We’re at the end of day 5 here in Chicago, home of the Microsoft Ignite conference 2015.  It’s been a packed week, and in this final post of my daily recaps, we’ll validate the awesomeness of Visio for dashboards and data-connected data graphics, review the common problems encountered when performing the initial configurations of Office 365 service for your organization, and finally share how search works in SharePoint 2013 plus how to scale it properly.

Session - Technical Deep Dive with Visio Pro for Office 365

imageThis session was lead by Scott Helmers (Visio MVP) and Chris Hopkins, a Senior Technical Product Manager with Microsoft who’s been working with Visio before Microsoft bought it in the late 90s.  I guess I didn’t know they didn’t create the original product!  This was a great session, especially if you’ve never heard of data graphics or smart shapes and shape sheets. 

As I’ve previously blogged about this topic, it can be a powerful dashboard / BI tool which we saw in this session.  Visio is just another way to see your data in a different way, whether it's in a SharePoint list, SQL or other data sources.  By the way, the only data source that’s not supported in the browser is Access.  Where Visio gets really powerful is when you pair those static shapes to data, creating diagrams with meaning.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you were a manager and could open a diagram that showed your staff’s budgets for the year, along with target info and other performance numbers with icons that visually showed if they were under or over budget, or completed a set task?

Data Graphics

imageThis is where data graphics come in.  They are basically pre-built visualization rules that can be completely customized and can be simple or complex.  As an example, the Production yellow gauge to the right took over 30 behaviors and shapes to create. The process goes like this:

  • Get your base map / background and other icons and shapes
  • Create your data connection to import your data
    (Remember, this EMBEDS your data in the Visio.  If you send the drawing to anyone else, the imported data goes with it!)
  • Drag and drop the row data onto your shapes, or do an auto apply all by parameter
  • Create / edit your data graphics

Visio Services

WP_20150508_09_40_33_ProNow we can get to web-based dashboarding.  Using SharePoint 2013 (originally available in SharePoint 2010), users can render Visio drawings on a web page and interact BUT NOT EDIT the drawings and views on a web page.  Available with the enterprise set of features in SharePoint, it provides Visio web access web parts that gives a multitude of configuration options to control how users interact with the drawing.  This even works on mobile!  You can even extend Visio drawings using the JavaScript client API to provide even more customized experiences, or send data between web parts on a page.  You can also do HTML5 overlays on the drawing.

Smart Shapes and Shape Sheets

Of course the shapes in Visio are intelligent, but have you heard of the shape sheet?  A shape sheet is like a window into the Visio object model, where you can see and edit the 100+ values that drive the behavior of the shape.  Every single shape in Visio has a shape sheet.  You can follow these simple steps to enable the visibility of a shape sheet from MSDN.  Once you enable the Developer tab, the open ShapeSheet links will appear on the ribbon and contexual right-click.  Check them out!  Shape sheets exist for the entire document, a page or an individual shape. 

Session - Troubleshooting Microsoft Office 365 Deployments

George Moussalem and Laith Al Shamri took us through the common issues and resolutions they see as Senior Service Engineers with Microsoft and customers trying to setup Office 365.  They broke the issues down into 3 areas: Tenant Configuration, Networking and Identity.

Tenant Configuration

imageHere are the basic proper steps when first setting up a tenant in Office 365:

  • Choose the right tenant name – it can't be changed later!
  • Set the appropriate language that applies to the entire company
  • Choose the right location – this determines what datacenter your tenant resides in
  • Identity and verify your domains and DNS records
  • Add users and assign licenses

If you encounter issues, be sure to check the Office 365 Health Dashboard first, and ensure it’s not already marked as an issue by Microsoft.  If you’re VL, there has been confusion between Sign-In and Sign Up from the initial email you receive:

  • If you DON’T have a tenant already, use Sign Up to create a new one
  • if you DO already have a tenant, use Sign In to associate it to your licenses

If you’re DNS isn’t setup correctly, you will see errors in Office 365.  You can use the Find and fix issues option to have Office 365 scan for proper DNS records and will report where it finds issues.


The biggest thing here to remember is that now you have to consider your internet connection and bandwidth as Office 365 is in the cloud.  Use tools like the bandwidth calculator and Message Analyzer (previously Netmon) to help analyze your network for issues.  If there are latency issues, check the routes to ensure they are optimized (if based in Europe, don’t route traffic to the US and back). 

Other connectivity issues can be caused by:

  • Firewall ACLs – use domain names and NOT IP addresses, as the IPs change
  • Not whitelisting the Office 365 namespace
  • NAT/port exhausition

Tools to use:

  • Health Readiness Check
  • Tracert and PSPing to validate routes and firewalls and latency
  • Message Analyzer or Wireshark
  • Perfmon


imageThere is a lot of information out there that can be confusing on the different methods of syncing local AD users to Office 365 like dirsync, Azure AD Sync and now Azure AD Connect (still in preview at this time).   What’s the best to use?  As of this moment, their recommendation was Azure AD (AAD) sync.  Once Azure AD Connect is released, that will be the best tool to use.  Take care when configuring the scope of sync to ensure all desired users are sync’d properly. 

imageOne BIG point of note here is that if you are planning to do any kind of local AD sync to Office 365 instead of using Office 365 as your directory source and you use Exchange Online, you MUST have a local Exchange running.  This is because Exchange is the only supported method to update all the specific Exchange user properties in AD, and those needs to be sync’d local as well, and can’t be set in Office 365. 

If you get sync issues, check the following:

  • Your prerequisites have been met like service and tenant account permissions, along with internet connectivity
  • Use ldFix to find any issues in the domain, and after correcting re-run ldFix to verify
  • When you see sync errors in Event Viewer for passwords, do the following:
    • Force a full password sync
    • Restart the Microsoft Azure AD Sync service
    • Re-run the configuration wizard

The best way to avoid issues is to follow proper steps and tools to help mitigate potential issues. 

Session - Properly Scale and Deploy Enterprise Search

Microsoft Search gurus Paul Summers and Dan Benson took us on a journey of the architecture of the SharePoint 2013 Search topology from an architecture perspective, and some notes on backup and monitoring .  I’ll share my favorite highlights from this technical but easy to follow session.

imageSearch Architecture

They showed one of the better ways I’ve seen the search service explained in a slide.  It’s broken up in the following “chains”:

  • Feeding chain
    • Crawl component gets the data into the index
    • Content Processing Component analyzes content from the crawler for indexing
    • Content enrichment service is involved here
  • Index core
    • Writes binary structures to disk to create actual index
    • A partition is a logical portion of the index
    • A replica is a copy of a partition
  • Query Chain
    • Users query for content from WFE, picked up by Query Processing component
    • Gets data from search index, returns results
  • Analytics Service performed on items in the index and query to learn search and usage analytics and improve relevancy and enrich index

NOTE FOR SHAREPOINT 2016: They indicated there with the exception of the addition of the Hybrid search service coming by the end of the year, there should be very little changes to Search for SharePoint 2016.  Of course there will be improvements, but no major changes to the architecture or core functions / architecture. 

Design for Scale / High Availability

imageSearch topology is typically broken into small, medium and large deployments.  I’ll only focus on small since that supports up to 10 million items in the index.  It can be distributed on multiple servers or consolidated all on one server.   Here are some notes and best practices:

  • In SharePoint 2013, all changes to the search topology requires PowerShell. 
  • As with SQL, it’s best to separate the search index to a different disk than the OS
  • You scale UP if you are adding more or faster resources on the same server, and you are scaling OUT if you are spreading search roles across multiple servers
  • Benchmark those VMs!

imageNOTE FOR SHAREPOINT 2016: Has fixes/changes to prevent slowness or downtime when adding partitions. 

They provided a cheat sheet for showing which Search components need which resources the most (left).  When backing up Search, be sure to stop all crawls!  When looking at monitoring search, use the following resources:

  • For system / component states, use Central Admin –> Search Service App –> Search Admin UI, or with PowerShell: Get-SPEnterpriseSearchStatus
  • For Search health reports, for the UI for reports like query rate/latency, content feeding performance, etc.
  • For Monitoring / telemetry, consider using the SCOM management pack, ULS logs and perfmon search counters
  • Use this awesome PowerShell script to view the status of the Search service

Be sure to follow the search team at http://aka.ms/searchguys for great blogs, scripts and other resources. 

In Closing

imageWith over 1100 conference sessions, I was only able to attend a small handful, but most if not all of the sessions will be available online and download so I get to spend the next month watching all the sessions that I missed!  I learned a ton and got great insights into a lot of the changes that are coming for Office, Office 365, OneDrive for Business, Visual Studio and especially SharePoint 2016.  I strongly encourage you to check out Bill Baer’s sessions on SharePoint 2016:

Check the following resources to get content, videos and slides from the conference:

  • MyIgnite videos for videos and slides of on-demand breakout sessions
  • All sessions from the conference are being pushed to Channel9
  • Highlights and other general info on http://ignite.microsoft.com
  • Updates for MS Ignite on Twitter
  • Get on the MS Ignite mailing list for updates, tips and offers
  • To see all the blogs from C5 Insight from the Microsoft Ignite conference, click here

Wow what a conference!  With over 23,000 people in attendance, it was overall a great experience, and very cool to be able to chat with Microsoft product team members from Office 365 and SharePoint one minute, then Sway, Project and Dynamics CRM the next.  It looks like it’s already been identified as same place almost same time next year


For more information about C5 Insight or this blog entry, please Contact Us. Did you miss one of the earlier recaps? Check out the full run-down HERE.