Microsoft: A Cloudier SharePoint Is on the Way

Big changes are coming to the Microsoft team collaboration platform, courtesy of the company's increasing cloud computing investments.

Microsoft SharePoint in the cloud

Microsoft's "cloud-first" product strategy is reshaping SharePoint, the tech giant's collaboration platform for businesses.

Despite a cloudier approach, however, customers of the on-premises server version of the software needn't worry that they're getting left behind, wrote Julia White, general manager of Office Product Management.

In a lengthy Office Blogs post detailing SharePoint's new intelligent, productivity-enhancing direction, White acknowledged that the server edition of the software still has its devoted customer base. Moreover, Microsoft won't be making any moves to alienate them.

"While we've seen growing demand for SharePoint Online, we recognize that our customers have a range of requirements that make maintaining existing SharePoint Server deployments the right decision for some," she wrote. "We remain committed to meeting those needs."

For customers running SharePoint within their firewalls, Microsoft is focused on making the next version "the most secure, stable and reliable version to date—allowing organizations to take advantage of cloud innovation on their terms," said White.

The upcoming release of SharePoint Server 2016 "will offer customers enhanced, flexible deployment options, improved reliability and new IT agility, enabled for massive scale," and support hybrid cloud and mobile-enabled implementations, pledged White. "A hybrid SharePoint deployment can provide IT agility by creating a consistent platform spanning data centers and cloud, simplifying IT and delivering apps and data to users on any device, anywhere."

On-premises assurances aside, Microsoft is working on delivering new "targeted experiences" to augment the platform's Search, Content and Team Sites capabilities. "These experiences are collaborative, bringing teams together in an always-connected world; mobile, truly productive using any device; intelligent, contextual, relevant and personalized; ready to go, with shorter time to value; and cross-suite, blending experiences across Office 365 and blurring the lines across traditional product silos," stated White.

Many of those capabilities are already well under way. SharePoint search, for instance, is being influenced by Office Delve, a machine learning-based app that delivers timely, in-context information and content gleaned from workers' roles, projects and relationships. Content hub creation will be streamlined with NextGen Portals, which "by design, are intelligent, collaborative, mobile and ready to go," said White. Joining the Office 365 Video NextGen Portal in 2015 are new knowledge management and people portals, she said.

SharePoint Team Sites will feature tighter Office 365 integration, allowing businesses to incorporate more content such as emails, instant messages and social feeds into their SharePoint environments. Meanwhile, Power BI will offer users cloud-enabled big data analytics capabilities. Yammer, the company's enterprise social networking platform, also features in SharePoint's future as part of the Office 365 ecosystem.

IT managers can expect tools and controls to improve manageability, clamp down on data leaks and keep their users safe. "We continue to refine and invest in capabilities like Rights Management, Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), eDiscovery, Legal Hold, Metadata Management and Policy Control, in addition to capabilities such as data loss prevention (DLP) and mobile device management (MDM) to deliver a rock-solid, secure and reliable platform you can trust," said White.

SharePoint will also remain friendly to third-party developers, she said. "We will keep investing in the surface area of these APIs [application programming interfaces] plus introduce totally new APIs (like Office Graph and Office 365 Video) to enable even deeper levels of integration. IT, developers and partners will be able to achieve greater levels of customization for their customers."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...