20 SharePoint MVPs Converge Online to Discuss Hybrid Deployments

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For those who missed yesterday’s tweetjam, check out my May 27th post that includes a list of the confirmed panelists, as well as the questions to be discussed in the monthly #CollabTalk tweetjam on the topic of “What It Takes to Get Hybrid SharePoint Right.” A tweetjam is a live, streaming event or conversation that is hosted on Twitter using a shared hash tag (I’ve also set up a profile on Twubs.com/collabtalk since I run these things monthly) as a way to quickly share knowledge and experiences on a defined topic. Additionally, I’ve also captured a tweet-by-tweet account (RTs excluded) of the online conversation via Storify (you can find past tweetjam wrap-ups on my Storify profile, as well). We ended up with 70 people participating with a couple MVPs adding their thoughts over and above the 19 already confirmed on our panel, with just over 600 tweets counted, and 1.7 million impressions of the tweets that were shared. Pretty darn cool.

Rather than try and recap the entire discussion here – because I plan to write something on each of the questions, highlighting many of the comments made (and will publish them over on the ITUnity site beginning next week) – I’d like to focus here on a few main points, and then encourage you to check out the tweet stream on Storify, or check out the blog series next week.

The first question I wanted to tackle was “As companies transition toward the cloud, how important will hybrid become?” Near the beginning of the tweetjam, I shared some of the stats that came out of the March 2013 Gartner event in San Diego, which I attended, stating that in the next 5 to 7 years, 85% of current SharePoint customers would still have an on premises component of their SharePoint environment, with 35% of existing customer with no cloud footprint. At Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC13) in Houston last July, and then again at the SharePoint Conference (SPC14) in Las Vegas earlier this year, Microsoft and product team leaders repeated these statistics – which felt to many as some serious back-pedaling from previous “all-in” cloud messaging. But the reality is that Microsoft is still bullish on the future of the cloud, but recognize that customer needs do not always match roadmap enthusiasm and sales goals. As SharePoint MVP Jennifer Mason from Rackspace (@jennifermason) and Office365 MVP Rene Modery from 1stQuad Solutions (@modery) point out, for many organizations hybrid is a necessary step in their path to the cloud:

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More specifically, according to Redmond Magazine’s Jeffrey Schwartz (@JeffreySchwartz), hybrid allows organizations to slowly make the transition, moving one workload at a time – for example, switching to cloud-based Exchange, then possibly re-directing MySites to the cloud and provisioning all new team sites in SharePoint Online, followed by an integrated search capability and adoption of Yammer. Rather than go through the cost of an all-in approach, organizations can move as it makes sense to the business, and as heavier workloads (customizations and LOB apps) can be migrated or recreated.

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While Microsoft is focusing their innovation on SharePoint in the cloud (and the entire Office365 platform), many organizations are still looking to get a few productive years out of the investments they’ve already made rather than move (again) to something new. And for organizations who historically bought into the grand vision of SharePoint, customizing the platform and integrating line of business (LOB) applications into what has been sold as the “swiss army knife of collaboration,” many of the solutions they’ve deployed will either need to be completely rebuilt/re-architected for the cloud, or cannot be supported (yet) in the cloud. As Slalom’s SharePoint Practice Lead in Chicago, Rob Toro (@SharePointToro) identifies, hybrid solutions will be around for some time.

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Microsoft also recognizes this, which is why they’ve been trying to clarify language about future on prem releases, announcing at SPC14 that there would be another on prem release in late 2015 (my guess is general availability in early 2016), with another release 2 to 3 years after that. In short, as long as customers want to buy SharePoint on prem (i.e. the market demands it), Microsoft will continue to provide an on prem version.

For my second question, I asked the panel “What are the most common hybrid SharePoint scenarios?” to which SharePoint MVP and ITUnity co-founder Dan Holme (@danholme) responded:

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To back up his point, the reality is that 90% of current Office365 usage is focused on Exchange – because cloud-based email is mature, and just makes sense for the preponderance of organizations. SharePoint is, simply put, a much more complex beast, and for those who have built out any degree of complexity on prem will find it difficult to simply unplug and move to the cloud, no matter how persistent the marketing. SharePoint MVP and Principal Architect at Summit 7 Systems, Ben Curry (@curryben), shared some guidance – and caution – on approaching hybrid:

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And mentioning a topic near and dear to my heart (and the topic of many recent articles), GTconsult co-founder and director Brad Geldenhuys (@bradgcoza) called out the need for strong change management to manage between your two disparate systems – on prem and cloud, with many administrative capabilities missing or different in the cloud:

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The question that created the most conversation was easily “What are the top 3 road blocks for adopting a hybrid SharePoint model?” I was actually surprised at the diversity in the answers provided – so definitely go take a look at the detailed conversation, as there are many great points made. But to highlight this diversity, compare the business perspective of SharePoint MVP and Concatenate EVP Eric Riz (@rizinsights) with the technical (and outside North America) perspective of SharePoint MVP and consultant Alistair Pugin (@alistairpugin):

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The roadblocks in moving to a hybrid (and pure cloud) SharePoint deployment are as diverse and company-specific as the ways in which the platform can be used. I think everyone on the panel would agree that hybrid SharePoint is not a direction that you should go down without understanding the impacts to existing workloads, the time and cost of transition, the overhead of managing both systems, and the governance, compliance and security concerns around your data.

Having said all that (I find it difficult to shed my pragmatic, project management-leaning tendencies), hybrid SharePoint will be the focus on 50% or more of existing SharePoint customers. I do believe that as Microsoft continues to innovate in the cloud, the rate at which companies elect to move everything into the cloud will likely increase (from Gartner’s projections of 15% going pure-cloud in the next 5 to 7 years), and net-new SharePoint customers (no on prem footprint today) will overwhelmingly adopt a pure-cloud model, continuing Office365’s already-meteoric rise.

Hybrid is the next big wave, you can bet on that.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.