Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Is On-Premises SharePoint Fading Away?

Or is that just what they'd LIKE you to believe?

The conference pep rallies, the executive speeches, the official videos, the company line – to hear Microsoft tell it (publicly), you’d think that SharePoint on-premises was a thing of the past – gone the way of XP, Vista, etc., and replaced by Office 365 SharePoint online.

But is it? Is SharePoint on-premises really finished?

Even though Microsoft wants you to believe the future of software is completely “cloudy” (with everything running as SaaS in the cloud), several industry articles published in the last couple of weeks have infused a healthy dose of skepticism (and caution) into the mix. Maybe…just maybe…we’re not getting the WHOLE story.

According to Marketwired, a Sys-Con Media news service, the Radicati Group, a technology market research firm, has just published a study called, "Microsoft SharePoint Market Analysis, 2015-2019" which provides a detailed analysis of market adoption of SharePoint. According to the study, “Microsoft SharePoint continues to see strong market adoption across all verticals, and is projected to grow at an annual average growth rate of 20% over the next four years.”

The article continues, “While there is still some resistance from customers to adopt cloud-based solutions, adoption of cloud-based SharePoint Server solutions, including SharePoint Online and cloud-based SharePoint Server solutions…currently represent 26% of deployments.”

                                                NOW WAIT JUST A DOGGONE MINUTE HERE!

If SharePoint Online (Office 365) and cloud-based SharePoint deployments represent just 26% of all SharePoint deployments, then we have to suppose that the majority of the remaining 74% are on-premises SharePoint deployments. That’s quite a bit different than what we’ve been hearing, isn’t it?

Writing for CIO magazine, Jonathan Hassell states, “While it seems like almost every piece of IT is moving to the cloud these days, there are still plenty of reasons to keep SharePoint in your server room – where it belongs.”

He then cautions, “No matter how secure Microsoft or any other cloud provider claims it can make its hosted instances of SharePoint, there will always be that nagging feeling in the back of a paranoid administrator’s head: Our data now lives somewhere that is outside of my direct control. It’s an unavoidable truth, and from a security point of view, the cloud is just a fancy term for someone else’s computer.

That last part is especially noteworthy:

                “…the cloud is just a fancy term for someone else’s computer.”

Hassell points out that should your data stored in the cloud ever become important to an FBI, DOJ, NSA, or other government agency’s investigation, “Microsoft may be forced to turn over a copy of your data without your knowledge.”

Just as much a cause for concern, if not more so, “Microsoft famously does not offer regular backup service of SharePoint, relying instead on mirror images and duplicate copies for fault tolerance, and it’s unclear how successful you’d be at operating on a copy of your data nor how long it would take to replicate that data into a new usable instance in the event of a seizure.”

Hassell then cites the limited programming (think workflow and content management) and customization options available in Office 365 SharePoint, noting that it doesn’t offer access to IIS and SharePoint application management features.

Additionally, due to the fact that Office 365 requires licenses and federated identities, and the fact that SharePoint on-premises will likely run on the resources and hardware your company already has on hand, companies may not see the huge cost reductions they’re led to believe will result from cloud-hosted SharePoint.

Hassell concludes his article by stating that while it may be useful to employ cloud hosting for email or file synchronization, “…there are enough reasons not to move SharePoint into the cloud for a variety of audiences and corporations big and small that [we] should see SharePoint on premises long after most everything else has been moved over to Somebody Else’s Computer™.”

Not everyone at Microsoft is throwing dirt on on-premises SharePoint’s grave. Christian Buckley, writing about the future of SharePoint in Redmond Magazine, points out, “…as Microsoft Office GM Julia White (@julwhite) mentioned in her keynote at the recent Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft recognizes that on-prem will be around for a long time…”

Well said, Ms. White, and thank you for this glimpse behind the curtain. We expect on-premises SharePoint to be around for a long time too.

Finally, the strongest indication that on-premises SharePoint is not fading away just yet is this: Microsoft has just released the SharePoint Server 2016 Technical Preview – the “beta” for the next generation of SharePoint on-premises software. Why go to all the trouble of releasing a new version if it is only going to evaporate immediately?

We strongly recommend that businesses think long and hard before jumping on the Office 365 bandwagon too quickly, and giving up control of their data and the ability to customize SharePoint to the greatest benefit of their organization.
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