Wednesday 19 March 2014

An implementer’s summary of the SharePoint Conference 2014

Quite a few SharePoint community folks have already published their round-up posts on the recent SharePoint Conference 2014 held in Las Vegas. I’ll SPC keynote smaller point to some good ones at the end of this article, but regardless of other posts I wanted to go ahead and publish mine because:

  • I notice I have some different items compared to other people – obviously everyone has their view of what is important to them :)
  • I think some colleagues and others in circles near me have similar views and focus areas, and might find my interpretation useful

I break my thoughts down into two sections – The Big Things, and a Dev-Focused Summary. If you feel you already understand The Big Things from SPC2014, you might want to skip ahead to my dev-focused summary:

The Big Things

  • There will be at least one more on-premises version of SharePoint, but it’s unclear how many more after that (I sense Microsoft may take a “wait and see” approach). The next version will be “SharePoint 2015” (or at least it will be released in 2015).
  • Some big changes to Office 365 which will open doors for many clients/scenarios:
  • Go Yammer!
    • The social capabilities in SharePoint 2013 will NOT be developed further
    • However in Yammer, there’s a lot of integration in the pipeline – this will mainly be on the Office 365 side until the SP2015 release though. Includes things like:
      • Groups - create a group, and automatically get a site/inbox/OneDrive library for docs etc.
      • Conversations around documents (i.e. comments displayed next to document) – in Office Online (new name for Office Web Apps), rather than Office clients on your desktop however
      • Integrated profile/identity (no longer separate Yammer and SharePoint profiles) – this will unlock other scenarios going forward
  • Forms - InfoPath is deprecated (although supported until 2023)
    • Microsoft will move away from a “one size fits all” approach to forms, and several options (some available now) will be recommended – Excel Surveys, list forms (to be enhanced), a Word-based option for “structured documents”, and “App Forms” (Access-based)
    • Microsoft are listening at
    • Nik Patel has a great write-up here
  • The Office Graph, and Oslo app
    • This is a big new concept, about users finding content that matters to them. The Office Graph is the framework/API, and Oslo is the codename for a new app which presents this stuff. The Office Graph  “uses signals from email, social conversations, documents, sites, instant messages, meetings, and more to map the relationships between the people and things that make your business go”
    • There are lots of views such as “Shared with me”, “Modified by me”, “Presented to me” etc. – things that really make it easier for me to find “that file I was looking at last week”. The sentence that brought it home for me was “The Office Graph knows which meetings you’re in, when someone is presenting, and where the presentation is stored. Oslo just connects the dots to show what’s been presented to you.”
    • See Introducing codename Oslo and the Office Graph for more details
  • SharePoint 2013 Service Pack 1 smoothes some hybrid scenarios:
    • This goes some way to helping out with a couple of the issues I listed in Office 365/SharePoint hybrid – what you DO and DO NOT get, mainly by providing an OOTB way to swap out some links in the top navigation bar (aka “the suite bar”) displayed in your on-premises sites. Specifically: clip_image001
      • Replace "Newsfeed" with "Yammer" (if you have selected Yammer as the social option)
      • Replace link to “Sites” page – here, an admin can provide the URL to the “Sites” page in Office 365. This facilitates having ONE Sites page (in the cloud) across SharePoint Online and SharePoint on-premises – this has two benefits as far as I can see:
        • Users have one place to go to for their saved navigation links (sites/documents), rather than a very confusing situation of having them split across two Sites pages. (BUT, I’m fairly sure that “following a document” in an on-premises site does NOT magically save it to the O365 Sites page – so you may still prefer a custom approach)
        • The “Start a site..” link only exists in the cloud, so new site collections get created there
      • Replace "Skydrive Pro/OneDrive For Business" link with link to OneDrive in cloud

My dev-focused summary

  • Full-trust code (farm solutions) will continue in “SharePoint 2015”
  • New Office 365 APIs NOTE: Microsoft are starting to move away from SharePoint/Exchange/whatever-specific APIs, and more towards general “Office 365 APIs”
    • People/Contacts
    • Files (OneDrive API)
    • Mail
    • Calendar
    • [Apps which need to call into the above endpoints get registered with Windows Azure Active Directory, and use the Common Consent Framework to access Office 365 data]
  • That said, there are also new SharePoint client APIs (also usable in on-premises SharePoint with SP1/updated Client Redistributable)
    • CSOM API for creating site collections (finally!)
    • CSOM API for creating a content type with a specified ID (finally!)
    • Also being able to set things like AlternateCSSUrl, SiteLogoUrl for a site
    • Also a new SDK for creating Office 365 apps on Android. Apparently this is big news (lots of hoohaa at the conference) – no idea why, but it IS refreshing that Microsoft now talk about executives with iPads and the popularity of Android..
  • There are new JS/HTML-based controls for use in provider-hosted apps
    • The first controls available are ListView and People Picker (e.g. show a SharePoint list, with sorting/filtering etc. in your plain ASP.NET page in your app)
    • These are badged as Office.Widgets.Experimental for now
  • Auto-hosted apps are (likely to be) deprecated baby! (Microsoft have some challenges around making this production-scale ready, in terms of scalability/backup/DR etc. The long-term prognosis is being reviewed, but the recommendation is to use auto-hosted for prototyping only)    UPDATE: looks like this isn't the case (although several MSFT speakers mentioned it at SPC14) - Brian Jones (MSFT PM) chimed in on Twitter, and he's the guy who would know
    • [For me, this is a good validation of what I said in July 2013 about auto-hosted apps and why they should be avoided (in the “What about building my app/RER as an auto-hosted app?” section of this article)]  UPDATE - I guess we reserve judgement on this one for now!
  • There are GREAT new dev samples on many real-life cloud development scenarios
    • I highly recommend checking these out – see Office App Model Samples
    • Scenarios include:
      • Branding personal sites
      • Provisioning Yammer groups as part of site collection provisioning
      • Setting a theme on the host web
      • And LOTS of others
  • Some misc stuff:
    • JSON light support in Office 365 APIs
    • New apps in Excel
      • People Graph
      • Bing maps
    • New mail app in Office 365/mail
      • DocuSign!
    • New “file extension handler” - can register an app for opening/previewing files by document extension
      • e.g. CAD viewer in preview pane for CAD files
      • I think this is similar to a CustomAction – i.e. there is new Feature XML for this
  • Other news I found relevant:
    • No Microsoft solution is planned around sync’ing custom data to SharePoint Online user profiles right now
      • Microsoft do not have anything in the pipeline to facilitate sync’ing custom directory data to the user profile in SharePoint Online (a commonly-requested thing). I asked at the post-conference session on hybrid, led by Bill Baer and Steve Peschka. So, the workarounds using the old user profile ASMX web service continues to be needed if you have to do something here.
    • Microsoft plan to improve the “in SharePoint hybrid, search results are displayed in separate blocks (for on-premises and Office 365 sites)” experience (shown in my post here)
      • This was mentioned in Bill Baer’s IT Pro keynote – some sort of “remote index” solution is planned

Summary and more info

I am sure there’s lots of other stuff too, but those were probably the most relevant things for me. Some other recommended posts are:

1 comment:

Unknown said...

"CSOM API for creating site collections (finally!)"

ZOMG! how???