Microsoft Borrows From Its Cloud for Office Online Server

Businesses wanting to offer their workers Web-based versions of Office apps can now deliver an experience closer to the cloud-delivered versions.

Microsoft Office Online Server

Organizations serving up their own browser-based versions of Office applications such as Word and Excel to their employees can now test new capabilities that borrow heavily from Microsoft's cloud-delivered software.

Office Web Apps Server, first released in 2012 as an on-premises alternative to Microsoft's Web-based Office applications, is undergoing a name change to Office Online Server (OOS), reflecting the many changes to the platform over the past three years. Now, the company is giving organizations a peek at some of the enhancements and improvements to the software with a preview version that narrows the feature gap between the cloud and customer data centers.

"OOS brings the features and improvements you experience with cloud-based Office Online to your on-premises solutions," wrote Bill Baer, senior technical product manager of Microsoft SharePoint, in a blog post announcing the Sept. 11 release of the beta software. "SharePoint 2016 and Exchange 2016 are both designed to work with OOS," he added.

The preview is currently available at the Microsoft Download Center as an .ISO file. Users evaluating the software should notice performance and stability gains and well as a larger selection of authoring tools.

"The OOS Preview works with products and services that support WOPI [Web Application Open Platform Interface], such as SharePoint Server 2016, Skype for Business and Exchange Server 2016," noted Baer. "An OOS farm can provide services to multiple on-premises hosts, and you can scale out the farm as your organization's needs grow."

Office Online Server should also provide a more collaborative experience. According to Baer, it now features co-authoring improvements, an Office Online capability that enables multiple users to work on the same Office file—a Word document, for example—simultaneously in real time.

For administrators accustomed to the existing offering, Microsoft assures that setup and management will be seamless and feel familiar.

"We have worked hard to make the transition from Office Web Apps Server 2013 to OOS as simple as possible," Baer said. "Also, while you'll need OOS for SharePoint 2016 and Exchange 2016, OOS is completely backwards compatible with SharePoint 2013."

Microsoft also used the opportunity to announce the availability of a new System Center Management Pack for the recently released SharePoint Server 2016 IT Preview.

Also downloadable at Microsoft's Microsoft Download Center, the software bundle "is designed to be used for monitoring events, collecting SharePoint component-specific performance counters in a centralized location, and for raising alerts for operator intervention as necessary," Baer said. The software requires System Center Operation Manager 2012 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 with Full-Text Search.

"Management Pack helps indicate, correct and prevent possible service outages or configuration problems—allowing you to proactively manage SharePoint servers and identify issues before they become critical," he continued.

The software monitors SharePoint-related events and services, including Timer, Tracing and Search. It also allows administrators to keep an eye on SharePoint server performance as well as Internet Information Services-related and Microsoft SQL Server-related events generated by SharePoint.

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...