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Cloud features push SharePoint 2016 hybrid scenarios

At Ignite, Microsoft walked a fine line in pledging renewed commitment to SharePoint on-premises, because much of the emphasis was on cloud-based SharePoint features.

Microsoft is stepping up efforts to market cloud features that supplement on-premises deployments.

Bill Baer, SharePoint senior product manager, articulated the company's cloud-first SharePoint approach in a session on the SharePoint 2016 roadmap at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Chicago in May.

SharePoint Server is used by roughly 60% of enterprises, but a recent AIIM survey indicates that most connections through Microsoft's Office 365 suite of cloud services are still working to get off the ground. With many users opting to remain on-premises, Microsoft representatives billed hybrid as a route to newer features offered in SharePoint Online and Office 365.

"The old way of hybrid was bringing your business to the cloud," he said. "The new way of hybrid is bringing the cloud back to your business."

"We're going to enable you to subscribe to cloud innovation to enrich your traditional on-premises scenarios," he added.

Microsoft Delve -- a dashboard that presents content to users based on their activity and interactions across SharePoint, OneDrive and Outlook -- was one example of a cloud service that will be available for hybrid deployments of SharePoint 2016. Microsoft also announced an update that will make Delve available for hybrid deployments of SharePoint 2013 before the end of the year.

Speaking prior to the conference, SharePoint consultant Todd Klindt described Delve as a desirable cloud-based set of capabilities that were unlikely to be included with SharePoint 2016, adding the migration of features is of great interest to on-premises users.

"My biggest wish list item for SharePoint 2016 is that we get as many online features as possible," he said. "A few years ago, Microsoft started developing SharePoint as an online product that happens to work on premises. … There's going to be a culling of features with SharePoint 2016 and I think we're all a little bit nervous about what that's going to look like."

SharePoint 2016 [is] the first version of the platform where the cloud dictates how the on-premises version is delivered.

Baer described SharePoint 2016 as the first version of the platform where the cloud dictates how the on-premises version is delivered. He also predicted it would feature easier hybrid setup and search.

"Hybrid search in SharePoint 2013 was defined by the fact that … you had two independent search sets that you had to refine independently and neither had affinity for one another," he said. "With SharePoint 2016 … I can search from a cloud-based search center and get results both for intranet and cloud-based content."

Tighter integration of the OneDrive cloud file-sharing service with SharePoint 2016 and Outlook was another wish list item. Senior director for SharePoint and OneDrive Seth Patton said the goal is making OneDrive a "cornerstone file sync and sharing solution for Office 365." Short-term improvements include integrating the search function among the three products, along with upgrading the sync function and providing new measures to manage -- or block -- shadow IT in workflows.

Mobility is a key driver for Office 365 migration, where users want easy display of files on a mobile device. A major focus of SharePoint 2016 is bringing those upgrades on-premises, said Patton.

"We're making it a lot easier to use hybrid in order to take advantage of the cloud innovations sooner and we're making it easier for customers to migrate when and if they are ready," he said.

Next Steps

What should we expect from SharePoint 2016?

Experiences vary with SharePoint Online migrations

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Navigating the Office 365 and SharePoint hybrid roadmap

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Do any Office 365 features pique your interest for going hybrid with SharePoint 2016? If so, which ones?
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