Microsoft Ignite 2015 Key Takeaways for Office 365 and SharePoint Professionals

Idea behind this article is to compile and brain dump all the key takeaways & announcements (including opinions at times) from the Ignite 2015 conference focused around Office 365, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, and Yammer.

This is mainly information for my reference but I am happy to share with others if it helps. Hopefully this would make good bedtime reading and help you fall in sleep effortlessly. Please note that this work will be in progress for next few months until I am able to review all the key sessions I would like to review for the Ignite 2015.

Evolution of SharePoint and Office 365 for Productivity Tools

If you don’t have enough time to read this whole article, here are the high level takeaways and general strategy from Microsoft (as per my assumption and what I read/seen) and my mapping of current workloads to the future workloads

  • Identity – Azure Active Directory (no change over here)
  • Portals – SharePoint => Office 365 Next-Gen Portals
  • Files – SharePoint, Yammer, and OneDrive for Business => SharePoint as a back-end and OneDrive for Business as UI consumption layer
  • Email, Calendar, and Tasks – Exchange Online
  • Instant Messaging, Video Chat, and conferencing – Sky for Business
  • Social – Yammer => Yammer  (no change over here)
  • Teams – SharePoint and Yammer => Office 365 Groups – spanning across all the suite members as content creation layer
  • Search and Discovery – SharePoint Enterprise Search => Delve, spanning across all the suite members as content consumption layer
  • Apps and Customization Office 365 API including Office Graph (no change over here)
  • Future workloads – Sway for Business – Canvas for building great presentations or stories (releasing worldwide Q2 2015 as preview with first release) and Bing for Business – Map functionality (??)

Here is probably one of the best picture I was able to found from the Ignite stating future state of Office 365 workloads and how they would work together. One of the most fascinating things for me being a SharePoint professional, there is no SharePoint on Apps layer in this diagram. SharePoint is soon becoming underlying document storage and portal layer for various Office 365 Apps.

Office 365 Architecture at High Level

Office 365 Groups – Road map and Architecture

  • Termed as next wave of collaboration platform on Office 365, possible replacement or competing product for SharePoint Online team sites and Yammer groups
  • Core principles – Single definition, public by default, self-service, easy to manage, shared with non-members including outside of organization, and contextual & historical
  • Available now as of Jan, rolling out on all tenants – Unifying layer for all the Office 365 workloads, unifies exchange online for mail & calendar, SharePoint and OneNote for files, Skype for instant messaging and conversations (yes – no Yammer conversations as of now)
  • SharePoint Online integration – Underlying structure for groups is SharePoint site collection,  shared left hand navigation & header, 1 TB doc library, UI of groups files are exposed through OneDrive for Business, sharing with other groups feature, groups files recycle bin, shared with us view, modern email attachments
  • Upcoming features – Creation of modern responsive web pages using NextGen page authoring canvas mechanism, Office graph & delve for groups insights, Group profile in Delve, external Office 365 groups (even for partners and customers) will be available once Guest User feature is enabled
  • How about Yammer and SharePoint team sites? – Groups will be wired with Yammer down the road as well, blended experience with SharePoint sites coming way down the road as well (you can invite Office 365 groups to SharePoint sites as of now for shared membership)
  • Collaboration experience from wherever you are – Office 365 UI, upcoming outlook 2016 client, or upcoming mobile apps
  • Azure AD as data source for Groups identity and first stop for groups creation, Forward Sync capability will be used to sync groups information with Office 365 workloads
  • Group creation from anywhere you are as lightweight task-pane UI – available from OWA & OD4B, preview in Outlook 2016 add-in
  • Administration as of now – Groups management capability in Office 365 Admin site, PowerShell commands to manage groups, eDiscovery works fine across group main and group files as of now
  • Administration features coming in 2015 – Guests membership, dynamic membership – members added by rules as AAD dynamic groups, DLP, Groups quota management for SPO files, and Soft-deletion of groups (tenant administrators can restore groups)
  • Extensibility – Groups REST APIs in preview as Microsoft Graph REST endpoints
  • Building Groups Apps – You must register app in the Azure portal, configure either read.all or readwrite.all app permissions

Office 365 Next-Gen Portals – Road map and Architecture

  • Office 365 only-feature as of now, built on top of SharePoint platform (everything is stored in the Site Collections)
  • Key principles – Common, intelligent, social, mobile, ready to-go, and high value portals
  • Extensibility & APIs are on the road map, current focus is on ready-to-go
  • Video Portal rolling out worldwide, available as first release as of now, only 1 video portal per tenant, powered by Azure media services, native mobile apps, html 5 video player, basic REST APIs for video portal is in preview, hybrid link to Office 365 video from SharePoint Server 2016, secure encrypted adaptive streaming, SharePoint stores master copy, Azure media service keeps thumbnails and transcoded videos. SharePoint timer job syncs SharePoint and Azure video copies
  • New People experiences in delve – Finding people through content & content through people, people discovery scenarios (connections discovery, expertise discovery), extensibility for adding boards will be available later
  • Upcoming KM solutions – Solving issues of sea of data, Delve boards (lightweight collection of content and sharing by add to board feature – tagging as cards, rolling out worldwide in few months), microsites (modern web articles authoring experience – easy to create, easy to learn), and InfoPedia (codename for upcoming KM portal for personalized knowledge gateway – ready-to-go curation, browsing, finding and communication of definitive knowledge across organizations)
  • Articles – Consider them as modern SharePoint publishing pages, use SharePoint for auto-save, rich-text, and publishing features, getting shipped now along with as blogging engine on delve
  • Technical architecture – Responsive by design, Powered by Office 365 workloads
  • Storage architecture – 1 hub site collection per tenant to serve single app pages like video or article pages, content site collection per video channel, microsite, blogs etc., created on demand, discovery compliant
  • Permissions Simplified – Use SharePoint as permission model but simplified user experience, permissions are at container level
  • New APIs for ready to go publishing and video portal and uses the core SharePoint APIs to interact with SharePoint features
  • Both Page renderer and authoring canvas engine uses new NextGen page controls – video player, page rollup, rich text editor, document control etc.
  • Front-end UI – Single Page Apps – video portal home pages, microsite article pages, content pages
  • Authoring canvas – NextGen portal team will join hands with Sway & SharePoint team on modern authoring in the enterprise
  • In future – possibility of publishing Sway in SharePoint or options to allow SharePoint publishing pages to leverage Sway UX and rendering engine

Delve and Office Graph – Updates and Road map

  • Delve and Office Graph cloud-only feature
  • Delve and Office Graph are Office 365’s intelligent framework for the personalized insight and as a serendipity discovery portal, Office Graph is the engine and Delve is user experience app, present combined view of all the silos content and teams together as modern visual experience
  • It is important to note – Delve does not store any content, contents are stored in the destination systems like exchange or SharePoint, Delve will display these information as Pinterest like cards with additional analytics like number of views, number of yammer comments etc.
  • Throughout 2014, focus was around basic features – documents and contents from the colleagues and sites users are following, initial focus was on SharePoint and OneDrive for Business documents, released first version of Office Graph REST API for extensibility
  • Delve by default – respects security permissions and privacy, shows most recent document version if versioning is enabled
  • Control features – Tenant level & user level opt-out
  • In 2015 Q1 – Delve started expanding to other Office 365 workloads – added new features like exchange email attachments , yammer conversation link attachments cards, and video portal content cards
  • Just released worldwide in Q2 2015 – Delve people experiences – idea here is to find people through content and find content through people – people profile information from Azure AD and additional information like organization browse, people activities, possible replacement of SharePoint and Yammer user profiles, people connections discovery and expertise discovery
  • Release in progress in Q2 2015 – 1:1 communications and conversations in People Profiles, people profile gestures like praise card, Boards – allow you to tag and collect information informal way by tagging Delve cards, following view which will show activities of people, sites, and boards you are following (possible replacement of SharePoint social following feature)
  • Road map – Extensibility & APIs for LOB and 3rd party apps to create cards e.g. Salesforce etc.
  • Road map – After fall SharePoint on-premises PU and cloud search service application for SharePoint 2013 and 2016, Delve would be able collect metadata of On-Premises content from cloud search index and will show these content as cards from the SharePoint on-premises
  • Road map – Office 365 Group Analytics and Groups Profile (similar as People Profile)
  • Road map – Organization analytics and personalized dashboard like information about work map, work life balance, amount of time spent on meetings etc.
  • Road map – Nature language queries (e.g. documents modified by Colleague X)
  • Current Concerns – Pinterest like cards view of Delve – easy to get lost on all visuals and what’s important for you, draft documents would show up just like search without any indicators

OneDrive for Business and OneDrive Sync – Updates and Roadmap

  • OneDrive for Business Updates
    • OneDrive for Business is vNext consumer experience for files in Office 365 whether your files in SharePoint, Yammer, Office 365 Groups – various views like Shared, Sites folder, Groups folder etc. to consume files from one place
    • OneDrive for Business built for informal collaboration (formal collaboration could happen in Office 365 Groups or SharePoint Team Sites or Yammer Groups)
    • Existing features – 1 TB storage, office online integration, rich file preview, drag and drop uploads, smart search, simple copy and move with right click, simple sharing options, guest links, modern attachments for OWA, auditing and reporting (not usage analytics)
    • Upcoming features for product experience – Expiration of anonymous shares, next-gen sync client (see OneDrive Sync Updates section), unified web UX – no longer SharePoint UI, instead similar as OneDrive for Consumer simplified UI, company-shareable links, modern attachments for Outlook, expiration of all external shares
    • Upcoming features for administrative control – Storage quota control, allowlist/denylist external sharing domains, disable external sharing for specific users, remove 20,000 file limit (ships with next-gen sync client), large file support (10Gb) (ships with next-gen sync client), cross-tenant sharing control, OneDrive usage reporting
    • OneDrive for business will use next-gen Sync but continue to have SharePoint as backend for storage and other features
  • OneDrive Sync Updates
    • Next Generation of OneDrive Sync announced, RTM of v1 by end of 2015
    • Single reliable sync engine for all platforms & devices (instead of zillions of engines available right now) including for consumer and business platforms
    • Consistent syntax and semantics of sync protocol across consumer & business OneDrive, built on lessons learned from consumer OneDrive
    • Key features – selective sync per folders & devices, no more double caching of files on local hard drive
    • Sync limits – SharePoint library – 5k, OneDrive for Business – No more 20k
    • File size limits – Increased from 2 GB to 10 GB
    • Administrative features – block personal sync, block unmanaged sync, migrate existing users

Yammer – Updates and Road map

  • No major announcements for Yammer but message is clear – Yammer is not dead, it will become social fabric across all the workloads in Office 365 suite
  • Immediate focus on moving Yammer in Microsoft data centers (completed in mid-May 2015) and tight integration with Microsoft Office 365 Azure AD for foundational identity work, this would allow Yammer to integrate tightly with other tools like Office 365 Groups and OneDrive for Business
  • Moving forward strategy and plans – Less focus on networks and more focus on groups – modern and clean design with more white spaces, prioritized content
  • Upcoming plans – Delve integration by feeding yammer signals to Delve and inline yammer conversations task pane in Delve
  • Upcoming feature – External messaging with global icon indicators, and compliance features like HIPPA
  • Upcoming feature – External groups, ability to share groups outside of the organization, might require Azure AD integration and Office 365 guest link feature
  • Upcoming feature – once Azure AD is integrated, move Yammer document storage to SharePoint and exposed through OneDrive4Business similar as Office 365 Groups
  • Upcoming feature – Intelligent speculation from my end – once Azure AD is integrated, replace exchange conversations with Yammer conversations in Office 365 Groups, after all – Yammer is social tool in Office 365

SharePoint 2016 Announcements

  • Only IT Pro investments announced, stay tuned for Information Worker announcements in coming months
  • No plans to deprecate any features from SharePoint 2013 for vNext including InfoPath Form Services, SharePoint Social, Full Trust Farm Solutions, and Sandbox Solutions
  • Public Beta will be in Q4 2015, GA and RTM availability in Q2 2016
  • First ever cloud-down codebase based on SharePoint Online, backported capabilities for on-premises differentiators (e.g. PerformancePoint)
  • Software Requirements – Windows Server 2012 R2 and later, SQL Server 2014 SP1 and later, and .NET Framework 4.5.2 and later
  • Continue support for embedded version of Windows Server AppFabric 1.1 for distributed cache and social features, windows team is still committed to support embed version in SharePoint through product lifecycle even though it’s not supported in GA Windows servers.
  • Upgrade Scenario – Upgrade only from SharePoint 2013 to SharePoint 2016 using database-attach upgrade method, not supported direct upgrade from SharePoint 2010 or earlier
  • SAML as first class citizen as Authentication protocol, Windows Identity over SAML claims as well
  • SMTP can use non-default ports and supports sending emails to SMTP servers using STARTTLS connection encryption
  • New MinRole topology – designed based on SPO learning and SP2013 streamlined topology, option to choose during installation wizard to optimize user services, robot services, and caching services – Front-End, Application, Distributed Cache, Search, and Specialized Load, support for specialized load for existing SharePoint installation patterns, support for SharePoint health analyzer to enforce min-role topology – scans all role except special load, new cmdlets would be released to support automation of these services configurations, MinRole will change search topology, core limitation of SpecialLoad is that it is excluded from compliance and reporting capabilities
  • Simplified Patch Management – Zero-downtime patching, not sure what this really means yet except it will have smaller update footprint with reduced number of MSI and MSP
  • Improved Boundaries – Content DBs can be in TB’s, List Thresold >5000, Max FileSize is increased to 10 GB, and 2x increase in Search Scale with 500 million items
  • Improved files upload/download performance – BITS protocol support to upstream and downstream document response, BITS will optimize upload and download chunking, uploads will use BITS instead of Cobalt, byte-range HTTP GETs for download, and BITS specific block-based upload protocol for uploading files
  • User Profile Sync Service Update – Support for only unidirectional AD Sync for read-only, removed built-in FIM based User Profile Sync service, still supports external FIM service including Microsoft Identity Manager to support both read-write scenarios
    DocID based Durable Links, it remains same even with document move
  • There will be no SharePoint Foundation 2016
  • There will be no SharePoint Designer 2016, SPD 2013 along with InfoPath Designer 2013 will work with SharePoint 2016

SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business Migration Enhancements

  • New Improved APIs supports and Azure based migration approach, better equipped to scale to the demand, better alternative to current CSOM based approach which Microsoft throttled to avoid end-user performance impact.
  • New APIs support both file shares, SharePoint on-premises, Google, and any other data source, they are testing Lotus Notes as well
  • Approach is create source package for the API to accept, upload package on Azure temporary storage (cost is very minimal for storage), and SharePoint Online timer job based import content into SPO (avoiding front-end CSOM calls)
  • New APIs still support for only contents, no support for web parts or workflows yet.

SharePoint 2013/2016 On-Premises Server and Office 365 Hybrid Innovations

  • Cloud driven hybrid would be first class citizen in SharePoint 2016
  • Office 365 Hybrid Search – New Cloud search service application for SharePoint 2013 and 2016 will generate unified cloud-based index (support for SharePoint 2013 comes out in Q4 2015 as PU), allows you to search both cloud and on-premises data from SharePoint Online and Delve, allows you to crawl SharePoint 2010 farm as well, use IsExternalContent:1 managed property to filter on-premises data
  • Cloud-driven hybrid scenario picker for consistent automated hybrid cloud-initiated hybrid workload deployment

Office 365 Administration Portal Enhancements

  • Office 365 Usage Reporting Dashboard, visually appealing, rolling out in Q3 2015
  • Office 365 content pack for Power BI – Enables powerful reporting and analytics capabilities of Power BI to analyze and create interactive dashboards to gain insight in service adoption, available soon in Summer 2015
  • Workload-specific Admin Roles – Ability to streamline service administration roles, rolling out in June 2015
  • First Release program changes – First releases can be applied to organization or select people level. SharePoint Online can’t be applied to select people yet. Suite bar can be configured for either organization or select people level. This will roll out in next few weeks.
  • Office 365 Service Communication API 2.0 –

Office 365 and SharePoint Development Updates

  • Apps for office & SharePoint are re-branded as Add-ins – Office Add-ins and SharePoint Add-ins
  • Preview version of Unified Office 365 REST APIs – One API to rule them all –, interactive graph explorer along with JSON response, in-built CORS support, tokens are available through OAuth 2.0 flow, OpenID connect for SSO, eliminates the need for the resource specific access token handlers and Office 365 Discovery Service released in Q4 2014
  • More Office 365 APIs released – OneNote, OneDrive, Video Portal, Office 365 Groups, and Office Graph
  • App Registry page – Still going through Microsoft dogfood phase. New option to register on-premises apps on Azure AD as low trust app to use common consent framework to develop against whole o365 suite with same set of tokens (current option is ACS low trust app)
  • Support for Tenant-less NAPA –, removed dependency on SharePoint site collection, ability to create office apps without Visual Studio using office.js framework, requires login using Microsoft account
  • Ability to pin/unpin add-ins to app launcher from my apps page, app launcher can be configured at organization level or as user preference
  • Office365 Developer program launch – One stop for engineering updates, 1-year free developer tenant subscription, training, tools, hands on labs, benefits, and webinars.
  • REST based Office 365 APIs (corresponding native SDKs for .NET, iOS, Android), Office 365 Discovery Services, ADAL (Active Directory Authentication Library) APIs were released throughout Q4 2014 and Q1 2015

Session Reviewed So far

Here are the list of sessions I have reviewed so far based on my interest during and after Ignite. All the session slides and videos are available on Channel 9

  • SharePoint and Office 365 IT Pro Track
    • FND2203-Bill Baer-The Evolution of SharePoint-Overview and Road map
    • BRK2188-Bill Baer-What’s New for IT Professionals in SharePoint Server 2016
    • BRK3134-Manas Biswas-Implementing Next Generation SharePoint Hybrid Search with the Cloud Search Service Application
    • BRK2121_Andy O’Donald-Managing Change in an Office 365 Rapid Release World
    • BRK3153-Joe Newell-Migration to SharePoint Online Best Practices and New API Investments
  • Office 365 and SharePoint Developer Track
    • FND2202-Rob Lefferts and Jereme Thake-Office Development Matters, and Here’s Why
    • BRK4117-Rob Howard-Get Your Hands Dirty with the Office 365 RESTful APIs
    • BRK3199-Yina Arenas-Supercharging Your Custom Solutions with the Office 365 Unified API Endpoint
    • BRK3170-Steve Walker-Deep Dive into Custom App Provisioning and Deployment in Microsoft Office 365
    • BRK4104-Steve Walker-Setting Up Your On-Premises SharePoint Environment for Custom App Development
    • BRK4111-Vesa Juvonen-Future Proofing Your On-Premises SharePoint Development
  • vNext Team Sites – Next-Gen Collaboration – Office 365 Groups
    • BRK2114-Amit Gupta and Christophe Fiessinger-Microsoft Office 365 Groups Overview and Roadmap
    • BRK3114-Christoph Fiessinger-Microsoft Office 365 Groups Deep Dive
    • BRK2113-Andy Haon-Collaborate on Files and Information within Office 365 Groups
  • vNext Search and Insights – Delve
    • BRK1105-Asok Kuppusamy and Cem Aykan-Office Delve and Office Graph Vision and Roadmap
    • BRK2176-Stefan Debald and Welly Lee-A New People Experience in Delve-Discover People Through Content, and Content Through People
    • BRK2107-Gary Danoys-Break Down Organizational Silos and Gain New Insights with Office Graph and Office Delve
  • vNext Portals – Next-Gen Portals
    • BRK2173-Mark Kashman and Adam Harmetz-Intelligent, Ready-to-Go NextGen Portals in Office 365
    • BRK2174-Victor Poznanski and Christopher Kehler-The New Knowledge Management Portal in Office 365
    • BRK2176-Stefan Debald and Welly Lee-A New People Experience in Delve-Discover People Through Content, and Content Through People
    • BRK2205-Daniel Kogan-Behind the Scenes-Engineering NextGen Portals
  • vNext Files – OneDrive for Business and OneDrive for Consumers
    • BRK2192-Reuben Krippner-A File’s Future with OneDrive for Business
    • BRK4110-Jason Moore-I Sync, Therefore I Am, A Deep Dive on OneDrive Sync Capabilities and Roadmap
  • Microsoft’s ESN Offering – Yammer
    • BRK2103_Juliet Wei and Ben Zvi-Yammer Roadmap
  • Great Recap Sway Slides


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