The Ignite conference in May told us many things about how Microsoft sees the future of business computing. If you had to boil it all down to one key message, it would be that while there’s still a market for on-prem the future is very much in the cloud. This vision is evident when looking at some of Microsoft’s exciting new products such as Sway or Office 365 Groups (which we’ve spoken about previously).
Contrary to some blogosphere chatter, Sway is not a PowerPoint replacement, but instead offers an alternative for those who are happy to use a web-based app with fewer controls. Less fiddling with content and formatting options should mean a simpler and faster design process. Office 365 Groups also follows this design philosophy by offering a collaboration space that is limited in functionality, (when compared to a SharePoint Team site or Project site), but is much easier to get up and running, making it perfect for small or transient projects.
One side effect of all this enthusiasm for innovating in the cloud is a growing uncertainty over the future of on-premises computing. The Internet rumor mill had been in overdrive with dire predictions about the imminent death of SharePoint, in particular. The fact that Microsoft waited until Q1 2015 to officially confirm that there would be a new on premises version of SharePoint did little to calm nerves, but the fear mongers were definitely proven wrong at Ignite.
Let's take a closer look at some of the great collaboration features we can expect in SharePoint 2016, as announced in Bill Baers’s Ignite session.
Storage and file upload improvements
Microsoft had already hinted of the kind of improvements we can expect by teasing an increase of the individual file size limit from 2GB to 10GB on the Office 365 roadmap.
At Ignite Microsoft confirmed this increase, as well as other storage-related improvements specific to SharePoint 2016 including the following:
- The maximum size for a content database has been boosted from 200GB. The actual size is yet to be confirmed, but is expected to be at least 1TB.
- The list view threshold will be raised above 5000. As with content database sizing, the new limit has not been finalized but promises a substantial increase.
- One content database can now host a maximum of 100,000 site collections.
- The size of the search index has been doubled to 500 million items.
These increased capabilities will enable organizations to do more with SharePoint 2016 by overcoming limits that may have hampered SharePoint adoption in previous versions, particularly with large lists and big video files.
Hybrid Search and Delve
Although Microsoft are working on SharePoint 2016 as an on-premises product, the cloud is never far from their minds. Some functionality that is currently available in Office 365 will still not be available for local installation, but it will be accessible via hybrid configurations.
Organizations that already use Office 365 will be able to use cloud-based ‘search as a service’ to index their online content as well as their on-premises data held in SharePoint 2016. You’d be right in thinking that federated search is already available in SharePoint 2013, but the new version is a huge improvement because it shows one integrated set of search results instead of expecting users to switch between cloud and on-premises results.
SharePoint 2016 administrators will also be able to connect Delve to their servers which will enable users to see relevant information surfaced to their Delve [dash]board, regardless of whether the content is stored locally or in the cloud.
Improved integration with Yammer
SharePoint 2013 already offers integration with cloud-based Yammer services, and this model is set to continue in SharePoint 2016. You won’t be able to install your own Yammer server, but the parts needed to integrate Yammer into SharePoint 2016 will be built into the product.
This integration offers organizations the same benefits already enjoyed by Office 365 subscribers, such as the ability to discuss a document with colleagues in a Yammer conversation that is displayed as a sidebar to the document itself. Users will also be able to post updates and upload documents directly to Yammer from Outlook. Any content posted to Yammer will also feed into Delve, which I’ll discuss a little later in this blog. These improvements should make a compelling case for taking enterprise social networking to the next level, although it still requires information to be stored in the cloud.
When a document is uploaded or created in SharePoint 2016 it will be assigned a “Resource ID” URL. While Microsoft did not provide much technical detail of how this will work, it was clear that a document would be accessible via an address that is unique and persistent within the farm.
The benefit to end users is that a link received in email or added to their ‘favorites’ will always work, even if the file has been renamed or moved. This will in turn make it easier to relocate documents while maintaining good document management practices.
Some exciting features
Successfully creating a culture of collaboration takes more than just installing the latest software but SharePoint 2016 brings exciting new and improved capabilities.
We look forward to the Beta, which should be available by the end of the year, followed by a Release Candidate version in Q2 of 2016.