When Office 365 really came into its own in about 2013, the message from Microsoft was “To the Cloud!” Later, they eased back to “Hybrid!” With SharePoint 2016, the messaging has become a heck of a lot more flexible. With 2016, you can have your cake, and probably eat it too.
The many predictions of SharePoint’s demise seem to have been premature. I’m not a big prognosticator (most predictions turn out to be wrong), but I’ll stake my claim here that 2016 will not be the last version of SharePoint on premises. And I’ll also predict that it may be the best release ever.
The No. 1 reason—far and above all others—why SharePoint 2016 will be great is that Microsoft has been running SharePoint 2013 itself in the Cloud in Office 365. It wasn’t until Office 365 really took off that they started getting the message: SharePoint has been really hard to run. It’s complicated, it’s frail, and there’s way too much of it to keep your servers healthy without a lot of work. Our friends in Redmond truly get that now, and SharePoint 2016 will encapsulate a lot of what they have learned over the last three years or so. That will be huge for people who have to keep SharePoint 2016 alive and healthy.
The other big news with SharePoint 2016 is that while we can still run it on premises, we can take advantage of the cloud if we want to. Instead of two distinct options (SharePoint 2016 on premises or SharePoint Online, with some hybrid possibilities in the middle), we’ll see a broad spectrum of options where we can take advantage of cloud capabilities while continuing to host SharePoint on premises. That’s a pretty cake that tastes good, too.
Of course, there will be new functionality in SharePoint 2016. If you’ve been watching where SharePoint Online has been going, you already have a pretty good view of what SharePoint 2016 will look like. This is the first cloud-to-on-premises release, and is very different than past releases. In the past, we’d all try to read the tea leaves about what might be in the next version of SharePoint. In this case, we can look at the delta between SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint Online and have a very good idea of what we will get.
The first preview of SharePoint 2016 will be in our hands next month. This is a very new piece of information, just announced at the Worldwide Partner Conference last week. The general availability release isn’t scheduled until Q2 2016. In the meantime, the preview will give us some strong indications of what 2016 will look like (for those who can’t extrapolate from SharePoint Online). It probably won’t be feature-complete, and it wouldn’t be Microsoft if they didn’t keep some pretty significant positive surprises from us until much later.
Microsoft has learned a lot from running SharePoint in its own data centers, and we can expect to reap the rewards with SharePoint 2016.
Marc Anderson is a Microsoft MVP and an enterprise collaboration strategist.