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Aug 25 2015

Microsoft: New SharePoint Server Is Underway


Satya Nadella's "Cloud first, mobile first" mantra is likely to result in major reworkings of pretty much every software product Redmond's developers issued over the past 15 or so years. Next in the line of candidates for a refresh is SharePoint Server; an "IT Preview" of its 2016 edition is now available from Microsoft's Download Center.

Serving as an integrated control center for office and web applications, SharePoint is also a natural target for any future improvements the Microsoft chief may have up his sleeve. And if you believe the latest post on the company's Office Blogs (author: Bill Baer, Senior Technical PM for the SharePoint team), there could be quite a few, since Redmond is closely observing "trends in content management, team collaboration, user experiences across devices, and how the cloud can be blended into existing on-premises scenarios." While this sounds like a major case of Marketingese, even IT managers who are weary of the cloud buzz (and wary of adopting the infrastructure concept) will likely see some promise in the new or enhanced features introduced by Baer:

  • The developers have upgraded SharePoint's "role-based installation architecture" in order to simplify deployment of new software and services. Likewise, common workflows have been streamlined to disburden IT departments from administrative/management tasks. In other words, SharePoint Server 2016 is supposed to make provisioning of servers and functions much easier.
  • Microsoft has previously announced that "SharePoint Server 2016 will provide a broad array of features and capabilities designed to make certain that sensitive information remains protected." Consequently, the IT Preview comes with "new In-Place Hold Policy and Deletion Centers" that allow users to implement individual document/file retention policies that comply with legal and industry standards for both SharePoint and OneDrive for Business.
  • Users can now upload and share files of up to 10 GB in size – a feature that's particularly useful in environments where multimedia content prevails. (10 GB is about twice the amount that fits onto a standard single-layer DVD.)
  • The preview also makes better use of HTML5 capabilities in order to offer a consistent user experience for admins across all platforms. Put differently, they can easily access all relevant information on any device, irrespective of screen size or underlying hardware.
  • In the current version, SharePoint Server 2016 offers several GUI improvements intended to speed up and refine actual operations: the developers added an App Launcher – that also provides access to websites and personal files – to the top navigation bar, put a "Share" button in the top right corner of every page, and tacked on new controls for file/content creation and management that build on similar controls in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business.

In addition, Microsoft has announced a so-called "cloud hybrid search preview" that essentially enables users of SharePoint Server and Office 365 to search and discover information stored on premises or in the cloud. This preview is available for combinations of SharePoint Server 2013 and Microsoft's cloudified office suite as well as with the SharePoint Server 2016 preview.

The SharePoint preview can be tested on any industry standard server running Windows Server 2012 R2; the ISO image requires 2.8 GB of storage space. Extra language packs are currently available in Spanish and Japanese. To learn more, visit the Download Center and check out Microsoft's SharePoint product page and blog. The company also launched a page specifically for firms that plan to set up hybrid environments.


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