Microsoft’s release of the SharePoint Server 2016 preview is a welcome realization of their commitment to continue an on-premises version of the most successful content management and collaboration platform ever, by any vendor. But they did such a good job of convincing folks there would never be another on-premises version that many organizations began the move away from SharePoint to other platforms (because many simply couldn’t go to the cloud for a host of reasons). We are working with several groups that now must “re-sell” the idea of using SharePoint to customers who had previously adopted it, but many stakeholders now aren’t convinced Microsoft is really serious about keeping and innovating the on-premises packaging of “SharePoint”. The lack of clarity around on-prem BI capabilities (see deprecated features) and integration with Power BI is furthering this lack of confidence. (If you haven’t looked at Power BI lately – you should.) But for those orgs looking for hybrid SharePoint (which in my informal estimate is probably 90% of medium to large organizations), SharePoint Server 2016 will make a very compelling upgrade.
I believe Microsoft is committed long-term to an on-premises product stack, although I strongly suspect it constantly diverges from the online, cloud version. My guess is they’ll never look more alike than they do today! I also predict we’ll have tight integration as the products become more dissimilar and follow different roadmaps (I don’t know that for sure, but it doesn’t take a genius to sort it out). If you step back and think about it though – they shouldn’t take the same roadmap. We have many advantages of being in the cloud (like mobile, scalability, and rapid provisioning) along with the ability to quickly provision and improve cutting edge services like Power BI and Delve (I really like the possibilities Office Graph is presenting – almost a “personal BI” insight engine). Add to that the compelling user experience with the App Launcher and applications like OneNote Online, and we want Microsoft to keep these separate products and paths.
Likewise, on-premises doesn’t need to be constrained by cloud realities – Microsoft can focus on line of business integration, document management, hybrid integration with their own and other vendors’ cloud services, and enterprise search. On-premises will support long-term cloud migration paths for organizations, storage for content restricted by policy (or paranoia), and many custom solutions that simply won’t run in SharePoint Online. One last note: “on-premises” is more and more going to be “SharePoint IaaS”. I suspect we’ll continue to see a mass exodus of SharePoint Server to IaaS providers such as Amazon and Azure. This is especially true for groups that are already moving LoB applications and custom applications to IaaS services.
Here are some of my browser favorites of SharePoint 2016 content I thought you might find useful:
MinRole (farm service governance and monitoring)