Getting Hybrid at the SharePoint 2014 Conference

Hybrid cloud and enterprise social are key trends

Karen Forster

by Karen Forster on 3/31/2014

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cloud, enterprise social, hybrid, O365, Office 365, Office Graph, OneDrive for Business, on-premises, Oslo, SharePoint, Yammer

Two key trends kept popping up at the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2014 (SPC 2014): first, hybrid cloud, consisting of a mixture of Office 365 (O365) plus on-premises SharePoint solutions; and second, the beginnings of some innovative and practical uses for enterprise social technologies. Of course, these weren’t the only trends (for example, see my post on Microsoft’s emphasis on supporting all platforms). But as I spoke with Microsoft and many of the SPC 2014’s 200 or so exhibitors, just about everyone had something to say about hybrid and enterprise social.

Hybrid: O365 and SharePoint on Premises

On the exhibit floor the emphasis on hybrid was noticeable. Julie Auletta, a director at Bamboo Solutions, noted, “At the last SharePoint show, all the talk was Office 365 and the cloud. This year, I get the sense that Microsoft is redirecting. The keynote talked a lot about hybrid solutions, and Jared [Spataro, Microsoft general manager of Enterprise Social] made a point that a lot of feedback from the last show requested sessions other than O365.”

This year, both Microsoft and its partners recognized that hybrid solutions will be the business reality for several years. Every exhibitor I talked with was at least testing the waters with O365 solutions, but they also acknowledged that many customers are still looking for on-premises SharePoint tools and solutions, including help with migration to SharePoint Server 2013.

To address those customers’ needs, Microsoft announced that it is building hybrid capabilities into SharePoint Server 2013 Service Pack 1 (SP1) on premises. (See the Microsoft SharePoint team blog for details.) With SP1, on-premises SharePoint 2013 now gains the ability to seamlessly use Microsoft OneDrive for Business and Yammer, bridging on-premises and cloud. Hybrid capabilities also include expanded search and line-of-business application access.

Enterprise Social

The hybrid theme extended into Microsoft announcements about advances in enterprise social, which span all the Office applications and begin to unify the experience across them, both on-premises and in the cloud. For example, some cool new functionality extends Yammer’s Group concept to unite Exchange, Lync, and SharePoint lists and groups.

Bringing together disparate sources of information about the business and its people is also reflected in the new Office Graph functionality, which was described as being like Power BI combined with Search focused on social connections and conversations. It lets you find people and content and make sense of what you find. The Office Graph is a new spin on Yammer’s Enterprise Graph, which maps relationships among people in your network and what they share in social media. Office Graph applies that concept to business.

The first application based on the Office Graph is codenamed Oslo. This app helps you find people and information across your organization so that you can do useful things—like find that document you know you saw in email—or was it on SharePoint? And who was it that told you about it?

Approximately 80 percent of enterprises are using some sort of enterprise social solution, according to an educated estimate I heard at the conference. Jared Spataro’s blog cites a figure of “more than 400,000 companies worldwide [that] are already using Yammer.” I’m skeptical about what such figures really mean because I can’t imagine that many enterprises are actually taking great strategic business advantage of enterprise social—yet.

However, with Office Graph and Oslo, Microsoft is doing some impressive and truly innovative work in this space. I can really see how Oslo and future apps (by third-parties, as well as Microsoft) could provide ways to make life at work easier. Take the problem of onboarding a new employee. You could build an app on Oslo that would map all the relationships a new person would need to know about, as well as the content that person would need in order to get up to speed on the team and the work.

In the past year, Microsoft has moved from pushing customers to the cloud and is now acknowledging that those customers can benefit from the innovation the cloud brings, even while they’re still using on-premises software. For Microsoft, that change is pragmatic—the company can’t afford to alienate its customers that are still using on-premises software. But acknowledging the reality of hybrid is also driving innovative thinking like that reflected in Office Graph and Oslo.

SharePoint is at the center of all these changes, and both Microsoft and its partners are focused on serving the SharePoint community. Watch for my reports on the exhibitors at the conference when we launch in the coming weeks.

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