I just got back from the SharePoint Conference 2014 in Las Vegas, which was surprisingly exciting. I say “surprisingly” because tech conferences are generally rather humdrum in the years between releases. But one impact of the cloud era is that conferences become more exciting on a regular basis. Changes can be made at any time, and often without the fanfare of a big release, so it helps to have the vendor walk you through it.
Of course, this year the buzz was about the move to the cloud itself. Is it suitable for every company? Are we going to be forced to go there if we don’t want to? How viable is the hybrid option? What capabilities will I gain and lose?
My Gartner peers and I are still hammering out an official position on the conference that will show up soon. I think it’s clear Microsoft is placing big bets on the cloud and making statements to shift a lot more SharePoint business there.
From talking to attendees and partners, I sensed a lot of mixed messages and uncertainty. Jeff Teper said he wanted to “lower the friction …” of moving to Office 365 and allow you to move there “at your own pace.” Great, but “at your own pace” conflicts with saying they aren’t committing to another on premises release after 2015 and that improvements will show up earlier (and possibly only) in O365. As for exactly how many future improvements you’ll be missing out on by staying on premise (or going with hosted PaaS SharePoint, which uses the on prem code), you know it will be some but can’t say how much.
Change is difficult. It’s difficult for the users, the partners, and, yes, even for vendors. I don’t think there is a secret roadmap – just a vision of where Microsoft wants to take SharePoint. It’s a good vision, but getting there will be tricky. There are still technical details to be ironed out, from customization capabilities to data center locations to the ability to leverage a content delivery network (CDN). There’s a strong suspicion this isn’t a win-win-win proposition for users, partners, and Microsoft. And at many organizations, IT doesn’t own the risk and trust assessment – that’s the purview of the Chief Compliance Officer, Chief Security Officer, or Legal group and the regulatory environment, precedents, and messaging aren’t in line with what they need to see to approve a SaaS move.
To say the future direction of SharePoint is “cloudy” is true on many levels.