Now that SharePoint 2016 is formally and fully released, does it live up to its promise? Microsoft's big push in this version was to introduce hybrid capabilities between Office 365's cloud-based SharePoint Online and the on-premises version so many enterprises have in production.
The cloud-based SharePoint Online is not even close to being as capable as an on-premises SharePoint server farm. Yet many organizations that either don’t use SharePoint at all or use it in a limited manner may find SharePoint Online to be exactly what they need. For them, a collaboration tool for workflow without the cost of setting up the IT infrastructure and ongoing management by on-staff IT professionals is very attractive.
No wonder SharePoint Online has been Microsoft's focus, as it has been for Exchange Online and all the other servers Microsoft has been migrating to the Office 365 cloud.
Still, there are plenty of organizations that simply do not trust a cloud-based tool with their data. Or they believe that company policy or laws prohibit such cloud use. SharePoint 2016 delivers for them, too, with many enhancements in the on-premises SharePoint server they'll like.
Here are a few examples:
- Support for the latest Microsoft servers: SharePoint 2016 works with and on Windows Server 2016 and SQL 2016, which means it can take advantage of the many improvements in both the OS (such as around virtualization and security) and the database (like the Stretch Database technology for hybrid scenarios with Azure).
- Improved hybrid operation: There are a bevy of new hybrid options, including hybrid sites, hybrid OneDrive for Business (where you can connect users to Office 365 OneDrive for document sharing and any-device access), and next-gen hybrid search (thanks to indexing through on-premises and cloud content crawling) for unified search results. Also, tools like Office Graph and Delve, which function in the cloud, can work with your SharePoint server on-premises.
- Enhanced UI: The look and feel of SharePoint 2016 Server matches SharePoint Online, providing a consistent user experience. In addition, there are now cloud-extensible aspects such as the App Launcher that can allow users to get to their Office 365 apps easily through the tiles.
- Compliance enhancements: The In-Place Policy Hold Center lets you establish time-based holds on data for a specified time. (It is similar to the cloud-based Compliance Center in Office 365.) SharePoint 2016 can also use Office 365's data loss prevention (DLP) technology, such as document fingerprinting.
You can see from that list how Microsoft is coming to assume the use of Office 365's cloud environment. Although I believe we'll see at least one more new version of SharePoint in the future, it'll likely be more like Exchange 2016 in that it focuses on matching the future SharePoint Online version's capabilities, not breaking new ground of its own.