In defense of on-premises SharePoint

Microsoft underestimated demand for on-premises and hybrid deployments

by Christian Buckley on 4/19/2014

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Back in April 2013, I wrote a blog post where I shared my perspective on what is happening with the roadmaps and positioning of SharePoint, Office365 and Yammer, and Microsoft’s overall messaging for the platforms. My underlying message was that change is happening, most of it directionally correct, and that some failures have occurred on the messaging front. But I felt that Microsoft would quickly adapt and change the problems customers and partners were identifying. Such agility by Microsoft would actually accelerate change toward the cloud. One statement I made, for which I took some heat, was that Microsoft “ underestimated the demand for on-premises and hybrid deployments.

I stand by that statement. But understand my perspective:

  • I had been working for a content infrastructure software company (which was acquired by my current company, Metalogix, the biggest content infrastructure ISV) that had a global reach. I had insight into some of the largest SharePoint deployments in the world and gained some understanding of what they are trying to achieve with their SharePoint platforms.
  • My experience with collaboration, social, and knowledge management platforms stretches back into the mid-nineties, back to when I helped build and deploy several large corporate portals. I am keenly aware of the deep line of business (LOB) application and other workstream integrations that happen within these environments.
  • Add to this my experiences with both large (Pacific Bell, Hewlett-Packard) and small organizations (several startups). I was familiar with a common issue they all faced: having to wait on new technologies, and therefore pushing to get the most out of an older technology until the cost of not moving exceeded the cost/time/pain of moving.
  • And I am an Evangelist. Part of my responsibility is to constantly watch what is coming over the horizon, and using that knowledge/perspective/thought-leadership to help shape the path of my company’s products, as well as to help customers understand how to get the most value out of what they have today and what is coming their way.

With that perspective, you can see why it may appear that I and others sometimes seem like we’re pushing back on the latest/greatest technologies. The reality is that we understand the impacts of these new technologies better than most people. And we see how new technologies can (and can’t) extend the value of what our customers have in place today.

Some people think that somehow we don’t understand because, as influencers in the community, we push back on the market-positioning that places cloud as superior to on-premises. Quite the contrary, we understand the marketing messaging and where Microsoft is trying to take the company and the technology.

But my job is to stand up for the requirements of my customers, and help them parse through what is marketing versus what can help them derive value from what is coming out of Redmond. And most of the time, those customers want to extend the platforms and investments they’ve made to date before they build out something entirely new. Nothing is wrong with getting a return on your investment.

The challenge for ISVs like my company, of course, is to help companies through this transition – offering solutions for on-prem installs, for pure cloud solutions, and for everything in between.

Honestly, I feel completely validated by the messaging that came out of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Houston this year. It backed up my position that on-premises deployments of SharePoint will continue and that a large portion of current customers  (35% of current customers) will either never move to the cloud or will do so over a slow ramp through hybrid solutions (50% in the next 3 to 5 years). This approach allows organizations to achieve their ROI, as well as transition people, policies, and technologies toward the cloud.

Microsoft product teams are making tremendous achievements and creating value for customers with every iterative release and in every announcement . But this transition to the cloud  is going to take time. SharePoint on premises will continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the industry.

Risk management

If you’ve never seen one of my conference sessions, I tend to take a business analyst / project management perspective on most topics. At the center of every project management plan is the need to identify and mitigate risks. The earlier you can detect them and have a plan in place for each, the lower the cost of mitigating those risks. While we may not have a crystal clear roadmap of what will come in the next SharePoint on-premises release (yes, there will be more on-prem releases, per Microsoft) nor a release date for v.Next, we all have a macro-view of the move toward the cloud. It's time for all of us to start identifying the risks for our SharePoint environments, and building out those mitigation plans.

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