And now for something completely different…

My last post gave a few details of many of the new things; this post is concentrating of a big change in the way that Project Professional communicates with Project Server.  There was a hint of this with the queue and cache mentioned before so now for more detail.

In the 2003 release Project Professional used OLEDB to talk to Project Server – so the initial authentication was made against the web server hosting Project Server then a direct link was made from the client PC to the database to open/save the project.  In 2007 all of the communication is to/from the web services via HTTP – no more direct connection to the database.  In 2003 several big support issues related to this; the versions of MDAC, connectivity to the SQL Server, reaction to high latency connections and more.  So these problems go away with 2007.  But this comes with a cost.

  • Project Professional 2003 cannot connect to a Project Server 2007 server (although it will be able to open 2007 mpp files once the converter is released sometime in 2007)
  • Project Professional 2007 cannot connect to a Project Server 2003 server  (although it can open and save 2003 style mpp files)
  • You can no longer “save as mdb”

This final point is fairly significant as many custom applications written before Project Server made use of this facility to save into an Access database and then have other Access programs and forms accessing the data.  This will no longer be possible.  Access/Project applications haven’t been a big support problem, and it is usually when upgrading that customers find something has changed with VBA or the object model and the programmer who wrote the application many years ago is long gone.  This time the upgrade will be harder – but hopefully a chance to update the code and make good use of the great new programmability features of Project Server 2007. 

The good news is that the new communication method solves the MDAC issues and, together with the queue and cache, overcomes the latency issues seen when trying to use Project Professional remotely from the server.  The end to end save/open times are not that different in 2007, but the apparent times are very much improved by the new architecture.  It feels a lot faster to the project manager and as we know – perception is reality!  In most cases this also does away with the need for terminal services for users working remotely – a big budget saver for larger deployments.

One aspect of this architecture that I think may generate some support calls is this asynchronous nature of the project save when going through the cache and queue.  If a project manager is working away in a wireless hot spot connected to their organization’s Project Server 2007 server and saves and closes their project what happens?  First the save goes to their local cache, then is transferred to the server where it is saved to the database and finally checked back in.  If the project manager realizes he needs to make a change and wants to re-open the project she may find that this process hasn’t completed and will get a message saying it is still checked out.  This is a valid message but I’m sure it has the ability to confuse.  The project manager will just need to wait. Another variation on this theme is saving and closing the project and then leaving the hot spot.  The cache handles this by stopping the transfer (assuming it is incomplete) and will re-start once connectivity is available.  The project manager thinks they have saved and checked in the project – but it is possible that the process didn’t complete before connectivity was lost.  The good news is that the client application does log this activity and will give good messages to tell the project manager what is going on – but if the laptop has been closed it is very difficult to read these!


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