The SharePoint Future Isn't Cloudy, It's Hybrid
Hybrid computing skills should be a focus of IT pros maintaining SharePoint environments, given Microsoft's current cloud emphasis.
That's one of the ideas that emerged this week in a talk by Jason Himmelstein, an Office Services and Servers Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) and Todd Klindt, a SharePoint Microsoft MVP. They spoke on the topic, "SharePoint's On-Prem Penalties: The Case for SharePoint Service in the Cloud."
The talk was an IT Unity presentation. Possibly, it'll be available later on demand in the archives. Both speakers are engineers at Rackspace, which sells hosting services for SharePoint.
Microsoft's messaging on SharePoint Server seems to have evolved of late. Recent guidance from the company is veering more toward a hybrid vision centered on SharePoint Server 2013 and the emerging SharePoint Server 2016 product in conjunction with Office 365 services. But there has been plenty of SharePoint confusion for IT pros along the way. Just two years ago, the consulting firm Gartner Inc. was predicting a slow divergence happening between the cloud-based SharePoint Online service and the SharePoint Server product.
That confusion is still around. Meanwhile, Himmelstein and Klindt shared their views about where Microsoft may be going with its Office 365 cloud push, as well as with SharePoint, both online and on premises.
Hybrid and Identity Management
Himmelstein said that hybrid is now "the new black or the new orange" in terms of Microsoft's thinking regarding SharePoint. Hybrid architectures will help drive user adoption of cloud services. He added that the costs of federating with Active Directory, though, "are not insignificant." He recommended that IT pros learn PowerShell and take a look at Office 365 services.
Klindt recounted the changes he's seen after being an IT pro for 20 years. His skill set encompassed Exchange Server and SQL Server administration before moving to SharePoint. He got involved with SharePoint 12 years ago when it wasn't mature technology.
"We were all really nervous about what would happen to SharePoint," Klindt said, but "then this hybrid thing started happening."
Klindt said he has embraced identity technology as part of the future, along with hybrid support. He added that Office 365 and Microsoft Azure are "great products," and "Microsoft understands hybrid." However, for hybrid to work, identity has to be in place.
Himmelstein described identity as "the hub," adding that "I know this is going to be big."
In response to a question about whether the days of managing SharePoint Server on premises were "dead" or not, Klindt said that "I don't think the IT pro job is dead. It's just changing. Everything we do now as technologist will be a commodity. It'll be replaced with a script."
In that context Klindt explained that Installing Linux used to be a chore, but now his mom can do it. IT pros working with SharePoint have had the luxury to stay around and not get pushed so far, but that's changing, he added.
Klindt acknowledged that Microsoft's guidance and view on the cloud has changed in the last few years. It used to be that everything should move to the cloud but Microsoft has now softened that stance and takes a more hybrid view. It's possible to mix and match Office 365 services and on-premises servers, such as mixing SharePoint Online along with SharePoint Server. "Those concerns about being forced all to the cloud are gone," Klindt said.
The Branding Problem
Klindt said that SharePoint's native interface can be kind of "overwhelming" for end users. Just having the SharePoint name on a portal can seem kind of "dirty," he added. Consequently, there's an impetus for organizations to customize SharePoint and brand it.
Himmelstein pointed to the issue of putting branding on SharePoint as one of the No. 1 problems for organizations. He said that branding just needs to be selective. IT pros should not put branding across a whole SharePoint farm as there will be performance penalties. He added that some people think of SharePoint as a developer platform, but it just should be kept simple. Organizations should look at ways of customizing SharePoint without writing custom code. "Don't let the developers into your platform," Himmelstein added.
Klindt said that there's a "technical debt" that comes with altering pages and CSS with SharePoint.
"Branding is mostly just terrifying for me," Klindt said. "If everything didn't go with blue jeans, I wouldn't be able to dress myself in the morning. But I think with any kind of change you make -- anytime you deviate outside the [SharePoint Server] box -- there's going to be a cost to that."
In keeping with the theme of the talk, Klindt noted that Microsoft doesn't allow branding for its SharePoint Online service. It could be a tacit acknowledgment of the branding problem, he speculated.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.