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SharePoint 2016 RTM highlights Microsoft's cloud path

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SharePoint 2016 RTM is out and highlights the path Microsoft is paving for shops to the cloud.

The SharePoint beta was released in late 2015, and now that SharePoint2016 RTM is out, it's time to reflect on its future direction.

For Microsoft shops, the clear message from Redmond is that SharePoint's path will be trailblazed by SharePoint Online, the cloud-based version of SharePoint and Office 365.

Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration and content management platform enables companies to store, share and edit documents with team members and to communicate at various milestones along the way. Companies can ensure compliance and other regulatory requirements using SharePoint, though many have to remain on premises to do so. SharePoint 2016 has made it easier for Microsoft shops to work seamlessly between their on-premises SharePoint deployment and their SharePoint instances in the cloud.

SharePoint 2016 RTM indicates that the cloud is now the emphasis for development of new features. In SharePoint 2013, new features debuted on premises, and only then were they incorporated into the cloud. Today, that has switched. New developments happen in SharePoint Online, so users seeking full functionality and the most recent version of features will now find the testing ground first there.

"They [Microsoft] have put a lot more R&D and fresh development into the cloud version of SharePoint,” said Scott Robinson, a SharePoint and BI expert. “So now, SharePoint Online is the architectural driver of SP on-premises."

At the same time, some experts have noted that the cloud has expedited the pace of change altogether for Microsoft offerings, and SharePoint 2016 RTM is no exception. Release cycles are highly compressed, and beta features aren't as well tested as they should be before they are rolled out.

"Some new capability [that's rolled out in the cloud] has implications either for the user interface or for the organization's compliance plan, and if the organization isn't really on top of it, they could end up in trouble or getting support calls," said Joshua Trupin, research vice president of Office 365 and services at Directions on Microsoft, a Microsoft technologies analyst firm.

One of the most important changes in SharePoint 2016 makes it easier to have a hybrid deployment without losing capability, such as the ability to search and find content whether it's behind the company firewall or in the cloud.

"I'm only looking at one view screen," said Robinson. "Hybrid [SharePoint] no longer means I have to look at things in two places. In some cases, it wasn't just an awkward transition, but an impossible transition to the cloud."

For more, check out the podcast above.

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