Is a Single Server Sufficient for a SharePoint Deployment?

October 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Most people would instantly answer “NO!” to this question, however the true answer is “It Depends!”.

At the SharePoint User Group UK meeting on September 22nd 2010, I delivered this presentation on the subject, covering many of the considerations when planning a new SharePoint Deployment. 

Despite low attendance, everyone chipped in with their experiences and it was one of the most enjoyable sessions I have ever conducted.

My presentation is viewable here on SlideShare

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What Future for ProClarity Analytics?

September 14, 2010 5 comments

So PerformancePoint Services within SharePoint 2010 has brought across more views and features from the ProClarity Analytics Server (PAS) application, including the trademark Decomposition Tree in a new stylish Silverlight front end great!

But what about the remaining ProClarity features and views? Can you continue to run PAS after upgrading/moving to SharePoint 2010? When does support for PAS retire? Can any existing PAS views/reports be migrated over to PerformancePoint Services 2010?

All of the above, burning questions in my head and through much resourcing, and conversations with Microsoft PPS Product Team and Technical Advisory Service, I thought I would consolidate and share the information I have and the deductions I made from it…

Background

ProClarity Corp was acquired in 2006 by Microsoft to help accelerate Microsoft’s position in the Business Intelligence space.

The ProClarity Suite of products comprises the following:

Component Description
ProClarity Analytics Server (PAS) Server component which stores authored reports/dashboards, controls connections to data sources and renders dashboards.
ProClarity Dashboard Server Additional server component to store and control the dashboard design and layout.
ProClarity Dashboard Studio Client tool used to author dashboard designs and import views from PAS.
KPI Designer Add on to PAS which allows authors to create KPIs directly in PAS using a wizard driven environment.
ProClarity Desktop Rich client desktop authoring tool.
ProClarity Web Professional Thin client web based authoring tool.
ProClarity SharePoint Viewer A SharePoint web part for displaying views direct from PAS.

Microsoft Support for the ProClarity Suite

There is a firm support timeframe for version 6.3 of the ProClarity suite of software available at the Microsoft Support Website. This basically provides clear dates for end of support:

Mainstream Support Retires: 10/07/2012

Extended Support Retires: 10/07/2017

Support for ProClarity in a SharePoint 2010 Farm

ProClarity is a separate product from SharePoint and PerformancePoint Services, with an entirely different architecture.  So much so, that ProClarity remains a 32-bit application only, whereas its posh offspring is now 64-bit only.

However, IIS7 supports a mix of 32-bit & 64-bit web applications on the same Web Server, and Microsoft supports having ProClarity installed on your SP2010 Web Servers – but is this wise?

In my view, if you wish to keep ProClarity Analytics Server running alongside your SharePoint 2010 Farm in order to access the features and richer designer plus your existing PAS content, you should keep PAS running on its own WFE server and well away from your SharePoint WFEs.  My reasons for this are as follows:

1. Microsoft advises this 

2. Treat ProClarity as if it were another substantial SharePoint Service Application.  It will consume resources, so scale out, and place this on its own server.

3. There are a number of configuration changes required to get the 32-bit ProClarity web server to run alongside your 64-bit SharePoint web applications.  Obviously you do not need to make risky changes to your farm if this thing gets pushed out to its own server.

Migration Path for PAS Content

There is currently no migration path for PAS content to PerformancePoint 2010. There are also no publicised plans to create this migration path. Therefore, when mainstream support expires in 2012, you would be left with a set of views/reports/dashboards with only an unsupported product to view them through and maintain them, and with no way of moving them off here other than manually recreating in PerformancePoint where possible.

In Summary

In light of the above, my advice would be to only persist with installing/configuring ProClarity alongside your SharePoint 2010 farm if you already have legacy ProClarity dashboards/views and you wish to continue to support these. 

I would advise against using ProClarity because of a business need to use a view which doesn’t exist in PerformancePoint.  It is likely that the view can be created using one of the other tools at your disposal e.g. Visio Services, SSRS, Excel Services…

If you do continue to use and create ProClarity views, just be aware that in under two years time, you could be unsupported and with no way of escaping it!

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Dedicated SharePoint Installation Account

September 10, 2010 1 comment

The conversation about installing SharePoint Server using a dedicated installation account, and the principle of ‘least privileges’ is not a new one and I refer to an article written by Spence Harbar many moons ago which still applies today.

However I still come across many situations where a dedicated install account is never considered, and (more worryingly) even quite a few situations where installing using the Farm Account (also known as the DBA Account) is considered!

You should absolutely 100% NOT be installing SharePoint using the Farm account or any other service account, for the following reasons:

– It’s a service account and therefore should not have any logon rights at all.

– It should only have the permissions assigned to it by the configuration wizard.  None should be assigned manually before or after.

The Dedicated SharePoint Installation Account

A dedicated account should be used to Install SharePoint and any Service Packs/Hotfixes, run the Configuration Wizard, and run any STSADM/Powershell scripts on the farm.  This is because:

1) It is granted the highest permissions of any of the SharePoint server accounts, and you don’t want these privileges assigned to your service accounts:

Local Administrator on each SharePoint Server

SQL Server Roles: dbcreate + securityadmin

2) It has no influence on the running of the farm so if it gets locked out (because someone keyed in the test farm password three times for example) it has zero consequence.  It is even recommended it is disabled when not in use.

3) It also keeps things nice and tidy and prevents giving high permissions to Tom Cobley and all to perform farm admin. Yes, you may not be able to identify culprits who make mistakes, but you shouldn’t be giving this account out on a whim either.

This hangs over from MOSS 2007 and the best practise is pretty much identical.  Yes, there is a known bug with the User Profile service where admin rights must be temporarily raised on the farm account (but then rescinded), but this is no reason to do run any of the installation as MOSS Farm!

The only exception is when configuring a DEV machine, but if you train bad habits you’ll end up executing them for real!

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Issues Importing SSAS 2008 KPIs into PerformancePoint 2007

August 25, 2010 5 comments

Getting PerformancePoint 2007 to work with SQL 2008 (and SQL 2008 R2) has always been a bit of a hack.  Officially it wasn’t supported at all until PPS 2007 SP2 was released.

Background

Basically, all the PPS assemblies reference v9.0.242.0 SQL assemblies (SQL 2005) and 4 key SQL 2005 packages from the SQL 2005 Feature Pack are pre-requisites before PPS 2007 can be configured.  Namely, these are:

– Microsoft ADOMD.NET (SQLServer2005_ADOMD)

– Microsoft SQL Server Native Client (SQLNCLI)

– Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services 9.0 OLEDB Provider (SQLServer2005_ASOLEDB9)

– Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Management Objects Collection (SQLServer2005_XML)

Issues Importing KPIs

So everything is finally configured and PerformancePoint Dashboard Designer seems to be working nicely with your data sources all set up etc…

But, when you try to create a new Scorecard based on existing KPIs in your SSAS Cubes, you find it fails with the following:

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Looking inside the Event Log, you’ll find the following error:

image

The important stuff….

System.IO.FileNotFoundException: Could not load file or assembly ‘Microsoft.AnalysisServices, Version=9.0.242.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=89845dcd8080cc91’ or one of its dependencies. The system cannot find the file specified.
File name: ‘Microsoft.AnalysisServices, Version=9.0.242.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=89845dcd8080cc91’
   at Microsoft.PerformancePoint.Scorecards.Server.ImportExportHelper.GetImportableAsKpis(IBpm pmService, DataSource asDataSource)
   at Microsoft.PerformancePoint.Scorecards.Server.PmServer.GetImportableAsKpis(DataSource dataSource)

In other words…

The assembly which controls the import from SSAS (Microsoft.PerformancePoint.Scorecards.Server) has a reference to v9.0.242.0 of Microsoft.AnalysisServices which it cannot find.

Solution

Following many failed attempts to re-install the SQL 2005 components in order to get this assembly installed and references, I decided to manually copy this file from an existing SQL 2005 installation into the GAC of this server. 

This I did, however I then received a subsequent Microsoft.Analysis.Connection.Exception:

Microsoft.AnalysisServices.ConnectionException: Cannot connect to Analysis Services version ‘10.0.1600.22’.
   at Microsoft.AnalysisServices.Server.Connect(String connectionString, String sessionId)
   at Microsoft.PerformancePoint.Scorecards.Server.ImportExportHelper.GetImportableAsKpis(IBpm pmService, DataSource asDataSource)
   at Microsoft.PerformancePoint.Scorecards.Server.PmServer.GetImportableAsKpis(DataSource dataSource)

The upshot is that v9 of the assembly is referenced, however I need v10 to be able to connect to my SQL 2008 repository.

So here’s what I finally did:

In .NET we can redirect the assembly bindings in the web.config.  I added the following to the Web.Config file for the PPS Monitoring WebService which Dashboard Designer uses to connect to SSAS:

  <runtime>
    <assemblyBinding xmlns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v1″>
    <dependentAssembly>
            <assemblyIdentity name=”Microsoft.AnalysisServices” publicKeyToken=”89845dcd8080cc91″ culture=”neutral” />
            <bindingRedirect oldVersion=”9.0.242.0″ newVersion=”10.0.0.0″/>     
    </dependentAssembly>
    </assemblyBinding>
  </runtime>

Saved the file and did a IISReset.

On reloading Dashboard Designer, I can now successfully Import my KPIs!!!

image

Additional Info

I must point out that this issue was on a single server development machine and as such, may be a quirk of my setup.  For starters I couldn’t get SQL Server 2005 SP2 Management Objects to install – and this problem may be the result of this. 

I haven’t tried using a separate client machine to import SSAS KPIs using PPS Dashboard Designer.

Regardless of the above, this may help some other PPS / SSAS developers out there who have experienced this problem.

Thanks

Thanks to my colleague Tony Pounder (@WorTony) for help with doing the .NET Assembly redirect statements.  Also, big thanks to Bill Wang’s blog entry on something similar, which led me down this path.

 

 

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Maintaining a Custom Project Server 2007 Workspace Template

August 4, 2010 3 comments
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Introduction

In Project Server 2007 you may customise the SharePoint site which it provisions by default when creating a workspace associated with a project. This tutorial guides you through the steps required to achieve this.

Maintenance

Tip: For maintaining your custom Project Workspace going forwards, I recommend using your major/minor version numbers as part of the template (STP) filename and name.  Although version history can be switched on in the Site Template Gallery, Project Server requires that the STP is promoted to global (farm) status.  When you, or an administrator later comes to review which templates are currently global, the list does not include any version or date created information, making it difficult to establish if your latest changes indeed made it to global status.

Important!

Due to the way Project Server synchronises some data in the SharePoint Workspace with the Project Data held in the database, there are some lists which cannot have any fields removed, although it is OK to add new fields. The lists are as follows:

– Issues

– Risks

– Deliverables

Please minimise the customisations made to these lists.

Solution Tutorial

– Make all required customisations to your Project Server Workspace template. Remember to remove any list items which you have tested but do not want to include with the template.

– When complete, select Site Actions > Site Settings and select ‘Save site as template’ from the Site Settings page.

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– On the ‘Save Site as Template’ page, supply the following data:

o A filename in the format: company_pwa_template_vX_X where X_X is the next available version number which is suitable based on the author’s discretion as to whether the changes are major or minor

o A template name in the format CompanyPWATemplatevX_X where X_X matches the filename above.

o Ensure the ‘Include Content’ check box is ticked. This will ensure the Project Overview document is included.

– Click OK

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– After a short while, the template will be stored in the Site Templates gallery, and a page will display confirmation of this.

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– Click the link to be taken to the Site Template gallery

– The gallery should display all previous versions of the template, including the latest one just saved.

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This template has now been saved locally (to the Site Collection) however it must be promoted to global status for it to be picked up by Project Server settings.

– Click on the name of the template, and click the ‘save’ button when prompted

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– Save the .stp file to a consistent location on a server in the farm (ideally the same server for consistency). If the file is saved on a local machine at this point, it must be transferred to the server at this stage.

o NOTE: All of the above steps can be completed on a client machine via the browser; however the next steps MUST be completed on one of the servers in the MOSS/Project Server farm, ideally the same server for consistency, by a Farm Administrator.

– Open a command prompt window, and change to the following directory location: 

o C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\web server extensions\12\BIN

– Type and execute the following command:

o STSADM –o addtemplate –filename “Location\company_pwa_template_vX_X” –name “CompanyPWATemplatevX_X”

– After a short while, the command should complete with ‘Operation Successful’ message

– Type and execute the following command:

o iisreset /noforce

o NOTE: the above IISReset command is necessary for Project Server to recognise the global update. However this will affect all services on the Web Application hosting Project Web Access site collection for a brief period of time.

o NOTE: The workspace template is now published at a global (farm) level. The final steps can be completed from a client machine

– At the PWA Root Site, click the Server Settings menu from the left hand navigation, and select ‘Project Workspace Provisioning Settings’

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– On the Project Workspace Provisioning Settings screen, select the new Default Project Workspace template from the list, and click Save.

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Using ODBC Connections in PerformancePoint 2007

June 8, 2010 2 comments

PerformancePoint is designed to work with multi-dimensional data sources (OLAP Cubes), however, it is possible to create ODBC Data Sources if necessary.

Such an example, may be to connect directly to a SQL Server data warehouse to create KPIs, especially if its to quickly knock up a demo. 

However, there is no wizard to create these connections and a connection string must be provided. There are a few things which must be done correctly before you will get a nice ‘Connection Successful!’ from the Test Connection button:

1. Ensure the account being used to connect to the data source has at least read access.  This account will either be:

PPSMonitoringWebService Application Pool account (if server connection is in service account mode)

Current logged on user (if server connection is in per user mode)

2. Ensure your connection string is in the ODBC Driver format AND assumes a trusted connection (you cannot supply hard coded user id/password when using SQL Server). This is critical as PerformancePoint is very strict about the format of this connection string.

Best thing to do is go to www.connectionstrings.com and pick one from the ODBC driver section e.g.

SQL Server 2008

Driver={SQL Server Native Client 10.0};Server=myServerAddress;Database=myDataBase;Trusted_Connection=yes;

3. Finally, make sure there are no extra spaces in the driver string as this will also mess things up!

The typical error you will receive when testing the connection will be:

The PerformancePoint Server could not connect to the specified data source. Verify that either the current user or application pool user has Read permissions to the data source, depending on your security configuration. Also verify that all required connection information is provided and correct.

If you see this – triple check the points above!

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PerformancePoint Session at SUGUK London

June 4, 2010 Leave a comment

A little belated due to my holiday, but here’s a quick post on my recent speaking engagement. 

On 25th May I was delighted to be invited to speak at the London SharePoint User Group (SUGUK), despite it being the evening before I was due to fly to Menorca on holiday (the Mrs was not impressed!).

The session was titled, ‘The Evolution of PerformancePoint’ and it aimed to bring the audience up to speed with how the product has progressed from its inception through to the integrated application within SharePoint 2010 we now have.

Despite a delayed start, which meant cutting out a fair chunk of demo, it seemed to be reasonably well received and I hope it was informative for those who attended (which was very low for London).

This now lays the foundations to perhaps return at a later stage and focus solely on SharePoint 2010 dashboards in practise and demonstrate an example case study perhaps.

Thanks to Matt as always for organising the event. 

The slides are now available for download:  The Evolution of PerformancePoint Services

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