Why Upgrade to SharePoint 2016? – Hybrid Features

In my introductory blog post to SharePoint 2016 here, I mentioned there are three core pillars of SharePoint 2016 namely cloud inspired infrastructure, modern user experience, and compliance.  I further discussed what it means to have a cloud inspired infrastructure.   In this blog we will continue the discussion on the first pillar with the primary focus on the SharePoint 2016 hybrid features and what a SharePoint 2016 hybrid solution looks like.

Why Go Hybrid?

Simply put, in a Hybrid environment, you get the best of both worlds.  But instead of having a disconnected experience you have a connected experience.   Let me explain.

As Microsoft strives for a cloud-first/mobile-first vision, they are aggressively pushing and delivering all the innovations in the cloud.   For instance, Microsoft pushes cloud-only updates every two weeks such as updates to Delve, Office 365 Video and Office 365 Groups.  The new era demands modern productivity needs from IT, such as access anywhere from any devices. These needs are efficiently satisfied by cloud deployments.

As a result, more and more companies want to move to the cloud to take advantage of all these innovations in cloud computing. However there are a number of companies that don’t like to move completely to the cloud.   There are several reasons for that.  I’ll list a few here.

  • Many customers prefer to keep some of their data on-premises for either political or regulatory reasons.
  • On-premises still has some features that are not available in SharePoint Online such as Word automation or PowerPoint automation.
  • No public crawl schedule so you never know how long it will take for your documents to show up on search. It can take a few minutes or it can take days.
  • In SharePoint Online you cannot control release cycles and updates as Microsoft is controlling update cycles.

 

For these above mentioned reasons and more,  Microsoft wanted to bring cloud innovations to SharePoint on-premises customers while at the same time lessening the burden on these customers to maintain massive on-premises infrastructure.

Over the past few years, Microsoft has invested heavily in SharePoint hybrid connected experiences.  In the past hybrid scenarios were a rather painful and complicated migration experience to provide a bridge to the cloud.   Now hybrid experience is founded on bringing the cloud to on-premises (i.e.: provide an ability to live in 2 places and without having to move).  The goal is to simplify the user experience as it abstracts the cloud and it is easy for users to adapt.   Users can keep doing what they are used to do but hybrid connectivity empowers them through cloud innovation.

Hybrid Features:

So what are the core features that get enabled with a hybrid experience.

Hybrid OneDrive for Business:

With hybrid OneDrive for Business, users’ work-related files are stored in OneDrive for Business in Office 365, giving them new ways of collaborating with others. OneDrive for Business in Office 365 essentially replaces the requirement for your organization to host the on-premises OneDrive for Business storage offered with the personal sites.   There are many advantages of using OneDrive for Business in Office 365.

  • Office 365 accommodates 1 TB of storage per user
  • Access to OneDrive for Business anywhere in the world
  • Backup and Growth handled by Microsoft
  • Seamless data mobility experience that works with SharePoint Server 2016
  • Store, sync, and share files across multiple devices with ease and security built on the enhanced OneDrive for Business platform
  • Built-in security, compliance, and controls to keep data safe

 

When activated, users can click the OneDrive link in SharePoint on-premises. At which point they are redirected automatically to their OneDrive for Business in Office 365.

Hybrid Sites Features:

There are a number of features that are enabled when hybrid site features are configured:
Hybrid site following:  Now it is easier to move some sites to the cloud while keeping some on-premises.  Without the hybrid site following, users had to go to two places to see the sites they are following as there was no integrated experience.    With hybrid site following you can follow sites from both on-premises SharePoint and SharePoint Online locations and they are consolidated in the SharePoint Online followed sites list. When a user accessing an on-premises SharePoint site clicks the Sites link, he will be redirected to his consolidated followed site page in SharePoint Online

Hybrid profiles:  With hybrid sites features, hybrid profiles are in effect.  Instead of the on-premises My Sites user profile, users are directed to their own Delve-powered profile in Office 365.

Hybrid extensible app launcher:  You can use the extensible hybrid app launcher to offer new apps that hyperlink to sites or web applications with their own custom icon.  This makes it possible for users to pin any of these apps as tiles to their app launcher for quick access. When users pin these to their app launcher, they automatically appear in the on-premises SharePoint Server 2016 app launcher.

Hybrid Search:

Hybrid search lets your users search for files and documents across SharePoint Server and Office 365 at the same time. There are two ways to set up hybrid search:

Hybrid federated search:   With the hybrid federated search solution for SharePoint, you federate results from your search index in SharePoint Server 2013 and your search index in Office 365. When users enter a query in a search center, they get search results from the Office 365 search index and from the SharePoint Server 2013 search index, and thus get results both from on-premises and Office 365 content.

Cloud hybrid search:  With the cloud hybrid search solution for SharePoint, you index all your crawled content, including on-premises content, in your search index in Office 365. When users enter a query in a search center, they get search results from the Office 365 search index, and thus get results both from on-premises and Office 365 content.
Microsoft recommends implementing cloud hybrid search instead of hybrid federated search.  Here are some of the reasons as described in an article in the Redmond magazine here  as well as in the Office 365 support article here.
  • Microsoft’s new hybrid search capability will centralize the search index in the cloud. Instead of having separate search indices, with one index residing in Microsoft’s data centers, the improved hybrid search capability will use Microsoft’s cloud for the index.
  • You no longer have to worry about the size of your search index, because your search index is in Office 365. This means that the footprint of your SharePoint Server search farm is smaller, and your total cost of ownership for search is lower.
  • Other Office 365 services can then tap this same cloud-based index, such as Microsoft’s Delve service, which surfaces information about people and activities within an organization.
  • Anything put into Microsoft’s cloud-based index will show up in the Office Graph, which is the search technology underlying Microsoft’s Delve service.
  • Microsoft’s data loss prevention and e-discovery technologies also will work with the new hybrid search.

However, there are some scenarios where you might want to consider implementing hybrid federated search as explained by Mikael Swanson in his blog here.

Extranet Sharing:

Creating a extranet in an on-premises environment is a rather complex undertaking where you have to plan a number of things such as opening up your SharePoint farm, risk of opening over the web, licensing for users, authentication and ongoing maintenance of users, etc.

In Office 365 you can easily invite partners using a Microsoft account so you don’t need to manage accounts and you don’t need to open your network to the outside world.  Partners connect directly to a members-only site in Office 365, without access to the corporate on-premises environment or any other Office 365 site.   In addition, they can access Office 365 extranet sites from anywhere.

Extranet - Sharing1
Extranet Sharing in SharePoint Online
Extranet Sharing Options
Extranet Sharing Options

 

Delve and Office Graph:

Delve is an Office 365–hosted product and provides a personalized view of content from SharePoint Online sites and OneDrive for Business that is relevant to users. It facilitates better collaboration because it can show users what their colleagues are collaborating on that is relevant to them. Delve is based on the Office Graph which
uses sophisticated machine learning techniques to connect people to the relevant content, conversations and people around them.  For more details on Office Graph see here.

Since Delve uses Office Graph, the more users collaborate, the more useful Delve will be in your organization to improve productivity as it can provide you easy access to the topics that matter the most.   Delve results are security trimmed and it does not interfere with security permissions.

As mentioned in the previous section when we discussed hybrid search, if cloud hybrid search is configured, Delve and Office Graph can be integrated with on-premises content.  This allows you to stay in the know with what your closest colleagues are working on across on-premises and Office 365.  In this scenario, when a Delve user performs a search, results from on-premises sources can also be presented in Delve via the cloud hybrid search.