As we prepare to close out 2009 it is normal for people to start looking forward and make predictions about things in 2010. Here at Microsoft, 2010 will be another huge release year for us with new versions of SharePoint, Office, Visio and Project scheduled to be released in the first half of 2010.
While there are many things to be excited about in the 2010 release, one area that I see tremendous value for both business and IT folks is the release of Access Services as a server side capability within SharePoint 2010.
Many of you know that my background includes having spent about 14 years as a customer working at large and small companies as an IT architect, developer, director and various other roles. During that time I constantly had a love/hate relationship with Microsoft Access.
Since it is so easy for people to create, copy and share Access databases, the tool took off and spread like wild fire. This is a mixed blessing and double edged sword. On the plus side, most Access solutions are not built by traditional developers which is great at addressing some applications that the IT team does not have resources available to work on or they would be too expensive to build from scratch. A negative to this approach though is the number of different Access databases that have popped up and how challenging it can be for IT to manage, track and secure all of these mini applications.
From an end user perspective, Access continues to be a great tool for Rapid Application Development (RAD). With minimal training and effort, a non developer can quickly build sophisticated solutions using Access that join data from multiple data sources (e.g. SQL Server, Oracle, SharePoint lists, Excel workbooks, flat files, etc.) and that data can be mashed up into nice reports, queries and data entry forms.
From an IT perspective, this power comes with some interesting challenges. For example, Access was never designed to support a large number of concurrent users (i.e. multiple people working in the same database at the same time). There is also the challenge of Access database sprawl, security and compliance. Then there are also the concerns around support, maintenance and upgrades – especially over the years when the original “developers” of the Access solution move into new roles (inside or outside of the company) and the business is now being run on this Access application.
SharePoint and Access 2007 took some small steps in the right direction to addressing some of these concerns. For example, you can now move Access database content to SharePoint 2007 lists and have the data stored inside of SharePoint where it can be properly managed, secured, backed up and audited. End users can take this data offline with the Access client and continue to perform reporting and querying against this data and other data coming from outside of SharePoint. This was a good start.
SharePoint and Access 2010 make huge improvements in areas such as the following:
Still looking for more information on Access Services, including a demo and how to test this out yourself? Check out the related blog posts on the Access team's blog.
UPDATE 2/16/2010: New Access Services Whitepaper has been published.