Search functionality has always been a huge component of Microsoft SharePoint — and with every release of SharePoint, great strides are taken to improve this key feature. Well, with the announcement of SharePoint Server 2016 Preview comes a SharePoint cloud hybrid search option that again improves search functionality.
This search product, unlike previous releases, is not restricted to the SharePoint Server 2016 Preview product that was recently released, but instead can work with your SharePoint Server 2013 deployment and Office 365’s SharePoint Online. This is great option because you don’t have to wait for the RTM release of SharePoint Server 2016 to take advantage of this new functionality.
Microsoft highlighted the availability of this new cloud hybrid search preview when it announced the release of SharePoint Server 2016 Preview, which might have led a lot of organizations to believe Microsoft won’t be doing anything with SharePoint until the RTM release of SharePoint Server 2016. However, the cloud hybrid search preview release is a separate product that is already available, enabling customers who are using both SharePoint Server 2013 and Office 365 the option to retrieve a unified search result through a combined search index located in Office 365. This new hybrid search solution not only is available for SharePoint 2013, but also is native to SharePoint Server 2016 Preview.
The new cloud-based Search Service Application includes the following three features:
- A unified index for on-premise and cloud-based content
- Support for Search as a Service, reducing the search crawl footprint
- Support for Office Graph/Delve experiences on-premises
What does this all mean? Well, with the cloud-based hybrid search solution, you can use the Office 365 Search index to search all of your crawled content from your on-premises content and content in Office 365 by using the Office 365 search index. When users perform a search using this search index in Office 365, they will receive a unified search results that includes content from both the on-premises and Office 365 cloud services, along with combined search relevancy ranking. The new cloud hybrid search solution is Microsoft’s first step toward their new hybrid vision that allows customers to utilize the new innovations in Office 365 as they are released.
Like all software, there are some prerequisites, but I don’t think you’ll find them too difficult to meet. In fact, I think most deployments will already meet them:
- SharePoint Online tenancy must already have been upgraded to SharePoint 2013 (I believe these upgrades have already occurred on a rolling schedule)
- Minimum of SharePoint Server 2013 deployed on-premises
- The user profiles stored in your on-premises Active Directory must be synchronized to Office 365, using the Microsoft Online Services Directory Synchronization tool.
- The implementation of a Reverse Proxy, or F5 device, to securely expose your SharePoint on-premises farm to SharePoint Online (This is only necessary if you want to allow users in SharePoint Online to search your on-premises content.)
For additional information about this hybrid search preview tool, there are a couple of websites that allow you to not only locate the software for download, but also contain additional information about the product and include a place to provide feedback about the hybrid search preview tool.
If you are interested in downloading the hybrid search product so that you can take it for a test drive (in a sandbox environment of course), visit the Microsoft Download Center. To obtain additional information, and provide feedback while exploring the tool, please see the Microsoft TechNet Support Forum.
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