March 14th 2016 is the date on which Microsoft finally unraveled the RTM bits for SharePoint Server 2016, also known as Office Online Server (OOS). There have been a lot of speculations around what will be a part of this upcoming version of SharePoint. This blog will try to get a peek into what has been communicated by Microsoft & other partners (who are testing it since Aug 2015). Before you proceed you should already know “What is SharePoint?”
Vision for SharePoint 2016
So, the big question is “Why SharePoint 2016”? What is the vision of Microsoft to come up with a newer version of SharePoint? If we have to answer that question in one word, then the word would be “CLOUD”. Cloud has been the buzzword in the industry & everyone wants to have a piece of this, because of the benefits that it brings to the table. But, some of the SharePoint customers has their own concerns around cloud. Most of the concerns are around security, as the infrastructure (in some cases platform as well) in case of cloud is maintained by third party. So, the vision for SharePoint 2016 is to bring some of the cloud features into SharePoint. To enable this vision, “hybrid infrastructure” concept was introduced which we will look in more details soon in this blog. But just to give an idea, this is a facility for your on-premises SharePoint site to connect to SharePoint online or O365.
As a SharePoint customer, you still want to be in-line with what is happening in the industry & need a facility that can at least allow you to communicate with the cloud (for application & data). Maybe, this transition can be a stepping stone for your journey towards Cloud.
New & Improved Features
The list of features are huge & range from simple ones like UI/UE (User experience), to mobility. We will try to target few of the big ones to give a well-rounded view of latest version of SharePoint.
Enhanced Next Gen Hybrid Search
This is one of the biggest addition to the feature set of SharePoint2016. The USP for SP2016 search is the capability of displaying the unified search across various SharePoint Sites, irrespective of whether they are deployed on premises or over cloud. The earlier versions listed these search results on different lists making them disjoined. The new Search provides better indexing of results, neatly sorted, based on relevancy ranking.
Better User Experience
Microsoft has realized that one of the deterrents in adoption of SharePoint is the inconsistent & bad User Experience. To rectify this problem, MS came up with an improved ribbon which is the same as O365, to make the experience consistent. This seems like a small change but can go a long way in providing a unified & better experience to the user.
Enhanced Mobile Experience
In the past versions of SharePoint, the focus was always on the big screen (Read desktops & Laptops). But, looking at the shift towards mobile today, SP2016 started looking into customization for the smaller screen of mobiles. Device specific targeting in now possible with more focus on HTML5 technology. This shift from Microsoft side has given a leverage to the end user in choosing the screen of their choice & getting a better experience. One of the best features on mobile platform are around the touch friendly interface.
One Drive for Business Integration
As mentioned above, if you want to start moving towards cloud, then this feature will be your first baby step towards that. With the help of this feature, the user will be able to work on the same file across geographies over cloud. As an end user, you can redirect your on premises “My sites->OneDrive Host” to SharePoint Online One Drive for Business.
Configuring this feature is also very easy with help from a well-designed wizard for this purpose. Post configuration users can easily start syncing & moving files to cloud instantly.
Site Hybrid Integration
If your installation of SharePoint has a few sites on-premises and others on the cloud, then keeping a tab of these sites was not easy. But with SP 2016, you can ensure that all of your frequently used sites are available at one central location. By using the new hybrid SharePoint Sites Wizard, the user can configure a connection to the server that will allow to sync the features of different environments. A link to the site is added to the list of followed sites once the user clicks to access the site from different server. This is a very simple way for the user to keep a tab on frequently visited sites, independent of where they are hosted.
Unchanged Social Experience
If you already know answer to “What is SharePoint? “ & other social features of same then, nothing has changed for you. This has to do more with MS’ decision to go with Yammer. Although Social for SharePoint is not going in good direction with Yammer, but MS has yet again used Yammer for O365 as well. So unless you decide to use Yammer in your SharePoint installation, you will not see much changes.
Ease of SharePoint Hybrid Deployment
Microsoft has put a lot of focus & effort towards the Hybrid SharePoint experience. MS wants users to move towards cloud & to ease that transition, they have created a well thought-out wizard which makes deployment simple & intuitive.