Sunday, 13 September 2015

SharePoint 2013 Workflow options - notes

Overview:  There are a lot of workflow options and each of the solutions lend themselves favourably to different circumstances.  In this post I look at the more common options around workflow for SharePoint.  The 3 options I'm exploring are: K2 blackperl, Nintex and SP2013 WorkFlow Manager.  Also note that existing SP2010 workflow still exists and is an option if your business has workflows on the platform already or you have this skill set available.  There are other products but these are the main stream options.

So each of these products has their place and suit different organisations.  This post is my opinion and I am not a workflow expert and show my thoughts on when I would favour 1 of the approaches.

Licencing:  WorkFlow Manager does not have the licencing costs.  Nintex has a server and CAL licencing model and K2 has a server licencing model.

Skills:  what are your existing in-house skills.  If you already have K2 or Nintex expertise it makes these products far more attractive.

Size:  How big is your organisation, how complex are the workflows, how many workflows and how often do they change shall influence the workflow option to select.

SharePoint 2013 WorkFlow Manager
  • SharePoint Designer 2013
  • Ideal for simple or medium complexity workflow processes
  • Limited to a pre-defined set of activities and actions
  • Relatively quick and easy to configure
  • Custom workflow development through Visual Studio
  • Can implement state-machine workflows
  • Supports custom actions/activities
  • Supports debugging
  • Ideal for modelling complex processes
  • Requires a developer
  • Workflow Manager
  • High Density and Multi-Tenancy
  • Elastic Scale
  • Fully Declarative Authoring
  • REST and Service Bus Messaging

  • On-premise and cloud workflows – but cloud workflows do not allow custom actions
  • Nintex uses the SharePoint workflow engine
  • Easy to create Nintex workflows (good tooling) but not so easy to upgrade and maintain if complex – they require a proper dev environment if workflows require changing
  • Tight coupling with SharePoint – so upgrades need to be planned. Some workflows have broken after upgrade.
  • Can create custom activities but these are limited to constraints imposed by Nintex design surface
  • More suited to State machine workflows using reusable custom modules and user defined actions.
  • Nintex uses its own database which you will need intimate knowledge of when it comes to performance issues.

K2 – technology agnostic – best suited if SharePoint is only a part of your technology snapshot, some folks consider K2 a BPM product.
  • Off box WF hosting:  Allows for increasing the number of blackperl servers and no resource overlap, flexible licencing model as it is server based
  • Well tried and tested workflow engine
  • Good reporting and troubleshooting
  • Excellent SOA layer (SmartObjects) with multiple products.  This is more an EA feature as it can be a great way to create an SOA.  Allows API to connect to custom SQL, CRM, SAP, Web Services.
  • Proven advanced tooling, good visual tooling (not as good as Nintex IMHO)
  • Cost is relatively high, support costs are extensive, need to pay for dev and pre-prod licence
  • Not based on the latest MS workflow engine
  • Not easy for end users to build WF (despite marketing noise)
  • Setup and monitoring is specialised and will require advanced K2 expertise
    Difficult to back out of product
  • Tooling requires training and breaking out of OOTB features requires a high level of expertise and dependency on K2
  • Support tended to be patchy with technical knowledge


K2 is a good product if you need to build an SOA layer for integration, are prepared to install correctly (cost) and maintain.  You shall need dedicated workflow people to create the workflows.  So in the right circumstances it has it’s place.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Non Functional Testing for SharePoint

Work in Progess...

Overview:  Functional Requirements are the business requirements that the business define for the application being built.  Non-functional testing is concerned with performance, reliability, scalability, recovery, load,  security and usability testing.  For SharePoint it is a good idea to test this at a platform level and then verify the individual application non functional testing is appropriate.

A nice diagram explaining the various testing caucus's (Source Guru 99):

SharePoint Non Functional Testing:
All of these test should be performed against your various SharePoint platforms and will dictate the SLA's offered to the business using SharePoint as a service.  Baseline testing is a good idea as the differences can be used to determine the efficiency of the individual application being created.


Sunday, 16 August 2015

FedAuth Notes for Problem Solving

Overview:  These are my notes on FedAuth relating to SharePoint 2013.
SharePoint (SP) 2013 uses Claim Based Authentication (CBA).  In this example I am looking at SiteMinder (a CA product) as the Federation Service (this is the equivalent to ADFS (Active Directory Federation Service) as the Identity Provider (IdP)). 
Basic Flow of SP CBA Authentication:
  1. SP looks for a FedAuth cookie, it is does not have a FedAuth cookie for the users, it shall redirect the user to login via the IdP (SiteMinder/ADFS). 
  2. The IdP returns a valid SAML token to SharePoint's STS.
  3. The STS generated a FEDAUTH cookie for the user to hold the current users session lifespan state (to keep the user log in).  User holds the STS token not the SAML token.  The FedAuth in is a pointer to the SAML token held in the SharePoint Token Cache.
The default behavior of SharePoint is to store the FEDAUTH cookie on the user’s disk, with fixed expiration date. The expiration of the FEDAUTH cooking can be for a fixed time or a sliding session (if the user interacts with SP, the SP session is extended).  FedAuth can be stored on the Disk (default or in memory (not persisted between broser close downs). 

Note:  Changing where the cookie is stored affects the way the user shall login and effects Office application login such as Word.  Test thoroughly before changing)

Note:  Watch the IdP providers expiration policy vs what you setup in SP.  As an example, you could remove a user from the IdP, however the session is still persisted and the user can still interact with SharePoint.   From MSDN "Make sure that the value of the LogonTokenCacheExpirationWindow property is always less than the SAML token lifetime; otherwise, you'll see a loop whenever a user tries to access your SharePoint web application and keeps being redirected back to the token issuer." 

Note: Closing a browser window with the FEDAuth stored to Disk does not invalidate the SharePoint session.

SharePoint Authentication and Session Management
Remote Authentication for SharePoint Online (RTFA)
Why IE and Office work together in SP
Adding, removing SP claims and managing security using claims  and NB! also
Logout of SharePoint

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Machine Translation Service for SP2013

Overview:  I have never use Machine Translation Services (MTS) and this post is my discovery of the Service.  These are my summarised notes.
  • Setup a MTS on the farm
  • Configure MTS on the farm
  • The Server/servers running the MTS need internet access as the need to connect to Microsoft Translator.
  • Used to translate word documents, html documents and plain text.
  • MTS has a single database
  • There is a length restriction of translations so long word document won't translate.  This can be amend in your MTS configuration but 500,000 characters is the default max translation length.
  • Full APIs: Server side Object model, or CSOM and REST API's. 
More Info:

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Provisioing Site Collections on-prem using the Tenant Admin API

Problem: Ability to provision Site Collections without using Server Side code.  Use CSOM and the Tenant Admin APIs.  This is a follow on the post: Provisioning Site Collections using CSOM (read it 1st).  Thanks to Sachin Khade, Frank M (check) and Alex N R (check) has given me his time to understand this:
I have reduced the Tenant Admin process into the least amount of steps that works.

The steps are:
Perform on an existing Web Application
Run the PS Script below:
  1. Create SC using a team site site template STS#0
  2. Set the AdministratorSite Type = TenantAdministrator
  3. Add ProxyLibrary that add the TenantAdmin dll
  4. Attach the Proxy to the existing Web Application
  5. Enable SelfServiceCreation on the Web Application
  6. IISReset

  • Using the C# console create new site collections using the Tenant Admin API
PS Script

# The first section contains the variables you need to specify based on your needs
$webapp =  get-spwebapplication # My Web application (already exists)
$url = "" # Tenant Admin Site Collection used for provisioing (does not exist)
$WebsiteName = "Tenant Admin"
$WebsiteDesc = "Tenant Admin Site"
# better to use the site template "tenantadmin#0" using the team site site template "sts#0" causes
# an error msg (SubscriptionId can't be null), both work but you get less admin options # for provisioning.
$Template = "STS#0" 
$PrimaryLogin = "radimaging\psmith"
$PrimaryDisplay = "Paul smith"
$PrimaryEmail =
# Create a site collection and top level website
New-SPSite -Url $url -Name $WebsiteName –Description $WebsiteDesc -Template $Template -OwnerAlias $PrimaryLogin –OwnerEmail $PrimaryEmail
$web = Get-SPWeb $url

#Set the TenantAdmin SC
$site = get-spsite -Identity $url
$site.AdministrationSiteType = [Microsoft.SharePoint.SPAdministrationSiteType]::TenantAdministration
$newProxyLibrary = New-Object "Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.SPClientCallableProxyLibrary"
$newProxyLibrary.AssemblyName = "Microsoft.Online.SharePoint.Dedicated.TenantAdmin.ServerStub, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=71e9bce111e9429c"
$newProxyLibrary.SupportAppAuthentication = $true
Write-Host "Successfully added TenantAdmin ServerStub to ClientCallableProxyLibrary."
# Reset the memory of the web application
Write-Host "IISReset..."   
Restart-Service W3SVC,WAS -force
Write-Host "IISReset complete."

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Provisioing Site Collections using CSOM - Tenant Admin API

Overview:  This post looks at provisioning site collections using CSOM.  You can also provision site collections for SharePoint using PowerShell or any Server side object model. 
Points to Note:
Programmatically you can provisioning new site collections using CSOM using 2 approached namely:
  1. Tenant Admin API
  2. Http Post method (mimic the SharePoint UI for creating a site collection)
Note: Neither approach allows you to specify the Content Database to connect to, you shall need to manage the CDB you site collection goes into using the round robin site collection OOTB method for on-prem SP. 
Note: Tenant Admin API does not allow the Quota template to be specified.  See the FAQ section in this post.
Note: Tenant Admin API requires the April 2014 SP CU or later
Note: the Search Service Application needs to be configured to handle multi-tenancy to work correctly.  As do other the Service Applications using partitions to support multi-tenancy.  If you already have existing running farm, the change is a considerable effort.  The SA need to be created in partition mode and cannot be amended after creation (you will need to re-create the service Application).
Note: Using the Tenant Admin API for SC creation - you don't get the usual SP groups such as owner, contributor and visitor - you need to manually create them.
Note: I don't believe you can use the Publishing Site Template using the Tenant Admin API.
The Tenant Admin Site Collection can reside on the same or another Web Application where the site collections shall be provisioned.  Each Tenant Admin Site Collection (has it's own site template 'tenantadmin#0') has a SubscriptionId (Subscription Group) and when using the Tenant Site collection to create a new site collection, the new site collection is given the SubscriptionId for the group i.e. you can't specify the SubscriptionId declaratively).

Outline of steps to setup the Tenant Admin API:
  1. Service Application need to be configured in partition mode (important SSA are: search, UPA, MMS, BCS, SSS, there are more).
  2. Enabling remote site collection creation using CSOM on the Web Application
  3. Enable AdministrationSiteType property from a site collection to "TenantAdministration"
  4. Enable SelfServiceSiteCreationEnabled on the Web Application
  5. Set Up Tenant Admin for Multi Tenancy/setup subscription
More Information:
Multi-tenancy/Site subscriber explained by Bill Baer
Spencer Harbar's Rational Guide to Multi-tenancy is a useful resource
General guidance for hosters in SharePoint Server 2013 provides insight into Multi-Tenancy
Scenarios where multi-tenancy potentially shall be used:
  1. O365/SharePoint Online
  2. SPO-D
  3. Hosting companies
  4. Government implementations such as G-Cloud
  5. Large Enterprise (only with extreme requirements)
Notes on HNSC using Tenant Admin API:
  • When creating a host name site collection with managed paths e.g., you need to create the corresponding root hnsc for the routing to work i.e.
  • Creating a hnsc with a path is consider creating a hnsc not a path based site collection or a combination of the naming.
  • The manage path /sites/ which is already created works as it is already setup.  If you want another managed path you need to configure this separately.
Quota Limits:
Quota max storage size and code points are parameters in the CSOM Tenant Admin API, they don't set these values and you cannot set the quota templates using CSOM.  You only 2 options at this point in time is to use the UI and apply a template, not really an option for customers with hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of site collections or you use PowerShell/ the Server side object model.

To be able to provision a new site collection, the account used to provision shall need to have contribute rights (it feels low and simple to me but that is the min) or higher on the Tenant Admin Site Collection. 

Thursday, 7 May 2015

SharePoint 2016 Points from the Ignite Conference

6 May 2015

SharePoint 2016 new features (from the Ignite conference 06 May 2015)

  1. Office Graph and Delve are important in SP2016.
  2. MS are releasing a search add-on for SP2013 later in 2016, this will be part of SP2016 (vNext). The add-on stores the index on o365. allows seemless indexing of on-prem and O365 using AD to AAD sync.

Download all the Ignite Videos and Slides: