Last year Microsoft released new versions of its products and still there are open areas. New SharePoint Server 2016 is around the corner (will be fully available to customers in the second quarter in 2016.), and late January the RC (Release Candidate) was launched. Since this version is quite mature, we can confidently tell what to expect of SharePoint Server 2016, what features appear and which of them are abandoned.
First of all, it is worth noting that SharePoint is 15 this year, and if you don’t remember, it was originally released in 2001, and now the 6th version is coming, not accounting for cloud products.
What is being promised? MS says about the new level of quality and stability, which previous product versions are lack of. It can become true due to all features have been tested in the cloud and then the code has been used in the On-Premises 2016 version.
Lately, there has been a talk that SharePoint is dying, SharePoint is not the same, everybody goes to the cloud, and it’s time to look for a new job. Microsoft tried to calm people down by publishing the following statistics: there are 160 million of active users worldwide and a huge monthly growth. Meanwhile only 40% of users are in the cloud, and given that companies are buying cloud and using on-premises version, the figures can be even less. So, hopefully the on-premises version of the product will be developing.
The minimum requirements have not changed, but you have to understand that these are minimum requirements, which are far from the real ones when using the product:
- RAM – 12-16 GB
- CPU – 4 Core
- Disk – 80 Gb
As a platform, the following may be used:
- Windows Server 2012 R2
- Windows Server 2016
- SQL Server 2014 SP1
- SQL Server 2016
Only SQL Server 2016 suits to use all business analytics features, otherwise the following things won’t be available:
- Power Pivot Gallery
- Scheduled Data Refresh
- BISM Link Support
- Power Pivot Management Dashboard
- Power View Subscriptions и Report Alerting
- Power View Reports
Among the most enjoyable features, there are no restrictions on the maximum file size, but it is not recommended to use files over 10 GB. These files are stored without using RBS, and new download mechanism promises higher speed than in 2010 version when downloading large files. Naturally, with this file size several terabytes content databases are becoming commonplace.
SharePoint Server 2016 has a new farm architecture. Let’s remember the earlier classic scheme of a farm in SharePoint Server 2013:
- Two server roles WFE and Application
- In the farm consisting of the group of servers, the clients connected to one of the WFEs
- WFEs worked as common web-servers with almost no services
- All service applications ran on the Application servers
- A client requested a service from WFE
- If a service ran on several Application servers, WFE balanced between them
- Application returned data to WFE, and WFE returned it to the client
- A lot of excessive traffic was generated between the servers
In SharePoint Server 2013, an alternative variant of streamlined topology was offered. The major difference was that a part of services ran on WFE, namely, the services, which didn’t generate much load and didn’t require much time. All services generating higher load for long periods of time were transferred to the Application servers called Batch Processing. Also, there could be servers with Distributed Cache service, search service or Project Server. But this didn’t help to eliminate interserver wandering, when a client connected to one WFE, queried a service and even if the service was on this WFE, the query was sent to other WFE servers.
As I have already told, SharePoint Server 2016 has a new farm architecture called MinRole. It includes five roles:
- Front-End is a web server bearing a number of services:
- Access Services
- Business Data Connectivity
- Central Administration
- Managed Metadata
- SharePoint Foundation Web Application
- Secure Store Service State
- Subscription Settings
- User Code
- User Profile
- Visio Graphics
- Application – application server for services focused on high load:
- Crawl Target
- Machine Translation
- PowerPoint Conversion
- User Profile Synchronization
- Word Automation
- Work Management
- Workflow Timer Service
- Distributed Cache – this service has migrated from SharePoint Server 2013.
- Custom is a server, on which you can install any set of the existing services.
- Search – dedicated server for the search service.
In a large company, it can be really heavy with fourteen servers, like it is shown above, but this topology is very cool.
Here are key MinRole differences from what it was earlier:
- Services are clearly assigned to the roles, so you won’t be able to start a service on another role.
- Now queries are processed on that Front-End server, to which the clients have connected.
- Services start automatically after creating a service application and stop automatically after deleting the service application.
- If you add a second server with some role to the farm, the services will automatically start on it.
- To arrange a MinRole farm, you need at least 4 servers.
- You won’t be able to create a service application if you don’t have 4 servers.
- You always have a Custom alternative, with no need to stick to the MinRole scheme.
- Instead of Office Web App, there is Office Online Server.
A variant of topology ignoring MinRole looks like this:
It means that only Custom servers are added and configured according to your own scheme where roles and services are distributed as necessary.
MinRole topology without high availability consists of five servers, including SQL database server.
By the way, there still is a single-server topology, but now it always uses a separate database server, and the variant with local SQL Express is no longer supported. As we have considered the architecture, let’s proceed to the features, which also have a number of changes.
MS has removed the FIM service integrated into SharePoint 2013. As far as I can see, the reasons are as follows:
- They were tired of fixing bugs in FIM 2010 code (SharePoint 2013)
- FIM 2010 doesn’t work on Windows Server 2016
- It was hard to configure.
- The audiences for different domains did not work.
- A local administrator as a service account was stressful during configuration.
So you’ll be using either Active Directory Import limited to a single forest, non-customizable and working one way only, or a separate Forefront Identity Manage server with a very time-consuming configuration, since this product is really complicated.
From the sad to the good news — a new feature, Durable Links, allows to avoid dead links if you move or rename a file, and you’ll be able to use the old link to access the document. It works only for Office files and PDFs if there is Office Online Server.
I don’t know who expected it, but in 2016 version there is a way to create website collections faster with a preconfigured template.
SharePoint and Project merging has been expected for a long time, and now it has become real. Project Server is a common service application in SharePoint Server 2016, which has to result in easy deployment and updating.
The following changes also took place:
- DLP has been added — confidential data leak prevention.
- SMTP has been improved — now there is an opportunity to use non-standard port and TLS
- IRM has been improved
- SharePoint Recycle bin has been improved
- Improved rendering on mobile devices
SharePoint Foundation 2013 has unfortunately been removed. This product doesn’t exist any more. It is very interesting what the companies that have developed a lot of solutions for it will do now. Microsoft is a very reliable partner as usual.
This item will cause a lot of swearing, since they removed Excel Services. Some of its features has migrated to Office Online Server, and others have just been removed.
No new versions of InfoPath Designer и SharePoint Designer have been released, the old versions will run on the new SharePoint. InfoPath has also been buried, and it is recommended to move to Nintex, AgilePoint, K2 and Formotus.
The transfer to the 2016 version is promised to be easy, the procedure of database transfer has been left the same, but as a bonus it has been announced that the migration from 2010 version to 2016 won’t be available, and the 2013 version will be necessary to do it.
Promise that SharePoint 2016 farm will be updated with no downtime, since there haven’t been any updates yet, like RTM, and we can only believe that it will take place.
There is a number of changes in hybrid scenarios:
- SharePoint hybrid configuration wizard
- Hybrid team site
- Profile Redirection
- Extensible App Launcher
- Cloud Search
So, it seems that there are a lot of changes and the most part of them is “removed”. After getting started with the new version, there has been a mixed impression without anything positive and no trust in the better tomorrow of SharePoint.