The Future is SharePoint Hybrid (and the future of SharePoint Hybrid)

The Future is SharePoint Hybrid (and the future of SharePoint Hybrid)

The year 2016 is coming to an end. And for everyone who predicted SharePoint hybrid as future in past 3 years, the future is here (almost). And enterprises have also learned that the barriers to the hybrid cloud are more numerous than originally anticipated. However, it’s important to do some reflection and introspection on where the hybrid SharePoint implementation is today.

Adoption: Interest and consumption are beginning to ramp up quickly. Enterprises who, earlier had goals to move all in a cloud are now considering a hybrid approach towards using SharePoint.  Several migrations to Office 365 initiatives have failed drastically and made their way as the staple diet for discussions at various competition conferences and whitepapers.  As a result, IT leaders are making a rapid shift in the direction of public cloud by adopting hybrid cloud for their SharePoint implementation. The combination of private and public cloud gives IT the tools required to help the business innovate and iterate faster at a lower cost.

Governance: The most common policy discussion that required consensus from governance board was data protection vs extending SharePoint over the internet. Just like vim vs emacs, there were always two sides to this discussion whether SharePoint should be served over VPN or should the infrastructure be made available on DMZ for easy access or publish SharePoint over web application proxy. Each side has a stronger business case; right from a sales director citing the pathetic performance of applications over VPN vs a finance controller worried about his excel sheets leaving the very secure boundaries of their internal data center. With SharePoint 2016 hybrid, a third option as emerged as a solution and it is now easy for organizations to determine which content can be made available over cloud vs what remains on premise. The boundaries for content and their availability over search are clearly articulated.

Optimized use of Infrastructure – With 1 TB available with each OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online Site Collections storing TB of content and Videos for storing rich media content, IT managers are now able to establish an optimized storage and compute utilization plan to store low function high storage content on cloud while retaining content that has legal, compliance or business critical applications with security and performance demands can be hosted on an on-premise environment. In addition to this, with the zero downtime patching for SharePoint 2016 and managed releases for Office 365 SharePoint Online, it is easier than before the meet the Service Level Agreements for SharePoint based solutions.

Search – Content findability has always been a challenge for most of the SharePoint Implementations. Even though in SharePoint 2013, enterprises could configure hybrid search, the results weren’t encouraging with multiple search result sets that were not commingled. The relevance was different and so was user experience. With SharePoint 2016, the search has been re-architected and these issues have been addressed.

The hybrid infrastructure does provide best of both the worlds. Combining these two cloud models leverages cost efficiencies and also builds resilience into a solution.

To achieve the Hybrid model and gain some of the benefits listed above, the core architecture for Office 365 and SharePoint On-Premises needs to be understood.

SharePoint 2016 Hybrid Cloud

SharePoint 2016 Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure

 

The core logical design is about connecting your On-Premises Active Directory with the Azure Active Directory that is available. This ensures that accounts are synchronized and licenses from the cloud services can be assigned. Once done then the On-Premises environment needs to be connected through standard network connectivity. Once SharePoint 2016 on-premise is configured with SharePoint Online, the users would be able to manage the following hybrid workloads.

Hybrid Workloads

Hybrid Workloads

 

So based on where we are, the future (Hybrid) has already arrived. But where do we go from here? What is the future of Hybrid ? With enterprises moving to Azure to host their SharePoint 2016 farm, will they continue to be true hybrid ? Or the hybrid would no longer differentiate between on-premise data center, public cloud & private cloud, but it would just be a combination of IAAS, PAAS & SAAS based solutions hosted across infrastructures.

And if you are interested in defining your SharePoint Hybrid Strategy, please reach out to me using the contact me page.

Microsoft Ignite @ Atlanta

I would be attending the Microsoft Ignite event hosted at Atlanta, GA on 09/26 – 09/30 courtesy AgreeYa Solutions.

AgreeYa is a global Microsoft Systems Integrator for last 17 years delivering software, solutions, and services to clients in core areas of social, mobile, analytics, and cloud. Being a MS Gold partner along with Azure Everywhere and Cloud deployment partner, AgreeYa is amongst top 1% partners having access to business investment funds from MS to support deployment of Microsoft technologies at customer locations.

Some of the key clients AgreeYa is working with includes, DELL, US Army, State of CA ( Department of Public Health, Air Resources Board), County of San Mateo, Merck, Verizon, Qualcomm, HP, JP Morgan Chase, Standard Charter Bank, Accenture, Bed Bath & Beyond, State Street, …. They have been implementing various MS technologies such as SharePoint, O365, Power BI, Azure, SQL Server, System Center, BizTalk, .Net, EPMS, Delve, PowerApps, Flow, Groups, One Note, Skype for Business, OneDrive and Workflows.

They also provide proprietary award winning solutions like QuickApps, VdiXtend, SocialXtend and BeatBlip. AgreeYa is named as top IT Consulting company along with most promising SharePoint solution provider. They Are HQ in Folsom, CA with 20 offices in 8 countries.

Come visit us at booth #566 to explore how we can help achieve your collaboration and digitization goals with Office 365, SharePoint and Azure.

PowerApps, Flow & Azure Functions – Do you still need SharePoint ?

Its the year 2016. Organizations are wondering if the decade worth of customization on SharePoint has paid off ?  In 2007, they built several shared service providers in MOSS to customize their business needs and keep their end users happy. In 2010, they evaluated buy vs build vs build on SharePoint vs buy for SharePoint (WebParts & Add Ins).  Their productivity increased multifold and so did their time to market for their applications.  In 2013 (and 2016), they developed and deployed several apps (now add-ins) using client side technologies and achieved challenging customizations for the end users. And Office 365 gave them a huge playground for apps that were built with perfection by the product companies.  Now where do they head next?

SharePoint is an excellent collaboration tool with flexibility to customize business needs with out of the box features. Throw in some custom code, java script and BCS and you can build enterprise grade business application. Create some custom content types and you have reusability at its best. And then came a mandate. Conversion to the next version. Every customization, every workaround  and every piece of unsupported code comes haunting your sleep. Large lists that your  end users created with love and affection. And don’t mention terabytes of data in single content database that your database admin has been always warning you about, but his email ended up in your clutter.

So how did all of these happen? SharePoint architects made an informal checklist for every business problem.

  1. Do you require workflow ?
  2. Do you need item level security ?
  3. Are there internal users ? Or external users ? Or public access required ?
  4. Do you need access to external data ?
  5. Do you need findability ?

If the answers to above questions have 3 affirmation, SharePoint becomes the undisputed solution.

I am sure by now SharePoint Architects would be building nasty comments in their minds to criticize this article, but I am a SharePoint Architect myself. And knowing when NOT to use SharePoint makes you a successful architect. There is no defined recipe of where to use SharePoint and when not to use SharePoint.

In my opinion, Microsoft have head subtle hints from SharePoint community to fix long standing issues related to customization and Microsoft did hear them all but offered a completely different but relevant stack of product to address these issues. These are part of Azure cloud stack namely Power App, Microsoft Flow and Azure Functions.

So why do I say Microsoft Flow, PowerApps and Functions presage a new model of cloud applications? Because increasingly, cloud apps are evolving toward a lego-block model of “serverless” computing: where you create and pay only for your business logic, where chunks of processing logic are connected together to create an entire business application.

So how does this all fit in? Let’s say John Doe is a supply chain manager who wants to build a tracking system for every exception in their route management process. He wants to track all exceptions, route them for approval to stakeholders and perform some near complex business logic before sending the response to the exception team. John Doe (or a power user from his team) can create forms in PowerApps at astonishing fast speed.  Want that app mobile-enabled on any smartphone? No problem, you use the Common Data Model available in PowerApps enabling a lingua franca between applications. Kick off a Flow  to create next steps of assignment. And if you need some complex business logic added, have a developer use Azure Functions  that can be triggered by virtually any event in Azure, 3rd party services, or on-premises systems. Azure Functions is built on a serverless architecture, which handles the heavy lifting of building highly available, scalable, end-to-end Functions.

It is easier said or written than done but so was SharePoint. But as the question of my blog post suggested, has SharePoint become irrelevant? I would say no. Not for the purpose SharePoint has been built in the first place. SharePoint is still the first choice for content management, business intelligence portal, enterprise social, enterprise search and workflow to leverage team collaboration and publishing features. But when evaluating complex application development with critical functionalities, it makes sense to evaluate vis-à-vis availability of  compute time and resource for Microsoft Azure with the organization. But as the code of conduct for Architect community says, plan to leverage existing licenses and investments but not at the cost of architectural debts. That’s where we (the architects) come-in. Provide the best bet solution to the business problems. And next time a business user walks up to your desk asking can I solve this on SharePoint, calm down-take a deep breath-and show him this blog.

Disclaimer – No SharePoint Architects were harmed while writing this blog.

 

 

 

 

 

Office 365 Planner

Office 365 Planner

Microsoft made Office 365 Planner generally available in June 2016. And this product would be rolled out to eligible users who fall under Office 365 Enterprise E1–E5, Business Essentials, Premium and Education subscription plans. According to Office Blog, “The addition of Planner to the Office 365 lineup introduces a new and improved way for businesses, schools and organizations to structure teamwork easily and get more done. With Planner, teams can create new plans; organize, assign and collaborate on tasks; set due dates; update statuses and share files, while visual dashboards and email notifications keep everyone informed on progress.”

Having said that, you can login to your Office 365 tenant and click on the app launcher. If Planner has been released on your tenant, you should be able to see in the app launcher.

Planner-Office 365

 

With tools like Wunderlist to manage personal task list with limited collaboration and Project Server to manage large portfolio of projects in planned and defined manner. Planner holds the middle ground as an end to end work management tool by leveraging simplicity  of managing a task list with flexibility to work with ad hoc teams and projects with extreme agility. If you have ever used Trello, ASANA or Basecamp, you will find Planner to fall under similar cadre of work management tools except that Planner is tightly integrated with other Office 365 line of products like Groups, Exchange, etc.

Let’s see how Planner works. I will go ahead and create a fictitious plan for migration of mail server to Office 365.

Create a Plan using Planner

You can choose to make this plan public or keep this plan private by invite only. When you create a new plan, it will create subsequent Office 365 group.

Once the project is created, you can add more buckets to the project.  The +Add new bucket appears when the view is “Group by” Buckets.  I have added two buckets namely Communication and Governance.

 

Planner Blog

Let’s start adding some To do’s . I can start creating and assigning tasks by entering task name and clicking on Add task.

Planner Blog 2

As you can see, I have added few tasks and assigned it to a user. I can make modifications to this task and assign a label as well. I can add a checklist for each task that can appear in the preview.

Planner Blog 4

 

So this shows the board tab where you can add tasks with checklist, description and images.

If you look at the Charts tab, you will see awesome graphical representation for your task status’s. The status web part  shows color coded depiction of each tasks by their status. The members web part shows by each user. If you click on color on status or members web part, it will refresh the Task pane with grouped view based on what the user clicked on.

Planner Blog 5

For instance, I clicked on the red on the status and the Task pane grouped by due date. You can also group by assigned to, progress and buckets. Planner Blog 6

Planner is built upon Office 365 groups and is very well integrated with that functionality. The eclipse expands additional functionality as shown below.

Planner Blog 8

Clicking on conversation would open up conversations view for that project. You can send / receive communication to other members of the project.  
Planner Blog 7

Whats coming up ? Microsoft is planning for the following features to add to Planner.

Planner Blog 10

External user access: Allow external users to access Planner.

Multiple user per tasks: I guess this is significantly missing functionality that should be made available soon.

Mobile Apps: Mobile Apps for Windows Phone, iOS & Android.

In the world full of Trello’s, ASANA and BaseCamp, how would Planner fare?

  • Unlike other tools,  Planner is dependent on Office 365 subscription and is not available as a standalone product. But that should not hinder adoption if your organization has invested in Office 365.
  • Multiple user assignment is lacking, but as Microsoft highlighted, it should be soon rolled out.
  • Unavailability of Mobile Apps is an issue. Microsoft shared, they should be out soon.

Summary:

If you are invested in Office 365 and has a business case for work management tool, Planner is the best bet for you due to its seamless integration with other Office 365 products. If you are planning to roll out Office 365, this could be a value add in your business case to get your roll out moving. Planner, just like all other Office 365 products will mature into a enterprise wise tool once these voids are filled.