Some of the biggest news to come out of Microsoft Ignite last month was the introduction and the first public demonstration of SharePoint Server 2016 -- a demo that quelled a lot of speculation and uneasiness in the SharePoint administrator community.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the conference, with an emphasis on the on-premises product. They should also give you some sense of what's coming in the next version.
1. SharePoint Server on-premises will still exist
Without any concrete evidence that, in fact, a new version of SharePoint Server existed, customers and industry analysts and pundits alike began to speculate that SharePoint 2013 would be the last version of the collaboration product that was offered in a "boxed" product (in reality, in a perpetual one-time license) that wouldn't require any sort of cloud subscription or delivery system.
Many companies, especially enterprises in heavily regulated industries, felt that trusting all of their sensitive documents and content to the cloud was just too much -- especially after they invested in security and role protection schemes to segregate employee access to confidential information stored within SharePoint. For these organizations, it was either on-premises or nothing.
While Microsoft said that a new version was under way and offered a lukewarm commitment to future versions -- saying something, in effect, "we have never commented on versions beyond our upcoming next release" -- many analysts believed this was just a smokescreen for pushing organizations to SharePoint Online and Office 365. They have been proven wrong, at least for now.
The new release of SharePoint Server 2016, scheduled for the first quarter of next year, is a clear and natural progression of the on-premises product, and has a lot of good improvements from both the administrator/IT professional and end user perspective. As you might expect, there's a lot of focus on enabling smoother scenarios for organizations that have deployed SharePoint both within their corporate network and in the cloud. But there are also very real and meaningful improvements on the on-premises side only, certainly enough to placate the pundits and to at least kick the question of future updates for on-premises only environments down the road a few more years.
2. The administrative experience of SharePoint Server 2016 will be much better
When administrators say they prefer the old container-style patches and updates for SharePoint (that historically were fairly difficult to manage and install across an enterprise) over the new-fangled solution introduced in SharePoint 2013, you know Microsoft had done something wrong. One of the things we learned at Microsoft Ignite was that the product team was going to attempt to make the administration and management user scenarios work much better. For one, patching -- both for security updates and for new features -- will be much easier and will not require any of your SharePoint services to go down. You can update while remaining online. Each patch will consist of a maximum of two MSIs (patch files) per SharePoint service and one MSI per language pack that you have running. This is a much lighter footprint than previous versions.
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