Ignite 2015 – My Thoughts and Highlights, or What I Don’t Want to Forget Just Yet

The first Microsoft Ignite conference was huge to say the least. The count I last heard was just over 26,000 people converged in Chicago for almost a week to discuss, learn and digest a confluence of Microsoft technologies. There was so much going on at Ignite, it is impossible to truly recap the entire event in anything but an entire series. My primary interest is SharePoint, both in the cloud and on-prem, which is where I focused my energies at Ignite.

A few months back (February 2015) Julia White, General Manager of Office 365, “Announced” SharePoint 2016 and gave us the SharePoint on-prem roadmap. Then last month, Seth Patton, Senior Director SharePoint, gave us a SharePoint 2016 update. Of primary interest to me, Seth laid out three primary SharePoint 2016 focus areas, Improved User Experiences, Cloud-inspired Infrastructure and Compliance and Reporting. We were able to come to Ignite armed these insights, yet at the same time hoping that the message would still ring true. We were not disappointed.

If you have not yet had a chance to watch the Ignite 2015 keynote, it is up for anyone to watch at Channel 9. It is long at 2 hours and 50 minutes, but you will get a good overview of where many of the Microsoft tools we use are heading. Start your Ignite review here. Around fifteen minutes into Satya’s keynote, he starts discussing reinventing productivity and business processes. The pillars are in line with the three pillars Seth introduced in April in regards to SharePoint.

Later Monday afternoon during a Foundational Keynote, Seth and Bill Baer, Senior Product Manager, presented a session “The Evolution of SharePoint: Overview and Roadmap” (FND2203), which turned into almost a verbal recap and reconfirmation of Seth’s April post. More great news. Watch the video.

Bill gave a more in-depth session, “What’s New for IT Professionals in SharePoint Server 2016” (BRK2188), and there were some real nuggets here regarding SharePoint 2016 that are well worth repeating. Between these two sessions, cloud inspired infrastructure, improved role based installation methods and zero-downtime patching rise to the top of my list.

Out of these three topics, cloud inspired infrastructure peaked my interest. Last year at SPC 2014 we were hearing all sorts of news of SharePoint going cloud only, or something close to that. The announcement early this year of SharePoint 2016 helped put this rumor to rest, yet Bill brought up the idea of on-prem roping in the cloud, or hybrid as needed, rather than the cloud forcing on-prem on lift off. I bet that most of us will be cloud only in the next three to seven years (let the screams and “We will never be on the cloud” commence), but this newer hybrid approach is going to make the resistance and then acceptance much easier on all of us.

One of my favorite sessions, “Behind the Scenes: Engineering NextGen Portals” (BRK2205) by Daniel Kogan and Jeremy Kelley, both SharePoint Program Managers, give us insights into NextGen portals. You are likely already familiar with NextGen portals, even if you didn’t know the name. Office365 Video was the first NextGen portal delivered by the SharePoint team. But NextGen Portals is much more than Office 365 Video.

The world of portals may be looked at in four tiers of use; out of the box, configure, extend and then custom (a panda in a tree maybe?). The reported plan is to provide portals that are more than sufficient for many users from the get go, could then be configured to conform more to our particular environments, extended to meet more of our needs, or flat our customized from the ground up. The NextGen Portal model includes a new “Component” layer that includes a new page rendered and authoring canvas. This is what really interested me. The promise made by NextGen portals is that we can leverage SharePoint (site collections accessed via REST API’s) and provide the custom interfaces we have been seeking for years. There appear to be some details to be ironed out, but the promise is outstanding!

One of the best sessions was by Mark Kashman, Senior Product Manager, who gave a great SharePoint wrap-up Friday afternoon, “SharePoint UNPLUGGED! Questions Answered on Anything You Heard This Week” (BRK2206). I think he dropped a huge announcement, which I recently posted a few days back, but overall, he hits all of the major SharePoint updates and announcements as well as provides a list of the other major SharePoint related sessions that you should review.

Other highlights

  • The SharePoint 2016 Public Preview is on schedule to be released in the second half of 2015. My guess is late Q3 to mid Q4.
  • The full SharePoint 2016 bits should be released in the first half of Q2.
  • Currently SharePoint 2016 looks almost exactly like SharePoint 2013. This makes sense, they are still baking in great new features, but at the same time, I would not expect many new changes in the UI. The ribbon will likely mirror or mimic the SharePoint Online ribbon. Central Admin won’t change much except for new features.
  • If you didn’t join us in 2015, no worries, Ignite 2016 has already been scheduled to take place yet again in Chicago from May 9th – 13th, 2016.
  • You can view almost all Ignite sessions and keynotes at Channel 9 at http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Ignite/2015

What your your highlights and take-aways? Let me know and let’s discuss the future of SharePoint.

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