This week an article was published on CIO.com by Jonathan Hassell entitled, ‘7 Things CIOs Should Know About SharePoint Server 2016’. This article found it way circulating around our company from several vendors hoping to convert our SharePoint portal over to their system. They point to various statements about the new SharePoint as evidence that it is time to switch from SharePoint now. I call this ‘The Sky is Falling’ syndrome. Vendors of third party products are using it specifically to freak out SharePoint users to get them to switch to their company’s product. However, the truth is rather different for existing SharePoint users. Here is my personal response to some of these statements. Don’t fall for ‘The Sky is Falling’ sales tactics.
SharePoint Server 2016 might be the last version of SharePoint designed to run on premises.
Jeff Teper just took over SharePoint at Microsoft last year and has been rebuilding the SharePoint team from the disaster it was in 2014 and early 2015. At the European SharePoint Conference and the Microsoft MVP conference in November of 2015, a very different picture of the future of SharePoint emerged. He has not said that Microsoft is abandoning SharePoint. However, the definition of ‘last version’ is muddy. I believe it is more like what Microsoft has said concerning Windows 10 being the last version of the OS for PCs. Really? What does that really mean? It means that all future updates will be done through regular updates/patches/etc. Haven’t they already done that with Windows 10? In fact, the Release Candidate for SharePoint 2016 was released, I believe, as a patch to test this capability in SharePoint. It updated our Beta 2 installation without shutting SharePoint down or reinstalling everything. Last release? I guess that depends on what you call a release. It may be the beginning of the end of release numbers as we once knew them. It is a very different release world coming about.
There will no longer be a free version of SharePoint for smaller shops or department use.
True, but that is because the free release was collaboration only and that functionality has moved to SharePoint online as part of select Office 365 subscriptions where they call it Team sites. You can also apparently buy SharePoint online as a standalone offering for $5.00 per user per month. Note that like WSS 3.0, these sites are meant for internal collaboration, not for the creation of public facing web sites.
Excel Services has vanished, and to get Excel functionality, you must use Office Online Server
Again a good choice to provide the latest updates as soon as possible. Excel is an office product and will be baked into the Office 365 subscriptions. Also Microsoft is pushing a new product for data analysis called Power BI which appears to be part of select Office 365 subscriptions although you can get a desktop version for free. Gartner recently ranked Microsoft’s Power BI as most innovative in the upper right quadrant in their recent Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms.
Managing SharePoint from the command line is pretty much a PowerShell-only affair these days
This was announced years ago as a goal for all Microsoft servers. There is better control over administration of Exchange and even standard Windows servers using PowerShell. Our team has been honing our PowerShell skills for at least the last 4-5 years because we knew this was coming. Also the SYSADM functionality was awkward at best. For some time, you have been able to install a Windows Server as a Server Core only version that skips the GUI to provide better performance and a smaller footprint which uses PowerShell for administering the server. This direction for servers is not new for Microsoft. They gave substantial warning that administrators need to learn PowerShell in the near future.
The migration process to SharePoint 2016 will be a bit involved, depending upon from where you are starting.
While it is true that out of the box that migration from anything other than SharePoint 2013 is not directly possible, there are tools companies like ShareGate, Metalogix, and AvePoint to name just a few that support migration between SharePoint 2010, SharePoint 2013, SharePoint 2016, and SharePoint online so this is a non-issue.
The Microsoft workflow and forms solution InfoPath is now Moribund
Microsoft has promised support for InfoPath until at least 2026. However, I do not expect Microsoft to completely eliminate support until they or a third party comes up with a viable alternative and path to get there. Their attempt at a different forms solution in 2014-2015, Forms on SharePoint List (FoSL) failed and was removed from SharePoint 2016 until a new solution is obtained. Unfortunately, they released the news that InfoPath was going to end prematurely without that replacement solidly in place. In the meantime, there are other third party forms tools like K2 for SharePoint which provides a forms and workflow alternative that might be a reasonable alternative if you feel you need to start converting to something else now.
There is a big focus on hybrid connectivity in SharePoint Server 2016.
Very true because the vast majority of companies that responded to one survey expressed an interest in a hybrid approach in the future, the bottom line is that today 49% of a recent survey from Rencore use SharePoint Server on premises only, 24 % use SharePoint Online only and 25% that use a “Hybrid” configuration. Because 64% of the survey respondents also use Office 365 currently, I suspect that the percent of hybrid might increase in the near future. One factor that will keep on premise going for some time is the need to perform customizations which are easier when you have local control over the server. Over the much longer term, will hybrid on Online continue to grow at the expense of the on premise only installations, probably.
Finally I want to address the removal of public facing SharePoint sites from the Online version of SharePoint. While I have not heard anything definitive about the reasons for this decisions, I suspect the reasons are either technical (branding) or licensing related or both. I suspect at some point, Microsoft will either resolve these issues and add public facing SharePoint sites back or they will create an entire new product that will allow for the creation and support of public facing sites hosted from their online Office offerings.
In the meantime, I will strongly resist the cry that ‘The Sky Is Falling!’ and focus on things that I can control.
C’ya next time.