Microsoft Office 365 has proven to be a major disruption of how companies use SharePoint to meet business requirements. Rumors, fear, uncertainty and doubt proliferate around Microsoft's plans for SharePoint’s future releases, as well as the support of critical features and functionality companies rely on. Investments in SharePoint deployments have been massive throughout the pre-Office-365 years, and SharePoint continues to push its way into Tier 1 line-of-business application territory.
So, taking into account Office 365, the question is: How will companies be using SharePoint over the next 10 years?
Office 365 will still be a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering 10 years from now, as it is today. But the on-premises SharePoint platform will always offer a more flexible, customizable and controllable experience for administrators and developers. Certain workloads may never be able to leave the on-premises environment.
Additionally, SaaS generally has certain inherent risks such as vendor lock-in, automatic upgrades and generic service level agreements (SLAs). There is less visibility into the roadmap for SharePoint Online. Since Microsoft controls the infrastructure and platform, drastic architectural changes can be made much more quickly than with a released on-premises version.
The concern here is adverse effects on existing business processes and user adoption. With generic SLAs, there is no way to provide additional protection for more critical content using Office 365 alone. Any of these concerns could keep a company on-premises for a very long time.
Microsoft has announced a new release of SharePoint on-premises scheduled for early 2016. In a recent report, Gartner predicted that Microsoft may not offer new versions of on-premises SharePoint after 2019, but extended support will continue for 10 years after. Considering the number of companies still using SharePoint 2007 and 2010, there will still be a large market of customers hosting their own SharePoint over the next decade.
All-In Office 365
Based on the development activity and rapid release schedule we’ve already seen with Office 365, we can only begin to imagine what it will look like in 10 years. It will undoubtedly have the most exciting features, integrations and innovation. We can also expect other disruptive technologies in that time, even if we don't know what they will be.
As the product matures to meet more complex requirements, we will see additional enterprise customers moving to Office 365. We have already seen customers in industries that you might think would be apprehensive -- such as healthcare and public sector -- becoming eager to move parts of their infrastructures into the cloud. There is no doubt that this trend will continue.
There is a handshake between you and your cloud provider in the form of a contract that says it’s going to abide by terms laid out for how data will be protected. As Office 365 is tested over the next 10 years, the IT community will become more comfortable with the response and support Microsoft provides to its SaaS customers.
According to the AIIM 2015 Report, “Connecting & Optimizing SharePoint,” (registration required) hybrid deployments that combine Office 365 with on-premises SharePoint are the most popular choice today and will continue to be for the next 10 years.
SharePoint Online will continue to make it easier to migrate workloads to the cloud -- giving customers the best of both worlds. We have already seen seamless hybrid integration between the My Sites of on-premises SharePoint and OneDrive for Business on Office 365, and Microsoft is continually opening up new ways to move content to the cloud faster.
It will be up to each company to determine which workloads belong in the cloud and which should stay on-premises. The promise of the potential savings and simplicity offered by the cloud must be balanced by the added administrative complexity of maintaining multiple environments with different authentication trusts.
Microsoft acknowledges that it is rarely going to be an all-or-nothing situation when it comes to the cloud and on-premises SharePoint, so we have to get comfortable with the concept of a hybrid architecture. Over the next 10 years, we will see better integration with on-premises data stores, improved navigation for a seamless end-user experience, and more centralized management capabilities for all environments.
It is stating the obvious to point out that much of enterprise software IT is moving to the cloud, and in the next 10 years we will see companies continuing to integrate Office 365 into their architectures. Growing reliance on the Microsoft stack – including SharePoint, Office, Exchange and Yammer – makes Office 365 an increasingly attractive option with its promise of integration, cost savings and simplicity.
However, as we have seen, it will ultimately be the requirements of the business that will drive adoption. This means that SharePoint’s future as an on-premises, hybrid and all-in Office 365 solution is secure for at least the next 10 years.