SharePoint Is Back!

A while ago, some have predicted the death of SharePoint, stating that the SharePoint brand was not even present in Office 365 and that Microsoft would not release any new versions of the on-premises SharePoint Server. Today, on Star Wars day, Microsoft renewed its vows in a SharePoint-focused event appropriately called The Future of SharePoint and announced a ton of new features and an ambitious roadmap for its flagship collaboration platform. For a 10-year SharePoint fan such as myself, it was great to watch.

There is no SharePoint or Office 365 event that doesn’t start with a keynote full of usage statistics, and this was no exception. Seth Patton and Jeff Teper delivered some impressive statistics that show off the impact of SharePoint all around the world:

  • More than 200.000 client organizations
  • More than 190 Million paid seats
  • More than 1 Million developers
  • Solutions ecosystem worth more than 10 Billion USD
  • 2x usage growth in the last year (SharePoint Online)
  • 5x content growth in the last year (SharePoint Online)
  • More that 40% of all seats and 60% of new seats are SharePoint Online
  • Office 365 has over 70 Million active users, which makes it the largest productivity service in the world

The new features and capabilities were announced across four areas:

I’m not going to dive into each announcement because you can read all about it in the Office Blogs and in numerous other blogs and websites. Rather, I will highlight the ones that I found most interesting:

  • In Office 365, the Sites tile will be renamed to SharePoint. A simple change that is very significant since it reinforces Microsoft’s commitment to the SharePoint brand.
  • Microsoft is releasing a new SharePoint Mobile App for all platforms, starting with iOS. It is a simple but powerful new way to interact with SharePoint.
  • OneDrive will also get a Universal Windows Platform App
  • The new OneDrive for Business sync client will allow synchronization of SharePoint Online document libraries (which can already be done with the previous sync client)
  • SharePoint will allow copy/move of documents between OneDrive and document libraries, through the web interface
  • SharePoint Online will get a new homepage with some similarities with Delve
  • Team sites are getting an overhaul, with a new responsive UI
  • The content authoring on publishing sites has been completely overhauled with a much simpler and streamlined experienced
  • Office 365 Groups and Team Sites will have a 1-to-1 relationship, which means Team Sites will become the place where group members come to collaborate
  • SharePoint lists and libraries have a new UI, consistent with OneDrive look&feel
  • Microsoft Flow and PowerApps will be integrated into SharePoint lists and libraries
  • Microsoft is releasing a new client-side development framework called SharePoint Framework, which leverages new web development tools and technologies
  • Regarding security, privacy and compliance, Microsoft is also pushing ahead of the competition with the introduction of the Data Loss Protection (DLP) features, Customer Lockbox, dynamic conditional access policies and the possibility to Bring Your Own encryption key
  • Microsoft is also increasing the pace at which new features reach the on-premises version SharePoint, via the new SharePoint Server 2016 Feature Packs. These will be granular packages that will upgrade specific features in SharePoint Server, and will become available starting in 2017.

Overall, it was a great event with plenty of demos and announcements. For me, however, the highlight was Microsoft’s renewed focus and commitment to SharePoint as a platform and brand.

TUGA IT 2016 – Registration is open

Registration is finally open for the free Saturday of TUGA IT Conference 2016, on May 21st 2016.

Don’t miss the opportunity to attend the largest IT conference of the year in Portugal. A full day packed with technical sessions by local and international renowned speakers, spread over 9 simultaneous tracks dedicated to topics such as Office 365, SharePoint, Data Platform, Integration and Development. It’s a FREE event but places are limited so register now!
The conference program is not published yet because we’re making sure it’s awesome, but it will be very soon!

Also, don’t forget the amazing workshops for May 19th and 20th 2016:

Thursday, May 19th

Friday, May 20th

TUGA IT 2016 – Office 365 / SharePoint Workshops Announced

The TUGA IT Conference 2016 is really coming together now, with the announcement of the pre-conference workshops for the Office 365 / SharePoint workloads. It is nothing short of a stellar lineup with 4 fantastic speakers. Check the details below and register until March 31st to secure the early bird price!

Thursday, May 19th

On Thursday, there will be two half-day workshops dedicated to SharePoint / Office 365 Developers.

Understanding Office 365 Developers Patterns and Practices (4 hours) by Paolo Pialorsi
An absolutely essential workshop for any Office 365 or SharePoint developer, which will introduce you to the Office 365 Patterns and Practices project, and teach how to use the tools and guidance offered by this community and open source initiative. The fact that it will be delivered by Paolo Pialorsi who, besides being a renowned speaker, author, MVP and MCM, is also part of the Office 365 PnP team, makes this workshop a rare opportunity. Read more here.

Developing Apps with Azure AD (4 hours) by Radi Atanassov
Authentication has always been one of the most complex topics when developing client applications that need to call APIs secured with Active Directory. This is where Azure ADAL (Active Directory Authentication Libraries) comes to the rescue, making authentication much simpler for developers of any platform, be it Android, .NET, iOS or NodeJS. In this workshop, Radi Atanassov, well known MVP and MCM, will explain how you can leverage Azure ADAL when building apps that authenticate against Active Directory. Read more here.

Interested? Register for both workshops while there are still slots available.

Friday, May 20th

On Friday, there will be two full-day workshops, one for developers and another for IT Pros.

Working with a Supermodel for SharePoint Add-ins by Sonja Madsen
Sonja Madsen is one of the most experienced and well known SharePoint Add-In developers, with more than 30 Add-ins in the Office Store. In this full-day workshop, Sonja will go through the steps to build a SharePoint Add-In using modern web development patterns with a strong focus on client-side technologies. It will be great! Read more here.
Register for this workshop.

Building the Perfect SharePoint Farm: Infrastructure Best Practices Workshop by Michael Noel
A full-day workshop with Michael Noel is a dream come true to any SharePoint IT Pro around the world. Michael is the author of the SharePoint Unleashed books series and one of the most renowned speakers in the SharePoint space. In this workshop he will deliver a master class on how to build a multi-server, highly available and secure SharePoint farm. I’m pretty sure this wil be epic. Read more about it here.
Register for this workshop.

TUGA IT Conference 2016

The TUGA Association, the non-profit organization behind SQL Saturdays in Lisbon and Porto, is organizing the first TUGA IT Conference which will take place in Microsoft Portugal’s beautiful headquarters, in Lisbon, on May 19th – 21st. You can read all about it in the conference website, but I’ll summarize it anyway.

It will be a 3-day conference, focused on Azure, Office 365, SharePoint, Data Platform and Integration:

  • The first two days (May 19th and 20th) will be for full-day or half-day technical workshops
  • The third day (May 21st) will be for breakout sessions over several simultaneous tracks

With more than 500 expected attendees, this event will be one of the biggest IT events in Portugal, so be sure not to miss it!

Call for Speakers

If you’re an expert on one of the areas mentioned above and you want to share your knowledge with the community, submit your session by filling in the form.

Office Servers and Services MVP

Happy New Year!

2016 is starting off really interesting for me. Microsoft has presented me with the MVP Award for my contribution in the Office Servers and Services (SharePoint and Office 365) communities during the past year, and I’m incredibly honored to be a part of such a select group of individuals. I’m fortunate to know a few MVPs from all around the world and they’re all extremely dedicated and knowledgeable professionals in their respective areas.

Paraphrasing what my friend João Pedro Martins wrote when he was awarded his first MVP title, I hope my contributions to the community continue to deserve Microsoft’s recognition. Thank you.

 

the European SharePoint Conference 2015 was great!

The fourth edition of the European SharePoint Conference has now finished and it was bigger and better than ever. It took place in the wonderful city of Stockholm, in Sweden, from November 9th to November 12th. Like in previous years, the first day was dedicated to pre-conference full-day tutorials and the conference actually started in the second day. It featured a large exposition floor for sponsors to present their products and services, and also a community area with soapbox sessions during session intermissions and meals. The conference got over 1,500 delegates from over 50 different countries.

The programme team did a great job going through over 700 session submissions and putting together a stellar lineup of great speakers while also broadening the scope of the conference to include Office 365 and Microsoft Azure along with the SharePoint-related content. Congratulations to Wim Dierickx, Göran Husman, Adis Jugo and Nicki Borell. I was on the programme team last year and I know how hard it is to select the sessions and speakers, and put together a compelling programme.

The first keynote was delivered by Seth Patton, Jeff Tepper and Bill Baer, and this fact alone demonstrates how much Microsoft is invested in connecting with the community. The keynote was mostly focused on:

  • Usage and adoption statistics for Office 365
  • New and improved features that recently rolled out in Office 365
  • Near future roadmap for Office 365
  • What’s New in SharePoint Server 2016

Regarding usage and adoption, Office 365 has some impressive statistics:

  • Over 75,000 customers which account for more than 160 million users
  • 200% monthly active user growth
  • 7 Billion Office documents stored in OneDrive for Business, team sites and other SharePoint portals, which represents a 500% year-on-year growth in content
  • Runs on 30,000 servers, with 20,000 SQL databases, on 19 datacenters around the world.

As for new features and near future roadmap for Office 365, Jeff Tepper and Bill Baer shared that:

  • OneDrive for Business will now have a new rock-solid sync client (which has been in preview for a few weeks) and already has mobile apps for all devices. It recently got a revamped UI with a better browsing and sharing experience, and better tooling for IT management.
  • SharePoint Online has rolled-out improvements in collaboration, co-authoring and external sharing features.
  • The new Office 365 groups and their tight integration with Outlook 2016 is helping people to be more productive, adapting the technology to the users and not the other way around.
  • Delve and the Office Graph are also evolving, with new APIs and the new analytics features that are now in development.

The biggest announcement was the release of a second and last beta version of SharePoint Server 2016 before the end of the month, which will be nearly feature complete. The new features of SharePoint Server 2016 were already known since Microsoft Ignite a few months back, but it was still interesting to hear about the enhanced mobile experience, robust and cloud inspired infrastructure, and the compliance and data loss prevention features.

My session was about “Content Recommendation with SharePoint Search” and I think it was well received by the 100 or so attendees in the room, but having to deliver a session on the afternoon of the last day usually means I’m not going to enjoy the conference because I’ll be too worried fine tuning the slides and demos, and practicing the presentation until almost the end. If you’re interested in the presentation contents check the slide deck on SlideShare.

Nevertheless, I still managed to attend a few sessions by really good presenters:

  • Radi Atanassov (@RadiAtanassov) presented a great session on Office 365 Dev Patterns and Practices.
  • Chris O’Brien (@ChrisO_Brien) gave some fantastic tips on what you should and shouldn’t do when developing for Office 365.
  • Marius Constantinescu (@c_marius) showed us how to use Lightswitch to build cloud business apps in Visual Studio.
  • Nuno Costa (@ndocosta) and João Oliveira (@joaopcoliveira), fellow Portuguese Microsoft guys, delivered a brilliant talk on Office 365 governance with PowerShell and CSOM.
  • Rodrigo Pinto (@ScoutmanPt), fellow Portuguese MVP, got to present two great sessions: one on PowerShell Desired State Configuration and another one on techniques to migrate full trust solutions to the add-in model.
  • Edin Kapic (@ekapic) made complex topics such as authentication and authorization seem simple as he showed how to build a custom claims provider for SharePoint. Pretty epic stuff.
  • Knut Relbe-Moe (@sharePTkarm) dove deep into the Office 365 group and filled a room even on the last session slot of the conference.

It was a nice surprise to find Pedro Serrano and Daniel Pereira from Cave Digital showing off their Smart Governance product in the expo floor, and Alex Ferreira (@alexaem) and Tiago Duarte (@tduarte85) attending the conference. It’s always great meeting Portuguese friends when we’re far away from home.

Overall it was a great experience and the team in charge of the organization has done a tremendous job. If I had to point out three highlights of the event, those would be:

  • The venue for the awards gala, which was absolutely fantastic, and the venue for the conference. It will be very hard to top that next year.
  • The networking opportunities.
  • The speaker and session lineup, which included top Microsoft executives.

Next year the European SharePoint Conference will take place in Vienna, Austria, on November 14-17, and I hope I can be there again.

Collab365 Global Conference

This year’s 24-hour online conference is almost here! Like last year’s SP24, the new Collab365 Global Conference is a 24-hour online conference about SharePoint (and also about Office 365 and Azure) and it will take place on October 7th/8th. I’ll be presenting a session on “Building Solutions with Office Graph”.

This event is a huge undertaking and it has some impressive statistics:

  • 10,000 expected attendees (SP24 already got 9,000 last year)
  • 6 simultaneous tracks (Office 365, SharePoint, Azure, Business, French track and Spanish track)
  • Over 120 speakers from 6 continents
  • Keynotes by Jeremy Thake and Mark Kashman
  • 62 MVPs and 6 MCMs

You can expect a lot of great content about SharePoint 2016 and Office 365, and it’s FREE. If you’re interested in attending, don’t forget to register.

Microsoft Developer Tech Refresh

Next Monday, June 15th, Microsoft Portugal is hosting the Developer Tech Refresh 2015 event in Lisbon. It’s a developer focused event, with 20 sessions over 5 simultaneous tracks:

  • Windows Dev
  • Azure Dev
  • Office Dev
  • Data Platform / Internet of Things
  • Web

I will be presenting a session on “Office Graph” (and Office Delve) for the Office Dev track and my friend Jota will be presenting a session on “The new Azure App Service Architecture” for the Azure Dev track. It will be a great opportunity to learn about all the new stuff around Microsoft’s technology stack. Don’t forget to register, it’ll be worth it.

SharePoint 2016: News from Ignite

Build and Ignite, the two largest Microsoft technology conferences, have come and gone, leaving us with a lot of new announcements and tons of content to go through. Keeping up with all the new stuff is extremely hard with so much happening.

One of the topics I was really expecting to learn more about was SharePoint 2016 but, although it came up here and there, it got a surprisingly small coverage. Maybe it’s not so surprising, given it’s still a year away, but, nevertheless, I was hoping for more. Most of the information I gathered was presented by Bill Baer on his two sessions about SharePoint 2016 (The Evolution of SharePoint: Overview and Roadmap and What’s New for IT Professionals in SharePoint Server 2016)

Key takeaways

Microsoft is still betting strong in the cloud and Office 365, but they’ve been listening and have understood that many companies are still not ready or not willing to move to the cloud. SharePoint 2016 has been designed to bridge the on-premises world and the cloud, by making it a lot easier to deploy hybrid scenarios. Other investment areas include improved user experiences, compliance and security. It will certainly be an evolution from SharePoint 2013 but don’t expect anything dramatically different.

Regarding the release timeline, there are 3 milestones:

  • Q4 2015 – Public Beta (Beta 1)
  • Q1 2016 – Release Candidate
  • Q2 2016 – Final Version (RTM)

Hardware and Software Requirements

The hardware requirements for SharePoint 2016 are mostly the same as for SharePoint 2013:

  • RAM: 16-24 GB (for a single server farm) or 12-16 GB (for a multi-server farm)
  • CPU: 1 quad-core
  • HDD: 80 GB

As for software requirements, there are a few changes:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2 or Windows Server 10
  • SQL Server 2014 or SQL Server vNext
  • .NET Framework 4.5.2 (on Windows Server 2012 R2) or .NET Framework 4.5.6 (on Windows Server 10)

Deployment

Regarding deployment, you can still deploy it on a Domain Controller as long as it’s a development environment, but stand alone mode, using SQL Server Express, is no longer supported. Like SharePoint 2013, you cannot deploy SharePoint 2016 on a client OS or Windows Web Server and dynamic memory is not supported.

Up until now, every SharePoint server was born equal, meaning the install process was the same for every server. The application role of each server was defined later, when you chose which services are started on the machine and which service applications are configured in the farm. For SharePoint 2016, Microsoft identified 4 common roles (called MinRoles) used in most multi-server farms and allows you to select one of them when installing a server:

  • Web Front End – Services end user requests. Servers assigned to this role are optimized for low latency.
  • Application – Services backend jobs or the requests triggered by backend jobs. Servers assigned to this role are optimized for high throughput.
  • Distributed Cache – Serves distributed cache for the farm. Servers assigned to this role can load balance end user requests among the web front ends.
  • Search – A specialized version of the application server, dedicated to the search

There is a fifth role – Specialized Load – for situations that don’t fit any of the above pre-defined roles, allowing you to select any services to run on the server.

The SharePoint Health Analyzer will scan each server daily to check if the service instances running on the server are compliant with the selected role for that server. All roles are scanned, except for Specialized Load.

Upgrade & Migration

Upgrading to SharePoint 2016 will only be supported from SharePoint 2013. If you’re still using SharePoint 2010 or a previous version, you’ll first have to upgrade to SharePoint 2013 and your site collection will have to be converted to 15 mode before you can upgrade to SharePoint 2016. The upgrade is done via the database attach process, so nothing new here. You can also choose to migrate content from a previous version of SharePoint using one of the available third party software applications.

Patching

Patches and updates will have a smaller footprint and will not require any downtime. As with most of the new features, the new patching process was developed for SharePoint Online and SharePoint 2016 will now benefit from the lessons learned from managing SharePoint in the cloud. Just for reference purposes, in SharePoint 2013 an update is comprised of 37 packages and an additional 18 packages for each installed language pack. In SharePoint 2016, an update is comprised of just 4 packages, plus 1 extra package for each installed language pack.

Boundaries and Limits

With each new version of SharePoint, Microsoft stretches the boundaries and limits of the platform.  For SharePoint 2016, here are the main improvements:

  • Supports content databases with TBs (specific number is not yet defined). For SharePoint 2013, general purpose content databases should not be more than 200GB in size.
  • Supports 100,000 site collections per content database (SharePoint 2013 supports 10,000 site collections per content database)
  • List item threshold will be over 5,000 items
  • Max file size is now 10GB and there won’t be character restrictions (SharePoint 2013 support files up to 2GB)
  • Search index can scale to 500 million items (SharePoint 2013’s search index can hold up to 250 million items)

Performance and Reliability Enhancements

Running SharePoint in the cloud required SharePoint to achieve a level of reliability that previous versions of the platform could not muster. Some of these improvements were brought to SharePoint 2016 which is expected to support a four-9s availability level (99.99% which amounts to a maximum of 52 minutes of downtime per year, in case you’re wondering what that means):

  • Server role optimizations
  • Zero downtime patching strategy
  • Improved distributed cache reliability
  • Traffic management with intelligent routing and server health checks

Performance was also improved across the board. Two good examples of such improvements are the new file handling protocol and the new site collection creation process.
Regarding file handling, here is a brief history of the enhancements introduced by each SharePoint version:

  • SharePoint 2010 introduced the Cobalt protocol. With Cobalt, when a document is being edited and the user saves it, only the modified portion of the file is sent by the client application to the server, greatly reducing the amount of data transmitted between client and server. However, the server still has to fetch the whole document from the database and merge the existing content with the user changes before saving the whole document back to the content database.
  • SharePoint 2013 brought the Shredded Storage mechanism which allows documents to be stored in small pieces in the content database. Because documents are already “shredded” in the database, the server does not have to fetch the whole document to merge the original contents with the changes, which reduces the server processing overhead.
  • SharePoint 2016 adds BITS (Background Intelligent Transfer Service) protocol which will improve upload and download speeds and resiliency.

The new site collection creation process (named Fast Site Creation) leverages the SPSite.Copy method to clone a pre-configured site collection template at the content database level. This process avoids the overhead of feature activation since the features are already activated in the source site collection.

UI Improvements

SharePoint 2016 looks and feels mostly like the current version of SharePoint Online (in Office 365), but a few improvements were made to the UI, namely:

  • New Authoring Canvas, a new and modern way to create content for a web page using a Sway-like user experience.
  • Support for Durable Links which allows documents to be moved while keeping the URL intact, because it is based on a resource ID.

Cloud Accelerated Experiences

One of the most touted new features of SharePoint 2016 is the support for cloud accelerated experiences or, in other words, the ability to surface features that are only available in the cloud, using a hybrid scenario:

  • Compliance and data loss prevention (DLP) across cloud and on-premises
  • Cloud search service application which unifies the on-premises and cloud search indexes and provides support for Office Graph / Delve experiences on-premises
  • Distributed team sites across SharePoint 2016 and Office 365
  • Hybrid deployment automation with UI-based configuration

Other Announcements

  • There will not be a SharePoint Designer 2016
  • Office Graph / Office Delve will be made available (through a cloud accelerated experience) on SharePoint 2013 via an update later this year

Conclusions

SharePoint 2016 is still a year away which means some features might suffer some changes and new features will likely be announced between now and then. However, it is clear that this release is intended to be a stepping stone in the path to the cloud, given that most new features are already available on SharePoint Online or will be soon enough. Hybrid scenarios are easier than ever to deploy and some of the most compelling new use cases will require this approach, which reinforces that idea. There is still a lot to learn about the new SharePoint, and I’ll be posting my findings along the way.

SharePoint, Office, FAST Search, Azure, .NET