SharePoint 2016 is one important step closer to its official launch, announced Microsoft today.
The latest version of the Redmond, Wash., software maker's cloud friendly team collaboration platform, including Project Server 2016, has been released to manufacturing (RTM), bringing it one step closer to general availability. A part of the software release life cycle, RTM status generally describes software that has left the testing stage, been finalized and is nearly ready to be released publicly.
In the case of SharePoint 2016, Microsoft is aiming for an official launch during the rapidly approaching spring. "This is an important milestone in the delivery of this significant release, which includes new capabilities for users, IT pros and administrators, as well as the next generation of hybrid capabilities for SharePoint," Seth Patton, general manager for Microsoft SharePoint and OneDrive Product Management, wrote in a March 14 announcement. It also coincides with the release of a new, search-related perk for existing customers.
"This also marks the general availability of cloud hybrid search for SharePoint Server 2013 and higher customers—allowing on-premises and Office 365 content to be surfaced in one search result," Patton added.
SharePoint Server 2016 offers support from mobile devices and workstyles, including touch-enabled experiences that span various screen sizes. For administrators, Microsoft promises a more secure and adaptable file storage and document collaboration platform.
But not all organizations may be ready, according to AvePoint, a business software provider that specializes in Microsoft enterprise collaboration.
To Migrate or Not?
In a SharePoint 2016 readiness survey conducted by the company, more than a third of organizations (37 percent) said they were ready to upgrade to the new software. Thirteen percent said that they were not yet ready for SharePoint 2016.
Another 50 percent said they were unsure about deploying SharePoint 2016, a figure that indicates a knowledge gap among users. That gap is narrower than many users think, according to John Peluso, senior vice president of product strategy at AvePoint.
"There's a lower learning curve here than in previous SharePoint upgrades simply because the user interface hasn't changed too much," Peluso told eWEEK. "I consider [SharePoint] 2016 the child of [SharePoint] 2013 because while there are some differences, users will still feel a sense of familiarity when operating on the newest version."
In terms of investing in the new software, organizations should "take a hard look at whether or not they should migrate to the newest version," recommended Peluso. If they decide on a move to the new version, CIOs are encouraged to consult with their SharePoint managers to settle on a migration plan that doesn't hurt productivity, he added.
CIOs and IT managers should also be aware that the clock is ticking on older versions of SharePoint.
"If their platforms are pre-SharePoint 2013, the most logical move is adopting 2016 since that is where Microsoft's net-new investment is going and support for the older versions is winding down," advised Peluso. "But for organizations already on fully functioning versions like [SharePoint] 2013, they'll want to assess if the move to 2016 is necessary while keeping in mind the similarities it has with SharePoint 2013."