Rather than just bringing you to the cloud, Microsoft also brings the cloud to you.
"Well, what have you learned, Dorothy?" – The Tin Woodsman
Sorry, but it's a worthwhile question to ask anytime you return from, or to, the Midwest. I spent five days (and nights) with about 23000 others at the inaugural Microsoft Ignite conference at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois.
Chicago - Home of Ignite 2015 and 2016 © 2016 Christopher F. McNulty
Microsoft has made a LOT of news lately across their Build and Ignite announcements. Windows 10 is the centerpiece of all their efforts. To quote CEO Satya Nadella,
"We're the only company that cares deeply about individual experiences and organizational solutions"
As we move from the BYOD wave to the Internet of Things (IOT), soon the number of devices will outstrip the number of people on the plant. And Microsoft has carved out an ambitious goal – over a billion Widows 10 devices, all of them able to run the same set of Universal Apps across smartphone, tablet and PC form factors. All driven by a mantra of "mobile first, cloud first". (Side note- that slogan always sounds like a tie – are both first?)
Microsoft's keynote announcements were grouped in three areas:
More personal computing
Along the theme of keeping users experiences consistent across a broad range of devices, Microsoft announced new versions of Windows Update for Business and System Center.
Microsoft's unifying principle balances individual output and process controls. Some of the major investments ae in areas well beyond the traditional Word/Excel/PowerPoint arc with new paradigms like Sway, Cortana and Delve. Major announcements here include:
- Office 2016 – support live coauthoring
- Delve for Organization – new insights in collaboration patterns
- Skype for Business
- Cortana, the voice assistant, has been added to Windows 10 with support for Power BI
- Exchange 2016
- SharePoint 2016 (more below)
Build the intelligent cloud
Here's where Microsoft deploys major infrastructure support to unify cloud and premises systems:
As Brad Anderson, Corporate Vie President at Microsoft noted "Security is the #1 enterprise concern today." Consistent with what we've seen, 75% of data breaches come from weak credentials or compromised identity. And the risks are no longer about mischief or petty crime – real financial exposure, intellectual property theft and business disruption ae all part of the emerging threat landscape.
Microsoft's keynote demos were too numerous to cover in detail, but I had three favorites.
Windows 10 "Hello" uses cameras and face recognition to automatically identify you and log you into systems. Universal Apps will use one code base to run seamlessly across multiple devices and form factors, ensuring for example a consistent Outlook user experience on smartphones, tablets and traditional PCs. Finally, Delve for Organizations applies machine learning to the Office Graph to spotlight personal, team, and geographic patterns in enterprise collaboration – for example, which teams never meet with other teams and correspond mostly by email, etc.
Delve for Organizations
SharePoint and Office 365
SharePoint 2016 is coming, and it's going to be big.
Hybrid is already a huge part of the story – Cryptzone's own Office 365 survey published at Ignite noted that 76% of enterprises expect to run SharePoint in a hybrid topology permanently or indefinitely. There's lot of cloud adoption – and even on premises SharePoint continues to grow at a double digit annual rate.
To be fair, some of Microsoft's major announcements about SharePoint were made in the weeks before Ignite. Seth Patton, Sr. Director of Product Management at Microsoft, had announced in April that SharePoint 2016 would be moving to public beta in the fourth quarter of 2015, with a release data in Q2 of 2016. In addition, Microsoft announced new API support for tracking over 150 user and management activities in Office 365, as well as expanded support for using Azure RMS to encrypt sensitive data in Office 365.
For me, this was welcome news, since Cryptzone had already been working to bring the power of RMS into our products. At our booth, we even showcased a technology preview integrating RMS into our Site Sheriff product.
Fundamentally, SharePoint 2016 takes a different approach to coexistence with a hybrid cloud. Instead of forcing enterprises to move to the cloud to access new features, SharePoint 2016 allows enterprises to bring the best of the cloud down to an on premises farm, while continuing to use on premises SharePoint for content. Rather than just bringing you to the cloud, Microsoft also brings the cloud to you.
SharePoint 2016 will greatly expand core capacities from the 2013 version, with support for 10GB files, list view limits well about 5000 items, and content databases maximum sizes support well beyond 1TB.
In my opinion, Microsoft learned more about tuning and using SharePoint in their first month running Office 365 than in their first ten years of selling the on premises product. A lot of the infrastructure shifts are about sharing better understood patterns for deployment to the on premises world. Bill Baer, Microsoft's senior director of product management, spotlighted many of these changes:
- Live telemetry and usage management dashboards to closely match what Microsoft uses internally to support and troubleshoot SharePoint Online. These screens are far more sophisticated than anything in the product to date.
- Server installation will only install the specific bits needed for each servers "role" – web server, application server, cache server or custom application server, an approach called MinRole.
- Simplification and streamlining of service database structures.
- Live, zero downtime patching will be standard in SharePoint 2016.
- New wizards to install and configure seamless access to cloud services and identity
- A new unified search service application for 2016 (and also coming for SharePoint 2013) to allow on premises content to generate signals to be consumed by the Office Graph and Delve (more later.)
- An update to Performance Point for on premises use.
In case you missed it, the Office Graph is a cloud based machine learning service that mines all you personal interaction with files, messages, email and other cloud services for patterns. Delve shows you the results for your own work, as well as what's going on around your teams, surfaced with "cards" to guide you to recent content.
And there's a slew of new things coming to Office 365 – most of which can be easily integrated on premises
And to be fair, some things are not being enhanced. InfoPath and SharePoint Designer 2013 are remaining as is in 2016, with no new versions being released. The free, low end SharePoint Foundation server is also not being refreshed for SharePoint 2016. Support for AppFabric and Forefront is also being reduced.
Finally, Yammer was conspicuous by its absence in the Ignite keynotes. There were no new, compelling stories about Yammer for enterprise collaboration as Microsoft shifted a lot of its Ignite focus to Groups.
What does it all mean?
Microsoft is not backing away from its commitment to a cloud first approach. Office 365 will remain Microsoft's first hub for innovation and collaboration for the years to come.
However, SharePoint 2016 represents an honest assessment that on-premises usage is also a permanent part of our collaboration fabric. Microsoft's hybrid innovations can ease the forced pressure to "move everything to the cloud". In truth, you're going to be able to sustain an on premises environment, probably forever.
If governance is in part, about establishing business outcomes and matching the technology and process to support the goals, SharePoint 2016 and Office 365 are a prime case. There are certain workloads like SQL Reporting Services or full trust code that are well suited to running on premises. Other aspects of collaboration, like Delve or Power BI, belong in the cloud, while team sites could run in either mode.
I thin SharePoint 2016, in the end, is about engaging the cloud in your own terms, rather than having Microsoft dictate them.
And Microsoft is no longer trying to be all things to all people. Instead, SharePoint 2016 represents double down and expanding their own R&D investment on for core aspects for collaboration:
- Content Management
The message is to focus on what SharePoint does better than anything else – collaboration.
There's a lot to take in. I haven't even mentioned my own Ignite sessions on RBS, enterprise content management and the MVP panel Q&A. But these sessions and more were all recorded and available to watch free of charge at http://ignite.microsoft.com
Finally, if you think there was a lot this year-- you're right. That's why Microsoft will be bringing Ignite back to Chicago again next year, May 9-14, 2016. See you then.