Over the last year or so, the message from Microsoft has been Cloud First, Mobile First. “You’re going to love the cloud!” “You’re going to move everything to the cloud, and access it on mobile devices!” Resistance is futile. Not exactly music to most of our enterprise customer’s ears.
In April, Microsoft confirmed that SharePoint 2016 would be generally available in Q2 of 2016. This is great news for all the companies that love SharePoint, but are not yet ready, willing or able to move to the cloud. This seemed to indicate that reports of the death of on-premises SharePoint were a little premature. Yet this news was contrasted by the fact that at Ignite, out of 700 sessions, there were only two dedicated to SharePoint 2016. So which is it? Is SharePoint on-premises dead or alive? It is very much alive. Read on to understand why.
To answer this question lets dive into what was announced during these two sessions. First off there are no big surprises in terms of architecture. This version is built off the same core as SharePoint 2013, which is also the same core leveraged by SharePoint Online. To find out what is new from an end user perspective, all you need to do is go to your Office 365 site. That’s right. This version of SharePoint is the first version to be entirely based off of their cloud solution. SharePoint Server 2016 is literally a snapshot of the bits running SharePoint Online. What is new or different in SharePoint 2016? There have been many lessons on scalability and reliability learned from SharePoint Online that have made their way to SharePoint 2016 including: TB sized content database support, list threshold > 5000 item, search index doubled, max file size now 10 GBs, zero downtime patching, easier server installation (including minimum service provisioning built into the Products and Configuration Wizard) and the ability to fully support a four 9’s SLA. From an end user perspective, I thought this was pretty cool. In SharePoint 2016 you will be able to move files between libraries, sites or even site collections and the link to the file will stay the same. Persistent links, how cool is that! But the main area of focus was hybrid. Hybrid in SharePoint 2016 The hybrid story in SharePoint 2013 was very incomplete but that has changed with SharePoint 2016! At Ignite, the biggest feature from a Knowledge Management standpoint was Office Graph. This is the foundation of how all of the features of O365 interact. This is the central AI that knows about you and how you work. The power of Office Graph will only be available in the cloud [Note: To leverage Office Graph in a hybrid environment all your content will stay on-premises, but an index of your content, along with a record of interactions will need to be stored in the cloud.] If you wish to leverage it, you will need to get your hybrid environment setup. In SharePoint 2016 they have made this easy. There will be an automated hybrid setup and configuration tool that will setup your environment based off the hybrid scenario(s) you wish to support. This is a vast improvement and removes a huge barrier to hybrid adoption. Office Graph integration will also be available in SharePoint 2013 through an update or CU that contains the Cloud Search Service Application before the end of the year. This service application will allow you to consolidate your search indexes into one central cloud location and leverage the power of Office Graph. No word on how challenging it will be for SharePoint 2013 administrators to configure. SharePoint as a Service? All of the new features and innovations within SharePoint are going to continue coming from SharePoint Online. The speed of cloud innovation will quickly leave your on-premises deployment out of date. To mitigate this risk, Microsoft announced the ability in SharePoint 2016 to subscribe to new cloud features. Basically, it will be the ability to have the new features of SharePoint Online pushed down to your on-premises deployment. To me, this means that SharePoint 2016 is most likely the last version of SharePoint. So does this mean that SharePoint on-premises is in fact dead or dying? For perspective, let’s look at Windows 10. According to Microsoft, Windows 10 will be the last operating system they build. This does not mean, however, that when it is released this summer it will have all the features it will ever have. As time goes on, new features will be built and they will be pushed out to those that want them. Microsoft calls it “Windows as Service” and new features will be built to work in the single SharePoint core and pushed out to Office 365. Those with on-premises deployments will be able to subscribe to these same new features and receive them through zero downtime patches. The news of SharePoint 2016 confirms that on-premises SharePoint is not dead. But since all the new truly compelling features of SharePoint will be cloud first, including Office Graph which is cloud only, it is really hard to say that on-premises is still 100% alive. Microsoft is clearly committed to hybrid, until most enterprise clients are willing to go all in on the cloud. Until then, the SharePoint as a service model will make it much easier for Microsoft to support both cloud and on-premises SharePoint while at the same time allowing on-premises clients to not be left in the dust. If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy these other Microsoft Ignite posts: