Coming Soon to a Cloud Near You: SharePoint 2013 Releases to Manufacturing

Just as Microsoft announced that it’s the “devices and services” company, the SharePoint team surprised the world by releasing its 2013 version to manufacturing months sooner than expected. The bits will be available for download to MSDN subscribers today, 10/25/12.  This release will change the game by placing an emphasis on cloud services.

It’s been a long hard road for SharePoint online. With the BPOS release, Microsoft struggled to build a multi-tenant environment at mammoth scale based on a product that was designed for individual large enterprises. The result was that only a fraction of SharePoint functionality was available, upgrades were slow, and the offering was less than competitive with the pure-play cloud vendors Microsoft had in its crosshairs. When BPOS released, SharePoint 2010 was already well along in its development; the multi-tenant story improved but was still somewhat limited.

SharePoint 2013 will come closer than ever to providing parity, or in some cases a superior experience, for SharePoint online and other cloud-based SharePoint offerings. Our clients , most of whom host SharePoint on premises, are going to have to rally to host a product that’s designed primarily for the cloud. Some may consider letting Microsoft host SharePoint 2013, which will be a more tempting option than ever before as available features become richer and hosting becomes more complex. For those who stay on premises, SharePoint 2013′s cloud emphasis will have a number of advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few:

  • Infrastructure Changes: The 2013 infrastructure is extremely scalable, which is a good thing indeed. For example, “shredded storage” only stores the differences between document versions, and “request management” allows more flexible and efficient routing of web requests to servers. Along with this, however, comes more complexity. For example Office Web Applications are now a separate product rather than a service application, and the new workflow services require a Windows Azure Workflow farm to be installed separately from SharePoint. And the “Classic” authentication mode, a holdover from earlier versions of SharePoint, is gone forever, replaced with the standards-compliant “Claims” mode.
  • New App Model: Customizing SharePoint without introducing performance or stability problems has always been a challenge. A good developer can do it, but it requires constant care and vigilance by enterprise IT teams to ensure that no problematic code is installed. For this reason, most enterprises closely control what custom code is allowed, and multi-tenant environments generally limit server code to SharePoint’s isolated sandboxed solutions. SharePoint 2013 solves this neatly with an entirely new application model that forces applications out of SharePoint entirely. Instead, applications run in the browser or in an web site outside of SharePoint. An application store will be available so users can easily purchase and load applications, and enterprise customers can host private app stores to distribute their own apps. While this is all very powerful, it still limits what applications can do. Further, Microsoft has announced that this is the last version of SharePoint that will support sandboxed solutions, and hints that it will phase out the more popular “full trust” solutions over time. All this means that eventually, custom code solutions will need to be rewritten, or purchased from the app store if they’re available. There are strategies for writing “future-proof” solutions that will port easily from SharePoint 2010 to 2013, and we’ve already begun to focus on this wherever possible.
  • Hybrid Options: Microsoft really does want to be a devices and services company now, and therefore wants to help all its customers transition a cloud hosting model. However this isn’t practical for many of its enterprise customers. Compliance and security constraints make a pure cloud approach impossible for most large enterprises today. However, the cloud is still very compelling. The outcome of this is that enterprises will transition to the cloud slowly – very slowly in the case of highly regulated industries.This underscores the need for hybrid environments, in which sensitive or specialized workloads remain on premises, even as the cloud is used for hosting new work. SharePoint 2013 addresses several of the thorniest hybrid challenges which remain in earlier versions, such as providing a unified search experience between SharePoint online and on premises.

There are a number of compelling new features in SharePoint 2013, such as a much more capable Web Content Management offering and a huge leap forward in social collaboration. We expect to see a lot of demand for SharePoint 2013, both on premises and in Office 365. Success will depend on taking a thoughtful approach, beginning by mapping your enterprise roadmap and existing SharePoint environment to the new SharePoint offerings.

If you’ll be at the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas in November, please stop by our booth, #666 - we’d love to discuss it with you!

(cross-posted to

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