Microsoft's Cloud-Inspired SharePoint Server 2016 Debuts

Microsoft releases the latest version of SharePoint Server, vowing to keep updating the on-premises software for enterprises unwilling or incapable of migrating to the cloud.

Microsoft SharePoint Server 2016

Microsoft announced the general availability of SharePoint Server 2016, the software giant's enterprise document management and team collaboration platform, during The Future of SharePoint event in San Francisco May 4. The product launch comes less than two months after the software was released to manufacturing.

Taking the stage, Seth Patton, general manager of Microsoft SharePoint and OneDrive assured that, despite his company's cloud-first product strategy, the on-premises version of the software will live on well past SharePoint Server 2016. "We remain committed to SharePoint Server," he said.

SharePoint Server shares much of the same code base as SharePoint Online, Patton said. Like its cloud-based counterpart, the software is "built for continuous improvement," he added.

Upcoming enhancements to SharePoint Server 2016 will come in the form of Feature Packs, the first of which will be released in 2017. Organizations will be able to selectively enable features on their SharePoint farms, according to Microsoft. Feature Packs may lag behind the rapid-fire pace of cloud updates, but the new upgrade model will allow customers to better keep pace with SharePoint's evolution without having to wait for the next version of the software, claims the company.

Customers shouldn't mind the gap in functionality, according to John Peluso, senior vice president of product strategy at AvePoint, a Microsoft enterprise collaboration software specialist.

"Microsoft will understandably innovate in the cloud first, because that's where they can release and test functionality quickly," Peluso told eWEEK. "Instead of feeling cheated by that, on-premises customers should rejoice in the fact that by the time features come down to them, they have been baking for some time in a live production Office 365 environment."

In many ways, end users have the most to gain from SharePoint 2016.

"It was interesting to see that much of the actual functionality they discussed—essentially workflow with Flow, business forms with PowerApps, curated content views, and metadata management in the new Library UX [user experience]—at the end of the day, these are things we have been able to do for a long time with legacy functionality," Peluso said. "But the difference is they are clearly now focusing on making all of this functionality obvious and usable to even the basic users of the system."

SharePoint for the Era of Hybrid Clouds, Mobile Workers

For organizations whose Microsoft productivity software environments stretch into Office 365, SharePoint Server 2016 supports various hybrid-cloud scenarios.

The software integrates with OneDrive for Business, Yammer and Delve. A revamped home page consolidates access to on-premises SharePoint sites and those hosted on Office 365. New unified indexing and hybrid search capabilities span both deployment schemes as well.

On the mobile front, the new SharePoint mobile app for Android, iOS and Windows offers quick access to recent and followed sites and allows users to switch between multiple online and on-premises accounts. The search feature has various filters, including sites, people and files.

The app is coming first to Apple iOS, followed by Windows and Android sometime in the second half of 2016. Later, Microsoft plans to release an update allowing organizations to broadcast company news and announcements.

Although it is often eclipsed by Windows, Office 365 and, more recently, Azure's growing portfolio of enterprise cloud services and software, SharePoint remains a major revenue driver for Microsoft. According to the company, more than 200,000 organizations use SharePoint. A million developers and 50,000 partners have helped turn the SharePoint solutions ecosystem into a $10 billion market, Microsoft claims.

Some even consider SharePoint a career-booster. During his keynote presentation May 4, Patton noted that "1.5 million people list SharePoint as a skill" on the business-focused social network LinkedIn.

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...