"Relax" is the advice of Ferris Research to both potential users of and competitors to Microsoft's SharePoint Portal Server 2001.
Organizations that value collaborative products should not rush to implement SharePoint and most competitors, with the possible exception of Lotus, will not be heavily impacted by Microsoft, according to David Ferris. He's president of the San Francisco-based international research group that bears his name.
Both the strengths and many weaknesses of SharePoint are detailed in "Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server: Industry & Competitive Impact," a new report from Ferris Research. One especially significant plus to the new program is its ability to access the Lotus Notes database. This is a recognition of the strength of this well-established offering of Lotus, yet a potential long-term threat to the IBM division as well. Other vendors, notes Ferris, such as those that offer sophisticated enterprise-document-management software, have little to fear.
Because of the many weaknesses of SharePoint, Ferris urges potential users to hold off implementation -- although many are sure to evaluate it "... merely because it's from Microsoft." These weaknesses include: 1) inability to run SharePoint on top of an SQL database from IBM, Oracle or Sybase -- user organizations will be stuck with the Web Storage Database that Microsoft bundles with SharePoint; 2) weak directory integration -- SharePoint will only integrate with Microsoft NT Domain Directory or Active Directory, which means that users with a non-Microsoft directory will have to support an additional directory if they want to deploy SharePoint; and 3) if users find SharePoint inadequate, it would be very costly to exit. Nevertheless, Ferris expects Microsoft to rapidly raise the functionality of SharePoint in its usual tireless manner.
There's one other group impacted by the introduction of SharePoint by Microsoft -- its partners. Microsoft in the past has been very active in promoting the alignment between Microsoft Exchange Server and the document-management offerings from FileNET, 80-20 Software, FrontOffice Technologies, Eastman Software, and others. Now that Microsoft has moved directly into this market, these alliance partners will have to reposition themselves by offering "higher-end" services. Options include the wider arena of content management or document-management solutions with greater scalability, maturity, and robustness.