Microsoft Envisioning a Hybrid Future for SharePoint Server

Microsoft is working to fill some technology gaps to better enable organizations to deploy "hybrid" SharePoint architectures.

Future SharePoint developments will focus on end user productivity, as enabled via Office 365 services, according to Mark Kashman, a Microsoft senior product manager on the SharePoint team. His August SPTechCon Boston 2015 keynote talk, "SharePoint at the Core of Reinventing Productivity," is now available on demand here.

Such hybrid SharePoint architectures, per Microsoft's definition, consist of SharePoint Server 2013 Service Pack 1 or the forthcoming SharePoint Server 2016 product running in an organization's datacenter. The server gets integrated with Office 365 services, which are run by Microsoft from its own "cloud" datacenters. This hybrid approach will support the new end user productivity technologies being envisioned by Microsoft.

In an earlier talk at the SPBiz Conference, Kashman had explained how past SharePoint Server products always had some cloud roots. Microsoft's current development strategy coming from CEO Satya Nadella is "mobile first, cloud first." Per that approach, Microsoft is using learnings from its massively scaled Office 365 cloud services to improve SharePoint Online first, as well as its forthcoming SharePoint Server 2016 product. Specifically, Microsoft is integrating new Office 365 services, such as Delve, Clutter and Groups, into both the SharePoint Online service, as well as SharePoint Server 2016. The integration effort is closing the gap between the on-premises and online products, providing for a more consistent code base, Kashman explained back then.

In his August SPTechCon talk, Kashman added a caveat.

"Sometimes there's a misperception we've got when we say, 'Mobile first, cloud first.' It does not mean cloud only," he said. "We certainly came out a little strong around Office 365 and some of the things we're doing in Azure." He added that the phrase just "means the cloud is going to be great when you want it."

Kashman later described SharePoint Server on premises as "additive" to Microsoft's Office 365 cloud efforts.

"One way to think about on-prem [SharePoint Server], and certainly in addition to online, is really to think of it as additive," he said. "That mantra that you all giggled at was, 'Yes, we were asking you to move everything to the cloud' and 'Only use your cloud' and 'Shut down your datacenters.' But the reality is Microsoft has been on this journey since about 2011 with all of our Portal sites and our, at the time, My Documents, which is now OneDrive for Business. And it is a journey … and that journey has really gone from moving features, or what really were Workloads in the past, to combined experiences. Sometimes they are just the Workloads but other times they are more of a collective experience across multiple experiences."

Connected Services
By "combined experiences," Kashman is referring Office 365 services designed to enhance end user productivity. About half of Kashman's SPTechCon talk focused on Office 365 services. A lot of those Office 365 services essentially are SharePoint services, he indicated.

For instance, SharePoint search is now enterprise search based on Microsoft's FAST technology. Enterprise search feeds and supports Office Delve, which is Microsoft's Office 365 Graph technology that personalizes content.

"So when we talk about experiences in the cloud, they are built on SharePoint," Kashman said. "And, if you didn't know, Office Delve, along with other things, is built off that FAST [enterprise search] engine and [has] got a unique component we call the Office Graph."

Portals use connected services to make them more intelligent, as well as to make them more mobile and accessible. In terms of files connectivity, Microsoft moved My Documents into Office 365 and now calls it "OneDrive for Business."

Microsoft's Office 365 productivity improvements for end users fall under a "modern workplace" concept. A modern workplace, according to Kashman, is supported by collaboration, personalized insights (leveraging Microsoft's machine learning capabilities), content management (with e-discovery and policy management capabilities), plus security and compliance.

Hybrid Integration
Microsoft is planning to make many of its Office 365 services work in hybrid SharePoint architectures. It's been an evolving process.

For instance, Microsoft started out with its "Business Connectivity Services" for on-premises deployments, which was later brought to SharePoint Online. However, Business Connectivity Services is really a developer tool; it's not for everybody, Kashman said. To bridge that gap, with SharePoint Server 2013 SP1, Microsoft introduced an easier way to connect workloads in the cloud.

In addition, Microsoft is planning to integrate hybrid search, Delve, e-mail collaboration and video capabilities into its SharePoint Server products.

"The focus for us is to enable hybrid Search and hybrid Delve. And that means hybrid Delve in [SharePoint Server] 2013 … is something we'll support, and certainly [it's] embedded in [SharePoint Server] 2016 as well. Of course, [it's] consuming OneDrive and having the ability to do hybrid e-mail depending on how your people are deployed and where your in-boxes are. And certainly with [SharePoint] 2016, we'll also bring the ability to connect Office 365 Video."

Kashman said that Team Sites is an easy capability to move to the cloud, but Portals will take a little more investment to get there. Microsoft is also working on making its compliance technologies work across hybrid SharePoint as well, he added.

Kashman said a whole lot more during the talk. He noted that SharePoint Server 2016, currently in preview, has been built based on the cloud and that makes hybrid connections much easier. He promised that Microsoft would focus on on-premises customer needs via future service packs. The new MinRole deployment option in SharePoint Server 2016 is more attuned to what organizations want, he claimed. Other backend improvements in SharePoint Server 2016 include a more streamlined infrastructure, improved search, list thresholds, telemetry, BITS (Background Intelligent Transfer Service) delivery of updates and fast site creation.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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