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Some Service Packs have long and useful futures. Some just crawl away under the IT bed and expire.

AvePoint’s new DocAve 6 Service Pack (SP) 5 falls into the former category. Given the fact that it provides an enterprise-class infrastructure management platform for SharePoint 2016, it seems assured of a long life.

Though how it will work with SharePoint 2016 is not completely clear given the holes in what we know about this pending product, John Peluso,  vice president of Product Management at AvePoint, told us there is enough information to know that DocAve 6 Service Pack  5 can manage hybrid deployments for the new SharePoint platform, too.

DocAve enables centralized or delegated management of SharePoint farms hosted on-premises or in private and public clouds, such as Office 365 and Microsoft Azure. With SP 5, AvePoint has enhanced its ability to do this taking into account the realities of SharePoint hybrid computing as it is likely to manifest itself in the future.

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In a blog post about the SP 5 release, Peluso pointed out that SharePoint use has developed from a super file-share application or document repository into a more business-process focused platform that acts as the center of internal and even external collaboration across the organization.

Some of these journeys have been faster than others, but as we look forward to the rest of 2015 and the state of the collaboration market, this evolution in the way organizations will leverage their investments in a platform like SharePoint is poised to accelerate significantly,” he wrote.

There are three things driving this:

  • Cost Savings: Folding the content and applications from legacy collaboration systems into SharePoint can offer significant savings, as license and maintenance fees are eliminated
  • Platform Maturity: More organizations are depending on SharePoint for their Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and records management needs
  • Enterprise Features: With Office 365, Microsoft is offering enterprise features to everyone like Information Rights Management as well as Delve and the Office Graph

These features were once out of the range of all but the big enterprises. But now, with small business plans for Office 365, everyone can get their hands on them.

As speculation and anticipation about the upcoming 2016 release grows, we asked Peluso what was behind the SP 5 release and how it fits into the SharePoint 2016 picture.

Predicting SharePoint 2016

What do we know about SharePoint 2016? In a recent blog post, Julia White, Microsoft General Manager for Office Product Management, outlined a few things. We looked at this in some detail recently, but we wanted to know what Peluso thought of it. He explained: 

We have anticipated a lot of the directions she is talking about in the next version of SharePoint, which they are calling 2016. One of the directions is with Office 365 and bringing a lot of the features in Office 365 down from the cloud. It will be interesting to see how they handle features from other parts of the service, to see what they do with features that are dependent on other parts of the service and how they handle that with other on-premises servers like Exchange."

From a big picture perspective it’s pretty clear that the focus will be in hybrid, ECM and information security, which appear to be core areas Microsoft is focusing on, he added.

He said the tone of the blog appears different from Microsoft’s statements about SharePoint or Office 365 in the past. An acceptance, he noted, that at least for the medium term SharePoint deployments are going to be hybrid.

The tone of this blog is very much ‘we understand that our SharePoint customers will be hybrid for the foreseeable future’. I don’t know if it’s a different message, but it certainly feels like it. Let’s look at what their game plan has to be. They are competition with cloud only vendors like Google, Box or Dropbox. They have to have rich web services to compete there, but I think they also recognize that their legacy on-premises business is pretty competitive too. On top of this, fact that they can enable very flexible hybrid scenarios is a real competitive win for enterprise customers."

He also thinks that the way Microsoft is approaching hybrid here is different, too:

We classically think of hybrid in terms of ‘I have a SharePoint farm on-premises and a SharePoint presence in Office 365’. But it seems to me when I look at that blog post that the lines between what is on-premises and what is in the cloud is starting to blur a little bit."

Microsoft has not indicated what it is going to do in the future, including whether it will move away from on-premises entirely.

I heard one Microsoft guy say, for example, that when we said we would release SharePoint 2007 we never said that there would be a 2013 version. The same holds for the 2013 versions. They are being careful about their messaging. With this release they are very much going to be where the customer base is. They are not going to abandon a very large customer base and force them to make a cloud choice."

DocAve 6 SP 5

Using whatever flags were flying in the wind and what little information Microsoft dribbled down to partners, AvePoint developed DocAve 6 SP 5 under the assumption SharePoint 2016 will focus on hybrid support, ECM management and lifecycle management. Along with the existing features in DocAve 6, SP 5 adds two really big components that were previously only available in the on-premises products, notably Archiver and Deployment Manager.

1. DocAve Archiver

DocAve Archiver offers customized records management solutions for both on-premises and SharePoint Online deployments. This includes new features to retain a document’s original content types and metadata properties upon moving to Record Center sites as well as the ability for administrators to set automated conflict resolution rules when archiving content.

The complementary Archiver Approval Center allows administrators to generate reports that empower end-users to review content before archiving takes place, allowing those closest to the content to determine whether or not it should be archived.

2. Deployment Manager

Deployment Manager allows for effective management and automation of release operations to promote content, customizations, and design elements throughout SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint 2010 on-premises as well as SharePoint Online.

This is vital to a successful deployment. Without proper planning or control, errors or changes during the staging process could result in poor application reliability, increased time-to-value, and project delays.

Deployment Manager now supports Office 365 as well as hybrid infrastructures, enabling organizations to quickly deploy customizations and design elements such as apps between SharePoint 2013 on-premises and SharePoint Online environments.

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Deployment Manager

The Start

But this is only the start for what is an extremely comprehensive service pack that providers organizations with new end-user, governance and compliance reporting capabilities, content archiving and deployment management support for Microsoft Office 365 and hybrid environments, as well as enhanced data protection for virtual machine backups.

Like earlier releases, this comes with standard DocAve functionality that enables centralized or delegated management of SharePoint farms hosted on premises, or in private and public like Office 365 or Azure.

With SharePoint 2016 on the way, this is a substantial and important release with all kinds of interesting elements for SharePoint users. AvePoint has produced a set of blogs to outline the functionality in greater detail, with updated releases to tweak SP 5 once the 2016 version becomes available.

In the meantime, Microsoft will undoubtedly drip-feed information about the new edition, as it did with SharePoint 2013, until it finally unveils it sometime later this year.