This morning at the Future of SharePoint event, Microsoft announced the General Availability (GA) of SharePoint Server 2016. While many customers have transitioned to the cloud with Office 365, on-premises SharePoint is still very real and alive. As an end user, you might have looked at SharePoint Server 2016 and wondered “Why bother?”. There really isn’t many new features that the end user is going to get excited about. Yes, you’ll get a nice new suite bar, but most of the rest of the features the user cares about are linked to hybrid scenarios.
What you should take away from today’s event is that you are not upgrading to SharePoint Server 2016 for what you get today. You are upgrading for what you get in the future. Whereas previous versions of SharePoint Server were very much static and didn’t change over the three year release cycle, this version is very different. This version lays the foundation for new features to be delivered through Feature Packs. These Feature Packs will bring new features to your on-premises SharePoint farm without having to wait until the next big version. Microsoft even plans on delivering a set of capabilities specific to the needs of on-premises customers.
Don’t worry, new features won’t just show up overnight like in Office 365. Instead, as a SharePoint administrator, you’ll be able to have control over which features you enable in your farm. This will give you time to plan and communicate change accordingly. For whatever reason you run on-premises SharePoint, this should be an exciting announcement as it means you won’t get left in the cold waiting for the latest killer feature. Does that mean, every feature from Office 365 is coming down to on-premises? No. Some features simply aren’t feasible on-premises. That’s why the hybrid story is so important. However, it does mean, you’ll get updates on-premises faster than ever before.
Feature Packs will be delivered through the public update channel starting in 2017. Microsoft will announce more details about the upcoming Feature Packs in the coming months. To get the new Feature Pack, your company will have to have purchased SharePoint with Software Assurance. For Enterprise customers, that’s probably most of you. You’ll notice this is similar to the model that Windows 10 is using and the way it updates as well.
There is an exciting road ahead for SharePoint. Be sure and read everything about it in case you missed any of it.