Sharepoint as webplatform is like eating soup with a fork

Ever seen sharepoint in the web? Well me neither (unless not that I was aware of), but there are actually some pretty nice looking pages. Have a look at Ferrari.com or Carlsberggroup.com. Ever seen those out-of-the box corporate intranet sharepoint sites. They definitely don’t look like that. Sharepoint is capable of bringing forth some really good looking websites, but at what price? Unfortunately I couldn’t find numbers, but found an ok case study on ferrari.com. Let’s have a closer look at it through the eyes of a Open Source/PHP developer:

Lamp stack

You would have a setup that looks something like the following

  • Debian Linux
  • MySQL
  • PHP
  • Apache
  • Memcache
  • Some CMS built on top of that, lets say Drupal
  • Hardware, lets say you have 4 million PI/month, you would get by with one decent server

Costs for such a setup are probably roughly CHF 10000.- per year (24/7 support, monitoring and maintenance of the server)

Building the website: If you pay CHF 400’000.- you can get a pretty decent website.

Windows stack

I have no idea here, but I know that those licences probably start at $ 10’000.- and go up pretty high. You can even pay a lot of money to get a faster search :S. I’m not quite sure if I would be very comfortable running a Sharepoint site on one server, considering already windows and its hunger for Memory and CPU. (I ran a little atom file server with 1 GB of RAM. With Ubuntu this was totally enough, but with Windows 7 this is pushing the limit.) Lets assume you would need two servers that would then be CHF 20’000.-.

I have no clue how much you are going to pay to get a decent looking sharepoint website, but I would guess it’s going to cost a lot. Reasons for my guess. The Microsoft developers are going to cost more:

Further I would guess that it’s going to take more time to build and customize a sharepoint page. This is just a guess. People who know both sides should tell me differently.

Sharepoint as Webplatform

I’ve been working in depth with Drupal (as developer and user) and started working with Typo3 and Sharepoint. Drupal has out of the box many shortcomings, but with a good team you can get Drupal do anything you want. You shape the system just as you want it. Typo3 is an awesome CMS, literally CMS. You can do some really cool stuff with content, and everything out of the box.

What about Sharepoint? It’s a heavy thing, that’s for sure. You’ll need Silverlight enabled and there’s some heavy lifting going on in the background. You can build pages, choose different layouts and especially rely on some „I-can-do-everything“ wysiwyg editor. You can build all kind of workflows and lists. I especially like the whole workflow concepts of the Nintex addon. Power pure! But all those features, are they really built for an internet website? Especially that super „I-can-do-everything“ wysiwyg editor is more of a game than a real tool. If you are going to really use it, how are you going to stick to corporate design guidelines.

I’m only learning about Sharepoint, but so far it’s just a giant software with a huge overhead, when built for internet sites. I would love to get to get my hands some some numbers. How much do those projects cost? How much time does it take to build a nice looking page (for example like the ferrari page)? Does somebody have experience?

Conclusion

Upfront you are going to pay a whole lot more using a sharepoint solution. Running Sharepoint just as an internet solution is going to cost a whole bunch of money and is probably not going to bring any additional value. There are probably calculations to convince management that’s it’s going to pay off. Sorry, but I’m having a really hard time understanding those calculation „the user can complete his workflow 3 minutes faster than with an other system, multiply this with 1000, is going to save us x amount of hours per month, blablabla, therefore there’s going to be a breakeven in only one year.“ This is just pure crap.

Sharepoint is really awesome as intranet solution. Really awesome! It can manage all your documents, you can integrate it really easy with office and what is really cool: You can easily build forms add workflows that do all kinds of crazy stuff, for example an electronic customer satisfaction form, or probably any other form/workflow based application you can think of. No need to do any programming, out of the box excel export (that’s what all managers want) and a user interface users are used to.

So, since you already start building up sharepoint knowledge, are going to use an other technology that is more web suited or are you going to use that same technology despite of it’s drawbacks? „Best of breed“ or „all in one“? That’s the question. After all, this is also a political question. There are pros and cons for both approaches. Are you going to be the innovative and creative company that will build it’s website on a web-conform platform or are you going with the flow taking the giant’s software?

Having a homogenous IT landscape is going to make a lot of things much easier. It’s all about knowledge! The support team needs to focus on only one technology, which means ressources can be used more effectively. But then the drawback, you might miss out on some cool features other technologies might offer. How you are going to decide…? There are many more things to consider.

Especially big companies are going to have to live with some restrictions and regulations that are probably taken care of with some big giant Microsoft product, but what if new cool trends emerge in the web?

I’m looking forward to some sharepoint fan telling me I’m totally wrong… after all, I could only get a tiny glince of sharepoint sofar. And please. This is just scratching the surface. I know, but I don’t have the knowledge yet to dive into it. Expect though more on Sharepoint in an enterprice environment and especially compared to Open Source tools that are out there 😉 My heart still beats Open Source.