Program Framework, SharePoint, SharePoint Online

What we learned about SharePoint 2016 at Microsoft Ignite

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At the Ignite Conference back in May, Chicago witnessed the gathering of many big thinkers. IT professionals, enterprise developers, architects and CEO’s all had the unique opportunity to feel inspired, challenge their existing knowledge and visualise the future of technology. Microsoft Ignite 2015 was a massive event where a range of new products and services were showcased, introducing a new era of enterprise computing enabled by a number of next generation applications and solutions. Among the key announcements was the much anticipated news surrounding SharePoint 2016. Can it really empower organisations to achieve more? We take a closer look.

SharePoint 2016

Bill Baer, a Senior Technical Product Manager and Microsoft Certified Master for SharePoint gave away t-shirts at the event and also some vital product information on management, insights & data, reliability, performance and scale and cloud accelerated experiences. According to his speech on May 6, the experience of SharePoint at the corporation has led to development initiatives and innovations in convergence, fixing a lot of issues around the patching and updating experiences peculiar to IT professionals. He identified the new improved functionalities that Microsoft are working on delivering through investment in hardware and support requirements, information protection control, software requirements, upgrade and migration routes and more.

SharePoint Online

The rise of the cloud has received mixed reactions from organisations, due to concerns around the death of SharePoint Server. SharePoint Online confirmed Microsoft’s ‘cloud first’ infrastructure approach, resulting in speculation about gaps with the server version. That said, it has also had a number of success stories – football giant Real Madrid have leveraged SharePoint Online to explore user insights and interact more effectively with millions of their fans. Angel Sanchez, CEO of Real Madrid attended the Ignite conference and joined Satya Nadella on stage to showcase how Microsoft cloud technology is fuelling IT innovation and success. These exciting success stories were, however, only available to cloud adopters. While the grass (and maybe the pitch) looked much greener on the cloud, a lot of organisations are contending with significant challenges that bar or discourage them from taking the leap.

The Future

Microsoft used Ignite to reaffirm their commitment to the SharePoint community, directly addressing speculations and concerns inspired by advisory statements from prominent technology research firms like Gartner. Organisations have been invited to join the On-Premises Technology Adoption Program to enhance feedback and participation with future releases. Members of the program will have the opportunity to collaborate with the product development teams by contributing to the future development of SharePoint, Project Server and Exchange Server.

With SharePoint Server 2016, document collaboration, file storage, mobile access to content, people and applications, device management and experiences will become people-centric using the current innovations in Office Graph technology. Delivery of SharePoint updates has also recently changed from the Windows Update patch delivery strategy so that Office product updates and security fixes for server products are now available through Microsoft Update. NextGen portals were also announced at the Conference, which brings information management capability in SharePoint and Office 365 to a whole new level, using tools like InfoPedia.

The Hybrid Feature

The climax of the Ignite announcements for us was how Microsoft totally debunked the idea that it is forcing customers to the cloud. Rather, they made clear their intention to bring the cloud to users of SharePoint Server 2016. They also demonstrated that SharePoint On-Premises servers will benefit from Office Graph, which currently relies on the cloud to work. Search capability for pulling up data or viewing relationships between entities will be stored both online and On-Premises.

Some of the hybridised services coming to SharePoint 2016 users include OneDrive, Team Sites, Extranet and Apps, data loss protection, e-discovery and taxonomy. Finally, it was reiterated that SharePoint Server 2016 would not be the last of the On-Premises SharePoint versions and SharePoint online would not be dismantled or replaced either, so that the SharePoint community could benefit from the best of both worlds.

This new cloud-packed, On-Premise release is not due until second quarter of 2016. However, the first test build will be out this summer and the full beta in the fourth quarter of 2015, delivering capability for enterprise content management, sites and portals. Microsoft managed to tick off a lot of items from our SharePoint wish lists and we can’t wait to get our hands on the early releases later this year!