SharePoint 2010, Office 365: There is more to Managed Metadata Services than the Managed Metadata Column Type

I am writing this post because I think there is a little confusion out there about Managed Metadata Services and the limitations. I know that I am personally guilty of talking about the limitations of the Service, but really mean the limitations of the column type. This is important because there are so many great features that I feel might be getting a bad name because they are getting all lumped together. In this blog post I wanted to highlight some of these items at a high level, hopefully bringing some clarity to the subject.

Office 365 vs Local SharePoint 2010

The first thing that I want to discuss is the differences in the platform. In Office 365 you will be able to manage the items that I am discussing, however you will not be able to configure them. When you sign up for Office 365 this service application is preconfigured for you. Information on how the hub is configured in Office 365 can be found in this blog post. But even though it is configured for you, it is still a good idea for you to understand the different pieces and how they work together. Reading through the rest of the blog post should give you that information.

Service Applications

The first thing we should understand is what service applications are in 2010. There are a few links out there that go into great detail, so I won’t do that here. But the best way that I can think to describe them is that they provide a way to share common functionality across the farm. They allow you to configure once and use across many locations.

This includes things like:

  • Search
  • User Profile Services
  • Managed Metadata
  • Excel Services
  • Visio Graph Services

By managing these centrally you are able to control the way that the different services work across the entire organization. Listed below are some more links that you can follow to get you more familiar with the technical details:

Managed Metadata Service Applications

Managed Metadata Services is one of the new service applications that came with SharePoint 2010. It has two primary components – Content Type Publishing and the Managed Metadata Term Store, both of which are described in more detail below. When you configure the service application for the first time you are able to configure the associated database and the site collection that will be used for the content type publishing.

Content Type Publishing

Content Type publishing allows you to have a central location for the creation and management of content types that can then be published out to any site collection that is consuming services from the Service Application. Any content type that can be created in the hub site collection can then be used in many different site collections. This means that you can centrally manage and maintain your content types.

Managed Metadata Column Type

The Managed Metadata column type is a new type of column that is available in 2010. This column is like any other site column and can be used in a list, library, site column or content type. This is the new column type that allows you to have an organized managed term set and supports type ahead and synonyms. This is a great new feature in 2010 that provides a great deal of flexibility when building out a solution. Managed Metadata columns make use of a Term Store for creating and managing terms. In the Term Store you are able to set the properties and values for the items within the Term Store. This Term Store can be managed globally (at the Service Application) or locally (at the site collection).

The Managed Metadata column type also brings the concept of enterprise tagging to the environment. The Enterprise Keywords is a global term store that is non-hierarchical and any user can add any value. For more information on this, refer to this link – Configure Enterprise Metadata and Keyword Settings for a list or library

Limitations of the Managed Metadata Column Type

There are a few important “gothchas” that you should understand before using the Managed Metadata Columns. These have all been outlined before, so I am going to just link to some of the common articles:

It is very important to understand these limitations and to plan accordingly before you get too far in your solution design.

Publishing Content Types

In this article we have talked about two different things – Content Type Publishing and the Managed Metadata Column Type. Both are available to us when we have configured the Managed Metadata Service Application. But one thing to note is that Managed Metadata columns can be used without Content Type Publishing and Content Type Publishing can be used without using the Managed Metadata columns. This means that you can still publish content types without having the limitations mentioned above concerning the Managed Metadata column type. This also means that you can use the Managed Metadata column without publishing it through a global content type. They are in reality two separate functions that are available through a single service application.

Closing Thoughts

This has come up quite a few times in the past couple of weeks, so hopefully this blog post can help bring some clarity to all of it. I hate to see organizations miss out on the rich features of Content Type Publishing because they have heard through the grapevine about the limitations. I for one will start to clarify better in my discussions that I am talking about the column type and not the Service Application.

I’d love to hear any thoughts or comments you have about this topic in the comments!

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