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At the recent MVP Summit, Access MVP (Most Valuable Professional) Albert Kallal discusses web databases, the big new feature of Access 2010. Essentially, the web becomes another way of deploying applications, one that doesn't require that users have Access installed--but it gets better if they do.
With a Microsoft SharePoint backend--your own or hosted--you can quickly create a fully-functional database application from a template, modify the template to suit your needs, and then publish to SharePoint via Access Services. Or build your own web database from scratch. SharePoint users can then use the database in a browser, and if they have Access installed, they can even work with it offline.
Albert owns the HCS Consulting Group as well as being an Access MVP.
This year's global MVP Summit brought Most Valuable Professionals from all over the world to Microsoft's Redmond campus. This series of MVP video blog posts features a few of those MVPs and their unique views about the upcoming Office 2010 release.
--Steven Thomas, Access Writer
Wish I could see this, but my corporate IT restricts installation of software, so I can't install Silverlight. Sigh. I appreciate the desire to push Silverlight, but it would be nice to be as compatible as possible, imho...
I was really excited when I heard about this because Access for all its niggles (even after being vandalized in 2007) is still a way better design environment than Visual Studio and is still the best DB dev platform around. For front ends any way. Ive been using ADP for quite a while now and experienced zero downtime or corruption with SQL server. Its been phenomenal.
The idea of being able to release my app on the web sent me in dizzy fits because it kill smost of my deployment problems and internal battles with IT. But then I learn its all silverlight and sharepoint (expensive and cumbersome) and all points in between. That means there is zero chance of corporate IT departments ever supporting it or even allowing it.
In this, MS has misread the clientbase when they should know better by now.
And I just dont believe this will be reliable. MS will have to go a long way to convince me it can be a stable, worthwhile investment. If you are going to throw that kind of resource at a database (and corporates dont tend to do that with Access because they dont like things they cant control), you might as well go the whole hog and make it ASP.net. Which is a real shame because like for like, asp.net is five times the work for db's that look and act clunky with fewer useful design components.
Difficult to see where they are going with this because with each little improvement, Access panders more to the ameteur user, encouraging bad habits which are costlier in the long run to correct. Access doesn't really do much more than it did back in 95 and every add in since has beed uncalled for icing on the cake, which in most cases isn't deployable or unwise to attempt in a multiuser environment.
Access isn't a toy. It is a software development platform and I wish MS would treat it as such because corporate customers do! Hence why it isn't generally installed for the average user.
Peter - there is no Silverlight or activeX for the client side of things. A browser on a Mac, or even Linux will consume those applications just fine. So, no Silverlight or even ActiveX needs to be on the browser side of things.
For the server side you do need SharePoint. However SharePoint is becoming rather popular in corporate environments. At the end of the day ANY web based application will require you to adopt and setup a database server (with code and stored procedures for that database system). You can’t just plug in any database server here once you start writing server side database code. You then need a web server. And again code that runs on the web server will again be tied into a particular web server. Then you need something that will let you write code that runs inside of a browser. Then you need some type of reporting server system to generate and dish out those great reports we have in Access. So, we talking about quite a bit of infrastructure for any web based application you write.
For any company to setup all of those 3-4 systems is a LOT of work. Access is nice this way since you can develop 100% on your desktop and it just ties all of those several server based systems together for you. In fact, I think without Access, then you often really do need a team of developers (web guy, database coding guy, guy who builds and writes reports with reporting services etc.).
I can reverse this issue and ask you how many companies will go to the trouble of setting up all of those systems from web servers to database servers to reporting systems etc. to run just ONE access application? Asking a company to setup all of these server based systems to JUST one access application is near impossible sell and it quite expensive to setup all of the servers for juse ONE thing.
However, if you pitch them the benefits of SharePoint then they get a GREAT return on their investment since in addition to running Access and other web based access applications they now get all that workflow stuff, document sharing and collaboration goodies that SharePoint is so famous for.
These additional benefits would cost you millions to create on a plane jane web based system. However the work and hassles to setup those servers is really not any more work then to setup servers for SharePoint.
Albert D. Kallal (Access MVP)
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
The point for me is that most of corporates I've worked at, and that's quite a few now, already have SQL servers and asp capable intranets. It isn't much of an outlay to utilize this with an ASP.net app, same as deploying an ADP on a SQL server.
If the backend for either is sql server then you don't need anything fancy at all for reporting.
But here we have, apparently, a means of deploying access that will require further software, further expense and further expertise for an entirely unproven platform. I don't doubt that you can desingn some very nifty front ends in Access for the web. I wouldnt expect anything else. But historically speaking Access's back end components have been pretty lousy and it seems that MS is suggesting we should use that only have it hosted on sharepoint! Sounds highly dubious to me.
It may be worthwhile to exploit this technology if Sharepoint is available but I know of quite a few companies dragging their heels over it because so far, very few people I've met have anything posiitive to say about it. Espcially since most managers consider themselves too important to trouble themselves with knowing how to work software.
Now if there was some means on IIS whereby I could dump an ADE hooked into a SQL server into a space on the intranet and it would just run in a browser, then I would get excited. But this isn't it.
But then I fail to see the point of sharepoint anyway.
I certainly agree that SharePoint is a big part of the adoption issue here.
However, I just wanted to point that all web based systems entail a lot of choices and I don’t want anyone to think that Access is any different here.
You can only host asp.net on machines that supports the .net CLR parts. You build system around Oracle then that is what you will need to run your application. Same goes for building something around the LAMP stack. That system you build on LAMP will not run on SharePoint or Oracle.
So there no surprise that building a system around SharePoint means that you need SharePoint and this is not really different then any other system you choose.
I just think that when web applications start to work with forms + data + reports then things get complex real fast. You mentioned asp.net and sql server. What will you use for reports? I suspect you would use sql server reporting services. Just change out one of those parts then your application will not work.
And you need to build some menu system to tie those reports into your application. Access does this kind of thing in it sleep. And, you don’t even have to know what sql server reporting services is.
I also suspect if one has the skills to tie together all those above systems, then they likely are not using Access anyway.
The beauty of access is you get to use a desktop development system and don’t have to care about things like a reporting servers, or database servers or web servers etc. Access just ties all of the above huge systems into a simple easy to use Access desktop program.
Access popularly is much due to how it breaks down barriers to development and now Access is moving that that same easy to use development model to the web.
You build, and then with one click, you publish to the web. It just too easy.