What's new for Office 365 and SharePoint 2016 - A summary from the Microsoft Ignite Conference

Last week I was one of the 23,000 people who attended the Microsoft Ignite conference in Chicago. The size of this conference was mind boggling and the amount of content was staggering. My focus was to learn as much as I could about Office 365 and SharePoint 2016. Here is my attempt to summarize the key things that I learned. Keep in mind that there were over 1000 sessions in total and I only attended a dozen or so.

What direction is Microsoft heading with Office 365 and SharePoint 2016?

It is very clear that Microsoft is putting its focus on the cloud. Up until recently, Office 365 was built from the foundation and features of SharePoint. For the past year or so, this has changed. The focus of new features and innovations come to Office 365 and SharePoint Online first and new versions of on premise SharePoint will incorporate the user features and back-end infrastructure that powers Office 365 going forward.For those who prefer to remain on premise, there are many improvements coming to SharePoint 2016 that will help make SharePoint a more scalable and easier to manage platform. Microsoft has learned a lot by hosting Office 365 themselves. They are experiencing the same pain points that IT Pros feel while managing on premise SharePoint. Therefore, while Microsoft continues to make things more scalable and easier to manage for themselves in Office 365, those with on premise infrastructure will benefit from these improvements as well.If you are considering a hybrid environment (both on premise SharePoint as well as Office 365) the story is looking very strong going forward. Along with the many infrastructure improvements, there are many new features coming that make it easier to connect the on premise environment with the cloud and vice-versa. Many of the innovations in the cloud, including the Office Graph, are required to remain in the cloud due to the enormous amount of processing power needed to power these services. However, new connectors will be available to allow on premise to utilize these features.

When is SharePoint Server 2016 being released?

  • A public beta of SharePoint 2016 will be released in the fourth quarter of 2015.
  • The general available of SharePoint 2016 will be released in the second quarter of 2016.
  • New features will continue to be rolled out to Office 365 and SharePoint Online as they are completed.


  • Role Management has been built into the configuration wizard and PowerShell for installations. A server can be assigned to a role (Web Server, App Server, etc.) and the server is automatically optimized for that role. Health checks have been put into place to monitor the assigned roles and show warnings when the server has deviated from its role. Role assignments are optional but recommended for peak performance.
  • SharePoint Server 2016 will utilize zero-downtime patching.
  • File Upload performance has been improved in SharePoint 2016.
  • The User Profile Service has been improved with performance and reliability improvements as well as bidirectional sync.
  • Faster site collection creation.
  • SAML will be the default authentication protocol for SharePoint 2016.


  • Stand-alone installs are no longer supported in SharePoint 2016. The option has been removed from the configuration wizard.


  • Upgrading to SharePoint 2016 will require coming from SharePoint 2013 and be accomplished through the database-attach method.


  • Nothing has really changed with migration. You will use the same methods and 3rd party products to migrate to a SharePoint 2016 environment as you would to a SharePoint 2013 environment.

Any improvements to help migration to OFFICE 365?

  • A Data Migration Pipeline API was developed by Microsoft to make migration to Office 365 much faster, easier, and more reliable. 3rd Party migration tools will likely utilize this API to improve migrations to Office 365.


  • A unified user profile. Followed documents and sites will also follow you across both environments.
  • A new Cloud Search Service application will be provided in SharePoint Server 2016. This service application will provide a unified search index that will be used by both your on premise environment as well as your Office 365 environment. This Cloud Search Service application will also be available via an update to SharePoint 2013 in Q4 2015! This is great news because it allows those on SharePoint 2013 to setup the same hybrid environment without waiting to upgrade to 2016.
  • The Cloud Search Service application also allows on premise environments to integrate with Office Delve. While Delve itself will remain in the cloud, it can include content from your on premise environment.


  • Yes! A new OneDrive for Business Sync client will be pushed out later in 2015. This new sync client will be essentially the same as the personal OneDrive sync client. It will be more reliable, faster, and it will also provide selective sync capabilities.


  • Yes! While we don't know the details yet, we know site collections will be supported up to 1 TB and the 5,000 item list view threshold will be increased.

What's new for SharePoint and Office 365 developers?

  • Most of the news around development was announce at the Build conference that occurred the week before this Ignite conference. Overall, Microsoft is taking a big step toward modern web technologies for future versions of SharePoint. This opens up SharePoint development to all web developers who understand JavaScript, HTML5, CSS and the modern frameworks and tools that are used for web development today.
  • I heard many times before, and during, the conference. "We're moving to Office 365 so we won't be able to have custom solutions.". Or, "We won't move to Office 365 because we can't customize it to meet our needs.". This is certainly not true. Development for Office 365 and future versions of SharePoint is stronger than ever. As proven by the Patterns and Practices team and Microsoft, nearly everything you could develop on premise can also be developed in the cloud. In fact, I could argue that the new development patterns are even better because they are easier to deploy, manage, and upgrade as new versions of SharePoint are released.
  • Site Templates and features are still supported but are no longer a focus. Instead, using the robust SharePoint REST APIs are preferred. This will allow provisioning to be cleaner, faster, and easier to migrate. It will also allow developers and vendors to create a SharePoint provider hosted app that will provision both on premise and SharePoint Online site collections and sub sites from one location!

What are NextGen Portals?

  • NextGen Portals can be considered a new destination available to end users that provide access to content across the Office 365 suite. These portals are developed using JavaScript, CSS, and REST using the Office 365 and SharePoint APIs that are available to developers. They not only provide an easy to use destination for content, but also demonstrate how powerful solutions can be developed on top of the existing SharePoint platform.
  • The Office 365 Video and Office Delve portals are already available. Office 365 video is your Video destination. Powered by Azure Media Services, the portal handles all of your video encoding and streaming for you.
  • Office Delve is your source for finding content around people. You will want to visit your Delve portal if you want to discover content that could be relevant to you. It is also a great place to track your own content since it shows everything you have been working on from across the entire Office 365 suite.
  • Microsites consists of a simple UI around a collection of content. This content can be created using the new Authoring Canvas that is coming to SharePoint Online and SharePoint 2016. This authoring canvas provides a modern way to create content for a web page. It is very similar to Office Sway. In fact the team working on the Authoring Canvas is working with the Sway team to provide a similar experience. The pages produced with the Authoring Canvas are clean and mobile friendly.
  • Later this year, Microsoft will release the new Knowledge Management portal (now code named "Infopedia"). This new portal will pull definitive content that has been curated by users into a single destination. This content will come from Boards, which are now integrated into Delve, as well as more curated content in the form of Microsites.

What are Office 365 Groups?

  • Office 365 groups are currently being rolled out to subscribers. You can think of a Group as a distribution list on steroids. Once a Group is created, it will be available in Mail, Calendar, OneDrive, Delve, and OneNote. In the future, it may include Yammer and Skype as well.
  • Another way you can think of Office 365 groups is as a replacement for common SharePoint Team Sites. Rather than users going to a single destination (a SharePoint site) to find all of the content for the team, the content is now accessible across the Office 365 suite.
  • The advantage of Office 365 Groups is the fact that they are integrated across the entire Office 365 suite. They can be created by anybody, and they provide an easier way to have conversations and share content across both static and dynamic teams. They will also be highlighted in Office Delve with their own profile pages.

What is new for Yammer?

  • Yammer will support single sign on with Office 365 accounts. This is already being released so you may already have it.
  • Users will be allowed to include external users into their conversations. Yammer will automatically announce when the external user has joined the conversation and also when they have left the conversation.
  • A new, cleaner, and simpler user interface will be coming to Yammer.
  • Yammer cards will begin appearing in Office Delve for relevant conversations. You will also be able to have conversations around any content in Office Delve just by clicking the Yammer icon in the content card.

When do I use Yammer and when do I use Office 365 Groups?

  • This topic was brought up often at the conference. In fact, Microsoft dedicated an entire session to this topic alone. The answer, of course, was to use both! My feeling on this is that Office Groups will be great for small dynamic teams, You'll want to use Yammer if for more open communication across the organization.

Where can I learn more about Office 365 and SharePoint 2016?





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