Roadmap for Foundation 2016?

While in Chicago at Ignite, I had a couple conversations with people who supported customers who had long used the “free” version of SharePoint, many moving from WSS to Foundation with the SharePoint 2013 release. One of the questions for which they were looking for an answer was: will Microsoft continue to produce/support Foundation? The official response from Redmond is no, there will not be a version of Foundation shipped along with the SharePoint Server 2016 release, however they are still looking at how to deliver some of what Foundation has provided to its core constituency.

Translation: Microsoft wants your feedback on what it should provide.

Prior to talking with anyone on the product team, my feedback to these friends was twofold:

  1. The need for a free version of the platform is no longer valid. Yes, offering a free version certainly helped many organizations in the education, local government, and non-profit segments to utilize a powerful platform at a much reduced cost (because nothing is entirely free – if not from licensing, then from services and employee costs). But the Office 365 offering, with many free and reduced licensing deals for these same market segments, offers a very similar set of capabilities, at a much reduced overall cost and without the infrastructural/management overhead.
  2. If what they have today is working, why change? Organizations using the existing Foundation platform are not being pushed off their platform, so as long as they are getting value out of what they’ve built, they should plan to stay where they are – at least until they’re ready to move to Office 365.

Of course, there are arguments against these two points – the strongest being, in my mind, the fact that most of these licenses are not ”free” at all, but paid for through Windows Server and SQL Server licenses, and therefore deserve a more formal response — including a roadmap forward. WSS and Foundation have led many organizations from free to paid versions of the platform, so Microsoft must figure out the path that best serves not just the majority who could, arguably, make the move to the cloud, but also the large minority segments with special circumstances that preclude them from moving to Office 365.

In a related discussion over on SPCOM, SharePoint MVP and SPCOM co-founder Vlad Catrinescu (@vladcatrinescu) started a conversation and posted a screenshot from a recent YamJam in which Microsoft technical product manager Bill Baer (@williambaer) stated

Response to this topic has been huge, with over 3600 views to Vlad’s original post 2 weeks ago. It was enough of a response that Bill posted his work email (wbaer@microsoft.com) and asked people using Foundation to contact him and share their Foundation use cases so that he could better understand where and how Microsoft can support these customers and partners. His latest blog post on SharePoint Server 2016 Installation and Deployment goes through the many infrastructure specifications for the new release, and from these requirements alone make it clear that even if Microsoft offered an updated version of Foundation, it would require substantial infrastructure investments just to be able to deploy a “free” version of the platform, and again makes the costs of moving to the cloud seem more reasonable.

Are you still using Foundation? And if so, what are the barriers for moving to Office 365? Microsoft definitely wants to hear your feedback, so please – speak up!

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.