SharePoint Evolution – Ignite 2015

It’s official; SharePoint is not dead, not by a long way!

Bill Bear, senior SharePoint product manager announced at Ignite that SharePoint 2016 will be the ‘most robust, most secure and most tested‘ version of SharePoint to date. The cloud, and SharePoint Online, has been designed and architected to such a scale that this has pretty much laid the foundation for the next on-premises release.

This is a far cry from the Microsoft stance even a year ago when the SharePoint community were warned that on-premises would remain behind the curve with its flagship, Office 365, taking the lead in terms of new features of functionality. Now, it would see that all of the ‘cool stuff’ (like Delve) is being released to on-premises too. (Delve is not deployed on-premises – you leverage the capabilities via the new Cloud Search Service*)

Personally, I’m fully expecting SharePoint’s identity to change in time and the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ approach, which was once its strength will soon become history – and this is positive in my opinion. SharePoint quite simply, does ‘too much’ and lacks a genuine identity. All of the individual components are evidently being de-coupled and branded/marketed individually – and this will evolve further.

Even the traditional stance of ‘installing all of the bits’ has gone with the installation of SP2016 as admins now have the option of determining which roles to install and thus, reduce the server footprint.

Here are the key announcements points from the ‘Evolution of SharePoint’ session (with some personal opinion along the way)

  • SharePoint 2016 is being developed around three principles:
    • The overall user experience
    • Extensibility
    • SharePoint Management

  • Office 365 remains the fastest growing commercial product in Microsoft’s history – the annual turnover is around $6.3m. 80% of the Fortune 500 companies have purchased 0365 in the last 12 months
  • Microsoft have admitted that many of the hybrid options with SharePoint 2013 were not appealing, especially when it came to a full migration to the cloud, but the new designs with SP2016 have been largely designed to mitigate the migration pain-points (two examples were given; BCS and Search).

    First and foremast, SharePoint 2016 is a Cloud Inspired Infrastructure with an emphasis on encouraging hybrid. There’s also be tighter integration options with Exchange and Lync.

  • Delve (Office Graph) is coming to SharePoint 2013 on-premises, potentially later this year (pretty major announcement) So, all of the clever machine-learning capabilities behind Delve and Search are not just for 0365 customers. Included in Delve is a new People ‘About Me’ profile section and also new apps for both Android and IPhone (with Windows phone planned for 2015 too)

    However, having spoken to a couple of well-placed individuals, there appears to be some reservations whether Delve is a feasible on-premises solution. Not only does Delve/Graph require significant compute power, the complexity of the interconnections which bridge the ‘relationships’ and the need for machine learning capabilities, leaves you pondering how all of this could be packaged into a data centre deployment? Whatever happens, Delve’s reputation and appeal is growing and the service has already evolved from what I first witnessed as SharePoint Conference in Vegas last year. For me, Delve’s main asset is the way it can potentially display all of the relevant content you require (and more) which is currently held in varying types of company silos.

  • Baer admitted that One Drive for Business isn’t ‘where we want it to be’ – and this is a core focus for MS over the forthcoming months, including more viable options on the mobile front. In addition, there appears to be improved personal file sharing solution on the horizon.
  • Evolution of SharePoint Portals. Microsoft have identified the need to provide reusable portals for ‘ready to go’ experiences. These common portals are the thinking behind the headline ‘next generation portals; two of which are the Office 365 ‘Video portal’ and the new ‘Knowledge Portal’ (codename ‘Infopedia’)

    The Video portal is very much of hybrid thinking with the embedded page ‘videos’ held within Azure Video services. The Knowledge portals will pull together the concept of ‘boards’ and microsites into a single experience with ‘table of contents’ style navigation.  

In conclusion, it appears that MS have finally got the message that a fully-fledged Cloud migration is not an option for many a company and now they’re seemingly happy to ‘nudge you’ along the way – that really is a turnaround in stance over the past 12 months in my opinion. They’ve also taken their foot of the gas in terms of promoting Yammer at every conceivable moment and it was hardly mentioned during Ignite 

Expect the unexpected with SharePoint and when it arrives in preview this summer and then in Beta during Q4, but the early indications are that this is a serious step-up in class from SharePoint 2013 and while there’s remains a big appetite for SharePoint, MS will continue to invest and deliver.

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