With the embracing cloud market, just about anything as a service is a hot commodity these days, and for good reason. Our clients and our own organization face the challenges of trying to understand which applications to manage internally versus those that benefit from the pay as you go model. We also worry about choosing the right solution to invest in, the control of the solution, access to our data, and the uncertainty about the features, support, and alignment with our organization 3-5 years down the road. We also need to understand a potential remediation plan for solutions where we lack control. One way to achieve some stability and management is with hybrid cloud solutions. Maintaining one foot inside and one foot outside solves many of the problems of either 100% on or off premises. That is clearly the focus of SharePoint in its latest release.
SharePoint Messaging from Microsoft & my Interpretation
Microsoft has made it clear it is still committed to on premises SharePoint for as long as the market demands it. The on premises installations have continued to increase in volume globally. Microsoft has changed the marketing around SharePoint to make it clear that Office 365 is not a replacement for an on-premises version. The features will diverge slightly, overlap and provide improved and connected functionality via Cloud Accelerators where a hybrid implementation really shines. The hybrid connection to the cloud will be required to take advantage of many new features being introduced. This represents a reasonable evolution of the capabilities and accessibility of the platform. More details on the specific features are listed below.
With Microsoft making it known that Windows 10 will be the last release of Windows, it is possible that SharePoint follows the same paradigm. I would not be surprised if future versions of SharePoint become functional service packs, add-ons, or patch releases. It makes sense considering the alignment with Office 365 and the difficulties in redesigning the architecture with massive cloud adoption.
On a final note, I would like to see Microsoft get the licensing aligned and straightened out to make hybrid adoption easier to. My preference would be to see licensing (CALs) be valid across all iterations of the platform. You buy/own SharePoint in any flavor you wish to implement it.
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The New Stuff
My apologies for not diving into details, the goal is to give a high-level overview of most of the new features that have been discussed with SharePoint 2016.
Hybrid Integration Gets Better
- Easier to push OneDrive / MySites to the cloud from your on premise installation
- Sites you are following all in one place across on premise and cloud
- Hybrid setup assistant
- Hybrid Unified Search experience surfaced in the cloud by pushing the on premise index up to Office 365
- User Experience alignment between cloud and on premise via navigation bar
- Office Graph / Delve functionality to work with on premise data due to the integration of hybrid search functionality
Functionality / Features
- Durable Links: Resource-based URLs now retain links when documents are renamed or moved in SharePoint
- OneDrive Site Folders give you links and access to more pinned content right from OneDrive
- New Access Services: Greater Office Apps support, download access tables to Excel, a new Cascading Combo Box, and additional Related Item Control features.
- Document Library Accessibilities: Keyboard shortcuts, Page Landmarks, Focus Trapping, Upload Progress indicators, and more.
- Image and Video Previews via mouse hover within a document library
- Open Document Format (ODF) support in Document Libraries
- Improved Sharing Interface
- Site Pinning on the Sites page for better user management of content
Document Deletion Policies
- Allow site owners to choose from policies that you centrally create and manage. You can also allow site owners to opt out altogether if they decide a policy does not apply to their content
- Enforce a single mandatory policy on all sites in a site collection, such as all OneDrive for Business sites, or even enforce a policy on all site collections created from a specific site collection template, such as the Team Site template
- Provide a default policy with a default rule that will be automatically applied without any action required by site owners
- Create a policy that includes several deletion rules that a site owner can choose from
Sensitive Content Search
- Search for sensitive content across SharePoint Server 2016 IT Preview, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business
- Leverage 51 built-in sensitive information types (credit cards, passport numbers, Social Security numbers, and more)
- Identify offending documents, export a report, and adjust accordingly
Information Rights Management
Although not specifically released for SharePoint 2016, it’s worth mentioning that IRM has been introduced into Office 365. It relies on Microsoft Azure Active Directory Rights Management and can be enabled at the list and library level. It has some pretty interesting features, the following is a snippet taken from Microsoft regarding the functionality: “When people download files in an IRM-enabled list or library, the files are encrypted so that only authorized people can view them. Each rights-managed file also contains an issuance license that imposes restrictions on the people who view the file. Typical restrictions include making a file read-only, disabling the copying of text, preventing people from saving a local copy, and preventing people from printing the file.”
- System Requirements seem mostly unchanged, but I did not complete a full comparison
- Installations allow for role-based configurations: (WFE, App, Search, etc.)
- Compliance checker to ensure the services running match the intended role
- Zero downtime during patching
- Automatic list column indexes to work around the 5000 item view threshold (good for Office 365)
- 10GB file upload limits now supported (up from 2GB)
- One Second Site Collection creation time
- Improved compile time for customized XSLT files used for Content Query, Summary Links, and Table of Contents Web Parts
- Encrypted Connections
- Expanded support for special characters in file names
- 500 Million items per Search Service Application
All in all it’s another mid-range move in the direction of a hybrid and integrated experience for collaboration.
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