Social Intranet with SharePoint and Yammer concept
Before actually going on to the technical details, let’s first clarify the concept slightly with few pictures and some description. SharePoint 2013 had actually natively some great social capabilities, but roughly on the same time as we released the beta 2 for SharePoint 2013, we announced that we have bought the Yammer. At the time I personally didn’t really get the reason (I’m a simple person), but after working with the Yammer for a while, I seriously felt in love with it… it does provide some great social capabilities and it will dramatically to decrease the email inbox growth, which is great news for me and for many others.
Classic challenge however with the Yammer has been that it feels so disconnected from the collaboration platform, which is commonly SharePoint and there is still some overlapping capabilities even in Office365 SharePoint platform. Obviously this disconnected used experience will be adjusted in the future (you don’t need to be oracle to realize that), but already today you can build the needed integrations for the end users with pretty simple customizations.
And here’s an example of using Yammer with the team sites on replacing the out of the box SharePoint team site newsfeed discussion.
Yammer also in on-premises as the social platform?
Actual initial reason why I got involved on this Yammer integration discussion was requirements from one global on-premises deployment, where the customer was not willing to go to the Office365 due miscellaneous reasons. Customer had three existing SharePoint farms cross the world and as part of the SharePoint 2013 upgrade, they wanted to start using also the different social capabilities from our platform.
Default on-premises social capabilities (SharePoint social) are having some challenges with multi-farm deployments, since user profile and distributed cache information are not shared cross the farms. In this particular case customer was however also interested on seeing the possibilities with Yammer, so we designed the architecture to use Yammer as the social platform, so that we can address the needed social capabilities (messaging, discussions, likes, follows). As a side a note, we also did design a custom user profile property sync between the three farms to ensure that farm specific user profile properties are sync’d between the other farms for people search purposes. This was needed for few other planned functionalities as well and since we don’t have user profile replication engine for SharePoint 2013, this had to be solved with a custom add-on. Details on this custom sync would however require separate blog post, so let’s not go too detailed on overall architecture design and requirements.
In high level the design was as in following picture. Key point was that we would use the Yammer social capabilities from the cloud as the engine for any social functionalities, but still keep the normal collaboration and document management functionalities in on-premises.
In many cases using Yammer, but then not using Office365, could be seen as strange, but in this case customer explicitly wanted to have the actual document storage in their on-premises, even though the social capabilities are coming from the cloud. Not necessarily typical setup, but completely valid hybrid design which could be taken based on circumstances.