Kategoriarkiv: app

Onpremifying SharePoint apps

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We want to make an app available in SharePoint OnPrem, we want to onpremify it. Rethink SharePoint apps and provisioning SharePoint artifacts.

It has been a while since I updated my blog – Chuvash.eu. I had my vacation, I visited the sunny and green Chuvashia. Now I am back and I am looking forward to an awesome SharePoint Autumn. One of the first things I had to deal with in this SharePoint Autumn was Onpremifying of a SharePoint Online App. We have an app that has gained popularity and we want to make it available for SharePoint OnPrem. There is no such word Onpremify (yet?), I know, it is a Swenglish happy word making (onpremifiera), but I like the word “onpremify” a lot.

There is still uncertainty around the purpose of SharePoint apps. One app type, though, has been used a lot in our company: an app that provisions SharePoint Artifacts – that creates SharePoint Applications. What I mean by SharePoint Applications can be read in my blog post:

  • What is a SharePoint Application (Not written yet).

The successful app type creates SharePoint Applications – by provisioning needed SharePoint artifacts (Fields, Content Types, Lists, Page Layouts, Styles, Scripts, Web Parts, Pages…). Often it is a one time job: When the SharePoint application is provisioined, it is finished.

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When you’re about to onpremify such an app, you have three main choices:

  1. Install app in OnPrem. Requires the App Infrastructure in place and a separate build of the app (15.0.0.0 version)
  2. Make a parallel version of the app using a farm solution (not good at all)
  3. Invoke the provisioning code from a console app (I recommend this one)

The choice 1 might seem obvious, but not all companies have a functioning app infrastructure (a dedicated server for Provider Hosted apps, S2S Trust and Governance around it). The choice 2 splits your app into two variants and makes it hard to maintain.

On the other hand, the choice 3 might seem crazy, when you hear it for the first time. A Console App? But give it time, think about it. The idea comes from the awesome SharePoint Provisioning Library SPMeta2, where the Model (SharePoint Artifacts) and Executing are separated. Your model for Fields, Content Types, and Lists and so on, is an agnostic code based definition that can be used for SSOM and CSOM, for SharePoint 2013, SharePoint Online, SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint 2010. SPMeta2 eliminates the need for XML and wsp packages.

So my recommended approach for onpremifying SharePoint apps where the main goal is to provision SharePoint Applications is to move the provisioning code into a separate VS Project. The SharePoint App Project (mainly AppManifest.xml) remains the same, The App Web Project is made to a “stupid” interface that invokes the Provisioning Library. We also create a new interface – a Console App. You can replace the console app with a Windows Application, a Web Application, PowerShell Script, An admin page in Central Admin – whatever suits you. The Console app can be used not only in OnPrem, but also in SharePoint Online.

SPMeta2 vs. PnP vs. Own Framework

Every developer with Self-Respect uses a framework for provisioning SharePoint artifacts. It might be some own utilities or preferably public framework, because you don’t want to repeat yourself, especially in SharePoint. When SPMeta2 and PnP are available it is not smart to reinvent the wheel. I usually recommend to use one of them. I personally prefer SPMeta2 because… mainly because it is more complete and consistent. Read more about SPMeta2 vs. PnP comparison.

Announcing web based SQL Max Memory calculator

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Today I want to announce a tiny web application for calculating max memory in the SQL Server to improve the overall performance in you SharePoint environment:

SQL Max Memory Calculator.

One of the important actions to improve the performance in SharePoint is fine tuning of the SQL Databases. Regarding the databases one of the crucial settings is the Max Memory Setting. You can read more about database optimizations for SharePoint in a whitepaper written by SharePoint MVP Vlad Catrinescu. The document is available on the SharePoint Community Web Site:

Vlad Catrinescu also created a windows application for calculating the max memory for SQL which can be downloaded from codeplex (GPL v2):

This windows application has inspired me and my colleagues to create the web based application SQL Max. The goal of the SQL Max web app is to take Vlad’s idea a step further and make it available directly in your browser, on desktop at work, or on the go in your mobile. This mobile web app will also be available for offline access. Simply put, why should you dowload a zip file, extract and run the .exe file? Perhaps you cannot run executable files due restrictions, or perhaps you are not running Windows at all.

How it works

The web application is completely javascript-based. It is open source (MIT license) and the code is freely available at github:

The most important part of the solution is the formula. The original formula (C#) is provided by Vlad Catrinescu is as follows:

SQL Max Memory = TotalPhyMem – (NumOfSQLThreads * ThreadStackSize) – (1GB * CEILING(NumOfCores/4)) – OS Reserved
NumOfSQLThreads = 256 + (NumOfProcessors*- 4) * 8 (* If NumOfProcessors > 4, else 0)
ThreadStackSize = 2MB on x64 or 4 MB on 64-bit (IA64)
OS Reserved = 20% of total ram for under if system has 15GB. 12.5% for over 20GB

When you’ve filled in the values in the form, you’ll see the max memory in the blue box above:

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How to apply this setting in the SQL Server

To apply the max memory follow these steps, the instructions come originally from technet:

  1. In Object Explorer, right-click a server and selectProperties.
  2. Click the Memory node.
  3. Under Server Memory Options, enter the amount that you want for Minimum server memory and Maximum server memory.Use the default settings to allow SQL Server to change its memory requirements dynamically based on available system resources. The default setting for min server memory is 0, and the default setting for max server memory is 2147483647 megabytes (MB). The minimum amount of memory you can specify for max server memory is 16 MB.

Contributors

AppLoader Concept for SharePoint apps

In this post I want to share an unusual, nevertheless interesting conceptual idea of loading content from SharePoint 2013 apps on many pages. The original awesome concept was proposed and developed by my colleague Martin Villysson at Bool.

The problem we are trying to solve

SharePoint apps are great to extend functionality in SharePoint and integrate other systems (full page apps available through Site Contents), they also provide tools to enrich the default SharePoint experience by App Parts (Client Web Parts) and Custom Actions (additional menus).

One of the biggest shortcomings of that model is the need to add app parts on all pages where it is needed. Let’s say, we want to have some app parts present on every single page in our whole SharePoint tenancy, to provide a consistent look and feel (e.g. navigation, notifications). Traditionally, on premises, we have added user controls in our customized master page. In SharePoint Online that is impossible. The complicated workaround is to add those client web parts (app parts) on every page, be it manually or by automating it (powershell or app). It will require updating all pages. Nevertheless, it will not work on Out-of-the-box application pages (pages from layouts folder). It becomes even more unacceptable when you realize that your app must be added as an app instance on every single site (SPWeb) in your tenancy. 

Towards a solution

Allright, we don’t want to have thousands of app instances of the same app. What we can do is to use Tenant scoped apps (Tenant Apps). Then we’ll need only one app instance. But wait, app parts from a tenant app are only available in the parent site (HostWeb), meaning – App Catalog. That’s not good. So what Martin found in the SharePoint internal javascript code is using of _layouts/15/TenantAppInfo.ashx, a http handler that provides information about all Tenant Apps and their custom actions.That’s how the idea of the AppLoader was born.

Vesa Juvonen

After we had created a working Proof-of-Concept of the AppLoader concept, I met Vesa Juvonen at the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas and introduced this idea to him (although I didn’t call it AppLoader). He liked it although he pointed out that this TenantAppInfo.ashx is an internal utility only in SharePoint and it is not supported by Microsoft. That’s correct. There is even almost no information about it on the Internet. But I got a feeling of Microsoft that they are willing to hear feedback and improve the product. Vesa encouraged me also to blog about it. So now I am telling about this idea. I hope to hear feedback about it. Unfortunately I cannot share the source code of the working Proof-of-Concept solution.

AppLoader Concept in colors

The AppLoader Concept is quite simple. Look at this picture:

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The solution contains a custom Master Page (blue) that references a javascript file called apploader.js (red). This file initializes the whole process. Tenant Apps (green) are the apps that an administrator has installed in the App Catalog and deployed to the whole tenancy. TenantAppInfo.ashx (black) is a handy but officially unsupported OOB service utility (http handler) that returns a json-formatted list of all Tenant Apps (green). AppLoader (red) receives the app list (black) and renders it on the Page (blue) inside new iframes (red). The page a user has navigated to can be any page (wiki page, publishing page, application page, really any page).

To summarize the colors in the diagram: red is our javascript code, green are all the tenant apps and their content, black is the utility and its output, blue is a sharepoint page and its underlying component (master page).

The steps in the AppLoader process:

  1. Make an ajax request to TenantAppInfo.ashx using XHR (XmlHttpRequest)
  2. Receive the app list
  3. For every app information, render app part, or inject css and javascript references. 

 

Reading what to render on the page

You probably have already have tried to navigate to _layouts/15/TenanAppInfo.ashx while reading this post, I know you are curious. Then you’ve noticed that there is no information about app parts. So you may ask: how do we know what app parts to render and where to put them in the page, and how do we know what resources (css and javascript files) to inject on the page. Well there is no information about it in the apps list. But if you have an app with custom actions you’ll see that they are listed in this json-formatted list we receive from the TenantAppInfo.ashx. So the solution is the brilliant idea of my colleage Martin to define custom actions in the app. CustomActions contain a ActionUrl. The ActionUrl points to the url to render (app part page) or to inject (javascript or css file). The apploader.js reads the ActionUrl in the Custom Actions for every app information and takes action upon it (rendering an app part iframe, or injecting a javascript or css file). That’s it. 

Usage and Limitations

This bright idea takes advantages from a huge SharePoint API (that contains a lot of good but not supported parts) to make using of apps in Client Application Model solutions more pragmatic and still provide a consistent design and behavior. By consistent design I mean same parts like additional navigation, notifications etc in the whole Intranet. The AppLoader renders and injects whatever you have rolled out to your whole tenancy (Tenant Scoped Apps) and that on every page (!). It also improves the perceived performance of the page load, because it renders app parts (iframes) after the main page has been loaded preventing freezing of the page. 

There are of course some limitations in the AppLoader Concept. Today we cannot rely on the TenanAppInfo.ashx API (because it is not supported and future updates can break solutions). We have to define our own custom actions in the apps. That means we can only use our own apps, it will hardly work with the apps installed from the Office Store. On the other hand, your customer will not want to have generic apps from the Office Store to be a part of every page on their intranet.

Configuring VirtualBox for SharePoint-Hosted Apps

Recently I have switched from VMWare to VirtualBox for my SharePoint Development. So far it really works good. I have prepared this guide for configuring VirtualBox for SharePoint-hosted apps. That means we need a new adapter with a static ip address. All the steps done inside the virtual machine are applicable for VMWare and Hyper-V, too. This guide does not cover the full configuration of the app environment, it covers only the network and dns settings needed for SharePoint-hosted apps on Premises in a Development machine.

In VirtualBox open Preferences:

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In Preferences, click on Network, then on Host-only Networks, click on “plus”

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After a new host-only Network adapter has been created, click on the screwdriver image to configure the network:

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Remember this ip address, you can alter it, of course. Or use this: 192.168.64.1, then you can have the same settings in your environment as I have:

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Go on to the settings for your Virtual Machine. Enable Adapter 2, as shown on the picture below.

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The rest are the settings in your virtual machine. Open Network Connections in the Control Panel. For the newly added Network Adapter (Ethernet 2), open Properties:

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Then open Properties for “Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4)”

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Remember the ip address for you VirtualBox host-only Network? I have 192.168.64.1. Increment the last number (192.168.64.2) and use it as the ip address for your adapter. The default gateway is 192.168.64.1 as the the VirtualBox host-only Network. The DNS Server should be the same as the virtual machine, the same adapter: 192.168.64.2:

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Open DNS Manager, right-click on Forward Lookup Zones and start the New Zone Wizard by clicking on “New Zone…”:

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Follow the steps in the wizard:

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Choose “Primary Zone”:

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Keep the default setting: “To all DNS Servers running on domain controllers in this domain:

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Write your app domain. I use takanaapps.local:

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Choose “Do not allow dynamic updates”:

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Then finish the New Zone Wizard:

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In the new forward lookup zone (takanaapps.local), add a new wildcard cname entry (alias):

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Just add an asterisk and point it to your main domain (takana.local in my case):

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After that you should be able to ping any subdomains of your app domain (xyz.takanaapps.local, abc.takanaapps.local):

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When you start adding apps to your sites, you should add app sites to your local intranet zone (to be automatically signed in in apps webs). This setting in IE will affect Chrome as well. Go to the Options in the Internet Explorer:

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In the Security tab -> Local Intranet, click on Sites:

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Click on Advanced button:

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Add your new app domain with an asterisk in front of it to the “Websites” of the Local Intranet:

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Sources