SharePoint and DotNetNuke

Posted: October 4, 2006 in Technical

          I have seen a lot of buzz lately about DotNetNuke. I even attended a developer guild meeting at the Microsoft campus in Charlotte, NC that covered it. The scary part is I have seen a HUGE amount of disinformation about it when it comes to a side-by-side comparison between the two. I have even had clients/employers suggest replacing SharePoint portals with a DotNetNuke site.  They pulled out a spreadhseet comparing features of the two. Had I not known more about SharePoint than the author did, I may have been convinced that DNN was the way to go as well. 
          To start off with, let give a little background on myself in relation to this topic. I have been playing with .Net since 1.0 was Beta 1. I myself played a part in authoring SharePoint like frameworks before we really had SharePoint. So when I finally got into SharePoint, I immediately saw the value in the product. While in general I try to be as unbiased as possible, to be fair, I am a SharePoint advocate.
          I had the pleasure of working with DNN on a couple occasions. To be sure, it is a great application. It provides a quick and easy way to create a decent looking and functioning portal. It is open source, and it is FREE!!. It is not some hokey pile of garbage. It has been well planned, and developed. If I was going to put up a quick external portal or a fast and easy single team portal in a small shop I would seriously consider DNN as a solution. The fact that a good deal of clients I go to, really utilize a small fraction of their SharePoint installation capabilites, also makes them see it more on equal footing with SharePoint. However, it does have some serious drawbacks. Some of the comparison spreadhseets  I have seen really underline how little folks understand exactly what SharePoint offers. So to start off with let me address some of the more serious ones.
          Office Integration
          There is a reason the new version of SharePoint is called Microsoft Office SharePoint Server. It highlights just how big this feature is. Many DNN comparisons I have seen blow over this like it is some minor little flash feature. It is not. The mostly seemless integration with Microsoft Office is a huge feature. Lets look at the word integration for example. The other day I was authoring a functional spec. I  had the template already on the server which was authored by another guy in our organization. I opened the doc directly in Word, opted to edit (word autmatically checked it out to me on the server so nobody else could edit). I finished, save it, and closed it. It was automatically checked back in, as a new version and any one who was subscribed to that document was emailed that I had updated it. A simple example to be sure, but a good example of the types of stuff being done in the background because of the integration points.
         Event Handlers
         SharePoint has capability for putting out custom event handlers for handle specific events within the portal. So what? Who uses that? Imagine this scenario. I have a Commerce server site with widgets. A customer orders a widget form the site. The site drops the customers invoice into an infopath doc and drops it into a library in my portal. The event handler fires, creates 3 more documents, one for customer service, one for the manufacturing line, and one for accounting and pushes them out the their respective portal team sites. As the manufacturing process is moving along, the guys on the line update that invoice to reflect the state, the event handlers there update the sales, service, docs accotrdingly. Now the customer calls in and modifies their widget order, the customer service guys KNOW where it isin the manufacturing process because of the updates. They can try to update the doc, which fires an event handler, routes it through a workflow to determine if changes can be made, and makes the necessary updates. We can carry this futher but we can see where it is going. The event handlers are not trivial, when integrated with Biztalk you can get an even more powerful solution and develop and deploy it quickly.
        I am sure I do not have to spell out why this is important. Which is why I was surpsied to see this as a minor item on some lists. I have seem SharePoint installations scaled out to HUGE organizations, on multiple farms, with clustered SQL DBs. Good luck on trying that with DNN.
       There are more points to be sure and I welcome any additional thoughts. I know I sound down on DNN here and I guess I am. Please, do not take this as a statement that DNN has no value or is garbage. Like I said before though DNN is great application, and hit definitely has its place, but that place is not as a replacement for SharePoint. They fill different need and perhaps could even work well as team, point having DNN sites publicly exposed with integration into an internal portal allowing users to grab data from lists and add/enter info. Allowing the portal itself to stay safely behind the firewall and controlling access. You could quickly set up DNN sites for clients and give those sites access to specific pieces of the portal data. There are many opportunities.

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