SharePoint Server 2016 preview overview

Just when you are getting cozy and comfortable with SharePoint 2013, the SharePoint Server 2016 preview is released.

microsoft sharepoint 2016
Credit: Microsoft

Just when you are getting cozy and comfortable with SharePoint 2013, the SharePoint Server 2016 preview is released (Aug. 24). (You can download the notes here, along with information about system requirements and installation instructions.) The preview release also included an announcement that the SharePoint Server 2016 RTM release is expected to sometime in Q2 of 2016.

Now some of you may be thinking, “What, SharePoint 2016???” And rightfully so, because less than two years ago, there were rumors that Microsoft might not release another on-premises version of SharePoint — which would’ve forced everyone to Office 365’s SharePoint Online. In fact, for a period of time Microsoft was only improving SharePoint Online by adding features and functionality not found in the on-premises release.

Well low and behold, people talked and Microsoft listened. The customer demand was high enough that Microsoft decided there will be another on-premises release, and in fact, as long as there is demand for an on-premises version of SharePoint Server, there may be other on-premises releases beyond the 2016 release.

The on-premises version of SharePoint Server 2016 is unique in that Microsoft took a snapshot of the SharePoint Online cloud services that includes most of the new features built in, and used that as the baseline for the on-premises SharePoint Server 2016 product. However, not all of its capabilities will make it to the on-premises version, but those that don’t will be offered as Office 365 Services, so you can leverage them from your on-premises implementation.

SharePoint Server 2016 will contain functionality that will allow easy integration of Office 365, specifically SharePoint Online, with your SharePoint Server 2016 on-premises deployment. Ultimately, Microsoft realized customers wanted a hybrid approach, so SharePoint Server 2016 was designed to promote and ease the implementation and management of a SharePoint hybrid solution.

Bill Baer, Microsoft’s SharePoint senior product manager, said: “…with SharePoint Server 2016, we’re paying close attention to trends in content management, team collaboration, user experiences across devices, and how the cloud can be blended into existing on-premises scenarios in new and compelling ways.” This says it all as far as where Microsoft is headed with SharePoint Server on-premises — and what you can expect to find for features and functionality.

Speaking of features and functionality, by now you must be wondering what you can expect to find within SharePoint Server 2016, so lets provide a high-level overview of this preview release. Being that SharePoint Server 2016 was developed on the same core platform as SharePoint Online, you will see similarities between them. For end users, SharePoint Server 2016 Preview unlocks new experiences that are intuitive and familiar. IT professionals are going to discover that SharePoint Server 2016 delivers improved performance and simplified management of scalability. Finally, developers are going to see that they now have the opportunity to build for both cloud and on-premises.

But if we want to look at the meat, preferably a slow-cooked 12-ounce steak, you can find a list, along with a description of the new and improved features, in this TechNet article on Microsoft’s website.

You may have noticed I have been emphasizing SharePoint Server 2016 throughout this article, and the reason for doing so is because at this point Microsoft is not releasing a SharePoint 2016 Foundation edition, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be providing updates to SharePoint Foundation. Also, at this point there isn’t a plan for a SharePoint Designer 2016 or an InfoPath 2016. Remember what I said earlier, SharePoint Server2016 on-premises wasn’t even going to exist originally, but the demand for it warranted a release.

I wanted to wrap up this blog post with answers to a couple of popular IT pro-specific questions regarding this new SharePoint release. The first important question is whether it is possible to upgrade from the SharePoint Server 2016 Preview release to the SharePoint Server 2016 RTM. The answer is NO, so don’t deploy SharePoint 2016 in a production environment and create an in-place upgrade plan if you decide to test SharePoint 2016 Preview.

Another important question for IT pros is what are the upgrade options from a previous version of SharePoint? SharePoint 2013 to SharePoint 2016 will require a database attach upgrade process, and it will require all site collections be upgraded to SharePoint 2013. SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2016 will require a two-step process, first upgrading to SharePoint 2013, and then to SharePoint Server 2016.

There will be a lot more information about SharePoint 2016 as it is updated throughout the development cycle, and like all software in its infancy there will be many more changes. I plan on continuing to write about this topic in the upcoming months to keep you informed. Also, as a CBT Nuggets SharePoint speaker at numerous SharePoint conferences, my upcoming sessions will be more focused on SharePoint 2016.

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