Five SharePoint 2016 Feature Pack 1 updates to watch

Feature Pack 1 for SharePoint 2016 makes running hybrid content management a bit easier with tools that work across SharePoint Server and SharePoint Online.

SharePoint 2016 Feature Pack 1 will blur the lines between Microsoft's cloud and on-premises versions of the document management and collaboration tool, with enhancements to administrative logging capabilities and OneDrive, and fewer restrictions on MinRoles.

Microsoft routinely adds new features to Office 365, and will likely use Feature Pack 1 as a way to bring new tools to customers who choose to run SharePoint 2016 in their own data centers. When SharePoint 2016 Feature Pack 1 becomes available this month, it will be freely available -- but there are some capabilities within the feature pack that only will be accessible to Microsoft's Software Assurance customers.

The following are five of the upcoming features planned for SharePoint 2016 Feature Pack 1:

1. Administrative logging

One of the new features in SharePoint 2016 Feature Pack 1 is a mechanism for logging administrative activities, which can be useful for security and troubleshooting. If for instance, an organization experiences a problem with a SharePoint farm, the administrative staff can review the logs to determine if the problems can be attributed to recent administrative actions.

2. Lighter infrastructure requirements for MinRoles

Another new capability provided by the feature pack is reduced infrastructure requirements for MinRoles. This one isn't so much a new feature because the MinRoles have existed since SharePoint Beta 2, and the roles themselves have not changed -- aside from some roles being combined. However, Microsoft has made it less expensive to take advantage of MinRoles.

Prior to the feature pack, MinRoles were suitable for only larger organizations; they could not be enabled unless a SharePoint farm contained a minimum of four servers. Although a four-server farm isn't really all that large, a four-server farm was unable to provide high-availability for MinRoles. Organizations requiring high-availability needed a SharePoint farm with at least eight servers to use MinRoles.

With SharePoint 2016 Feature Pack 1, it will be possible for IT shops to deploy MinRoles on a farm consisting of two or more SharePoint servers -- though four servers are required for high-availability. Microsoft has accomplished this by combining the Front End role with the Distributed Cache role, resulting in a new role called Front End with Distributed Cache -- the original, noncombined roles are still available. Likewise, Microsoft has combined the Applications and Search roles into a new role called Applications with Search. Again, the original, noncombined roles still exist.

3. Custom SharePoint Tiles

One of the new features introduced in SharePoint 2016 was the App Launcher, which was somewhat similar to the old Windows 8 Start screen. It contained a series of tiles that users could click to launch various Office 365 apps.

Feature Pack 1 extends App Launcher, and will make it possible to add your own Tiles. Administrators will no longer be limited to using Tiles solely to point to Office 365 apps. Tiles can also point to SharePoint sites, external websites and even legacy applications.

4. Unified auditing and taxonomy

One of Microsoft's goals in Feature Pack 1 seems to have been to blur the line between SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint Online, making hybrid SharePoint more seamless. As such, Microsoft has introduced the concepts of unified auditing and unified taxonomy.

Unified auditing gives administrators logging information for file access across all site collections, regardless of whether those site collections exist in-house, or in the cloud. Similarly, the unified taxonomy feature allows administrators to create an information architecture taxonomy that spans site collections and web applications for both SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint Online.

5. OneDrive enhancements

Microsoft has provided a couple of enhancements for OneDrive to help developers and business users. The new OneDrive API for developers provides a single API for file access, regardless of whether the files are located on premises or in Office 365.

The other improvement is an updated interface for business users. Microsoft has extended the modern OneDrive for Business interface used in the Office 365 cloud to SharePoint 2016. However, this new capability is available to only Software Assurance customers.

More details about what's to come in SharePoint 2016 Feature Pack 1 can be found on Microsoft's Office Blog.

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