

  • Build a Web  Service for holding game and user details
  • Build UI to reveal scratch card for Android and iOS
  • Sign in using Facebook
  • Retain users winnings and games played information 

Summary: PoC is going well, deployed the Web Service and SQL backend, registered with Facebook and can login.  Secured mobile apps Droid and iOS.

Tips: PCI projects and Xamarin forms projects do not play nicely together.  Choose wisely.  Also get some help from a Xamarin developer, it is saving me so much time when i hit a problem.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Switch Master Page Minimum Permissions

Problem: Use the Client Side Object Model (CSOM C#) to add a new master pages to a site collection and switch the master page.

Initial Hypothesis: Writing to a site collection only required contribute rights or even "designer" rights at the web application permission level.

Resolution: The minimum permission set for changing master pages is "Full Permission" which a site owner and the site collection admin have.  So to switch master pages you need a high set of permissions.  UI allows master pages to be switched when the user only has "Design" permissions. This proof is flawed as the UI and CSOM permissions are different.  Can the UI have different permissions to the CSOM API???  Am I going mad.  
SPWeb object with Design user permissions cannot be updated and the API returns an "Access Denied Error" - Thanks to Sachin Khade for identifying this.

Updated 26/05/2017:  So the reply I got from the engineer who raised a Microsoft ticket is "SharePoint designer and  SharePoint GUI only need to have design permission to change the master page. This is because SharePoint designer is created as an extension of the SharePoint product. However, since CSOM calls are coded using Visual studio, the code flow involved in this is different and hence requires permissions that are higher than what SPD needs."

Summary: "Design" rights allow the user to change the master page using the UI however the same user cannot switch the master page using the CSOM C# approach.

Updated 26/05/2017: Thanks to Aswin Bhaskaran for working out a minimum permission set for using CSOM to switch the master pages on a site collection:
Note: "Design" rights can be applied at the Web Application Policy level allowing the accounts with "Design" rights the ability to add master pages.  The "Design" permission is only built into SP at the Site Collection level, I created the "Design" permission with the same permissions at the web application level to ensure my account in the Web app Design group has access to all site collections on my web app.

Note: Microsoft do not recommend customized master pages for O365 or future development.  Rather inject JavaScript to modify pages.