Microsoft SharePoint 2013 Demo To Go

Microsoft SharePoint 2013 Demo To Go

I recently had some techie fun putting together a self-contained Microsoft SharePoint 2013 demonstration environment that I can run on my laptop in 32GB of RAM. It includes virtual machines running pfSense (a Linux-based router/firewall), Windows 2008R2 Active Directory Domain Controller, SQL Server 2012 Enterprise, SharePoint Server 2013 Enterprise, Lync Server 2013, Office Web Apps 2013 and Tableau Server 8. While it's true I can't run them all at the same time, it's still amazing to me that I'm able to do it at all. This setup enables me to demonstrate the value of SharePoint, including its great integration with the rest of the major Microsoft products, all without the need for an internet connection or any other servers!

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The core of the virtual demo environment is pfSense, Active Directory and SharePoint 2013 (with local SQL). These three VMs run very well in 16GB of RAM – once I 'warm up' the SharePoint server by hitting some of the main pages, the response is quite good. In fact, it's faster than when I used to connect to a remote server at my office via the internet and DirectAccess. I'm sure it wouldn't stand up to a production scenario with multiple users, but it's great for demonstrations.

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I usually start up the Lync server as well, which needs 4GB of RAM. This enables the integration between SharePoint and Lync. The most obvious manifestation is the 'presence indicator,' which is a little colored square that appears next to everyone's name, everywhere that names occur in SharePoint (or Office and other MS applications). The indicator turns green when the named person is logged in and available, yellow when they're offline and red when they're unavailable (like in a meeting or on a call). When you mouse-over the person's presence indicator, it pops up the 'people card.’ The 'people card' shows you relevant data about the person, including their picture, title, contact information and more. The 'people card' has buttons that allow you immediately start communicating with that person, via instant message (IM/chat), telephone, video, audio or web conference or email. In my demo, I'm actually able to mimic two people starting up a chat session, inviting others to participate, sharing desktops, and more.

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If the audience wants to see a demonstration of business intelligence solutions, I can turn off Lync and start up my BI demo server, which includes all of Microsoft SQL Server 2012's capabilities and Tableau Server 8. This VM needs 8GB RAM, and while it isn't the fastest, it's certainly adequate for a one user demo scenario. This allows me to show off various structured reporting scenarios with SQL Server Reporting Services. I can fire up Excel 2013, which is a great tool for exploring and analyzing OLAP cube-based data via PowerPivot or SQL Server Analysis Services. Excel tables, charts and graphs can then be displayed directly in SharePoint through Excel Services. I can demonstrate the types of scorecards and dashboards that can be built with SharePoint's PerformancePoint Services (PPS). I can compare and contrast PPS against Tableau, which is an increasingly popular third-party solution that provides some great data visualization capabilities, rendered inside SharePoint sites and pages.

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Finally, I can fire up my Office Web Applications virtual demo server (4 GB VM) and highlight its greatly improved capabilities for editing documents, spreadsheets, slide decks and notes directly inside a web browser. A nice side benefit to Office Web Apps is an improved experience when viewing search results in SharePoint 2013. When you mouse-over an Office file on the search results screen, it displays a popup window with an actual rendering of the file, so you can see what it looks like and make sure it's what you're looking for, before you open it.

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Altogether, it's been a fantastic experience for me to be able to present and demonstrate all the great capabilities and integration points of Microsoft's latest generation of technologies. It really helps my audience envision the value of the 'Microsoft Stack.' And, the best part is – it frees me from the pain and risk of needing an encrypted internet connection to remote servers, through spotty guest wireless routers!

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