What We Know about SharePoint 2016

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Many in IT and network management industries have been waiting impatiently for Microsoft’s next iteration of its SharePoint platform. While Microsoft kept mum throughout much of the development of this new generation of this platform, details regarding what you can expect when the software rolls out in Spring 2016 have begun to emerge. Not surprisingly, it looks like this generation will be chock-full of exciting features and improvements.

On-Premises Deployment

One big point of concern for many network administrators was whether SharePoint 2016 would include on-premises deployment. With the introduction of its cloud services, many believed everything pertaining to SharePoint might migrate to cloud-only deployments. Fortunately, SharePoint 2016 not only includes on-premises deployment, it is reportedly making it even better.

According to GCN, many of these improvements flow from Microsoft’s own experiments running SharePoint Online in the cloud. Microsoft used SharePoint 2013 as the foundation for its cloud service, then deployed and ran the cloud environment in much the same way that IT professionals would do in their own networks but at much larger scale. As a result, Microsoft’s personnel became intimately familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of its own system in daily use and adapted SharePoint 2016 based on those observations.

Authentication

With an increasingly hostile web environment, enhanced authentication standards are a near necessity. SharePoint 2016 will begin standardizing authentication around SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language) and OAuth. Both are open standards, and while both available in SharePoint 2013, this next iteration will see their use become more standardized.

Encrypted SMTP Connections

Another security improvement will affect SMTP service. SharePoint 2016 will use StartTLS connection encryption for encrypting emails, and the SMTP service will be able to use non-standard ports to enhance protection against probing outside attacks.

Hardware Requirements and Upgrade Path

Although some had feared the new features of SharePoint 2016 might also require improved hardware, you will be happy to know that Microsoft has announced that the hardware requirements will remain unchanged from those used with SharePoint 2013: 80 GB of disk space, a quad-core processor, and 12-16 GB RAM for a farm server, or up to 24 GB RAM for a single server.

While hardware upgrades will not be required, those running older versions of SharePoint may feel the sting of a double upgrade. The SharePoint 2016 upgrade path will only work from a previous install of SharePoint 2013. That means that if you are running SharePoint 2010 or earlier versions, you will have to upgrade to SharePoint 2013 before making the next step up to SharePoint 2016.

You may also need to update some of your software, depending on the version of Server and .NET you run on your farm. To run SharePoint 2016, you will need at least Server 2012 R2, and .NET Framework 4.5.2. Sharepoing 2016 will also run on Server 10, but it will need to use .NET Framework 4.5.6 instead of 4.5.2.

Roles and Services

SharePoint 2016 will see a big change in its handling of roles and services. As you probably know, in SharePoint 2013, the services running on a server determined whether it was a "search server" or a "distributed cache server." 2016 will add "MinRoles." MinRoles will let you specify whether your server will function as a web front-end, a search server, an application server, or a distributed cache server. Installing any of those roles pre-selects which services SharePoint will install on the servers. Any non-conforming services running on those servers that do not fit into that role will cause health monitors to report the server out of compliance.

MinRoles prohibit a server from running multiple roles. If you want your server to perform functions related to more than one role, you can use the "Special Role" setting during installation. This will allow you to pick and choose services on the server in much the same way you would in SharePoint 2013.

Improved Patching

During its experiments, Microsoft recognized that patching was overly complicated. SharePoint 2016 will provide in-place, online patch installations. That means you will be able to make patches even while the server is in use without affecting user access. You will also be able to forego the lengthy and highly redundant process of backing up your servers and affected files before installing individual update files.

Boundaries and Limits

One of the biggest improvements in SharePoint 2016 is the amount of data it can handle. Although Microsoft has not yet announced final figures, industry insiders believe that the maximum content database size will be in the 1 TB range. SharePoint 2013 only allowed for 200 GB. Content databases will also hold approximately 100,000 site collections.

Lists and libraries expand, with maximum item sizes jumping from 2,000 to 5,000. Libraries will now be able to hold large documents of up to 10 GB—up from the previous 2 GB in 2013. Searchable item indexes will also grow to a maximum of 500 million items.

Fast Site Creation

Another hotly anticipated feature of SharePoint 2016 is fast site creation. 2016 will use much more cloning of existing site collections to increase the speed of deployment and extend more default site collection template and master copy options.

New Features

The list of entirely new features in SharePoint 2016 is fairly staggering. Again, Microsoft has not yet given away all of the new tools you will see in this new generation, but there are a few that have been announced already, and they are impressive:

  • Platform Resilience: A new endpoint runs on the web servers, creating an affinity between web servers and load balancers, in order to maintain consistent connections.
  • Link Durability: Links shared to documents can still work even if the filename is changed or if it moves to a different site collection.
  • E-Discovery Compliance: There will be coordinates rules for more effective pattern matching.
  • Hybrid Search: Searching is improved with results shown from both the cloud and on-premises farms, regardless of where the search originates.
  • Hybrid Profiles: Documents will be shared between on-premises farms and the cloud using a single profile.

More News Ahead

While Microsoft continues its finalization of SharePoint 2016, it is a sure bet more features will come to light. Microsoft has already announced an early release testing program, and you will undoubtedly hear more about upcoming features when outside users finally get their hands on early releases. Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

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