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PHOTO: Brenna via a CC BY 2.0 license

Here is a story of Microsoft’s journey to the hybrid cloud, specifically as it pertains to SharePoint. 

We'll touch on the origins of cloud computing, the demand for hybrid computing solutions, key SharePoint features of today, and I’ll conclude with some predictions about the future of SharePoint Hybrid.    

The Origins of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing’s story started in the 1960s. 

Around the same time Stanley Kubrick was dreaming up the HAL 9000 (I’m sorry Dave), J.C.R. Licklider was bringing his dream of the “Intergalactic Computer Network” to fruition with ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency). 

ARPANET would go on to become the foundation for the internet as we know it today. At that time, computing was limited to enterprises relying on mainframes for bulk data processing. Ironically, many of the fundamental principles of mainframe computing are still in use with cloud computing.    

Fast forward to the late 1990s when Marc Benioff started delivering enterprise-level applications over the internet with Salesforce. Shortly thereafter, many of the big cloud players we know today entered the picture. 

Amazon Web Services launched its first platform in 2002, and in 2009 Google released Google Apps, a suite of browser-based office applications which sought to antiquate Microsoft’s desktop-based office applications. Microsoft, in response to Google Apps, launched its Business Productivity Office Suite (BPOS), which simply migrated desktop applications to the cloud.  

Today, cloud services are rampant, and cloud migrations seem a mere formality. It’s no longer a matter of if one should move to the cloud, but when and how.  

Rising Demand for the Hybrid Cloud

In the early 2010s, few technologists were disputing the operational benefits of cloud computing. However, cloud migrations presented certain technical constraints around security, compliance and availability. 

As a result of those constraints, the need for a sort of computing bridge was realized. The manifestation of that bridge was the hybrid cloud, a combination of traditional data centers and cloud solutions. 

These hybrid solutions allowed organizations to leverage many operational benefits of the cloud while maintaining security, compliance and stability. In short, hybrid solutions let organizations embrace the cloud at their own pace.  

How Hybrid SharePoint Came to Be

Microsoft’s first iteration of SharePoint was released in 2001, as the spiritual successor to Site Server. SharePoint’s initial function was to provide organizations with the tools they need to enhance productivity. 

Over the years, the once bug-riddled SharePoint grew into the content management system we’re now familiar with. 

As SharePoint matured, cloud computing stormed onto the scene and changed everything. Businesses quickly realized the benefits of the cloud, and the demand for cloud services soared as a result. 

Ever opportunistic, Microsoft released Office 365 to answer that demand. SharePoint was late to join the cloud party due to the previously mentioned constraints, but IT departments were still intrigued by applying the benefits of the cloud to internal content management. Hybrid SharePoint emerged to balance the compliance and security needs, with the operational benefits of cloud.  

Hybrid SharePoint Today

Today, organizations are empowered to exercise end-to-end control of their SharePoint deployment. 

  • Want to go completely cloud? Go ahead
  • Want to remain entirely on-premises? Your call
  • Want a customized hybrid solution? Go for it 

Hybrid SharePoint’s features are robust and practical, so much so that the average user is unable to tell what sort of computing infrastructure is responsible for serving up the content they need. Previously, instances of SharePoint Online would have to operate almost independently of SharePoint on-premises. 

That’s no longer the case with Microsoft’s focus on Hybrid unification. Check out these three new features:

  1. Unified search: IT administrators have long dealt with the headache of disparate search results pages. Searching SharePoint Online would return different results compared to searching SharePoint on-premises. Now, regardless of where content is hosted, it’s indexable and searchable   
  2. Unified taxonomy: Allows administrators to easily create shared taxonomies between on-premises SharePoint and SharePoint Online 
  3. Unified auditing: Administrators can now analyze detailed logs of file activity across site collections, and Office 365

Hybrid SharePoint Tomorrow

So what can we expect from SharePoint Hybrid computing in the future? At Ignite, Microsoft talked about the future in broad strokes but didn’t reveal specifics. 

With that being said, I would predict:

  1. Point and click cloud migration: Doesn’t it just feel as though you should be able to click on an on-premises hosted site, and migrate it to a cloud location?  Microsoft, if you are listening, this should be a standard feature of SharePoint: “one-click site move to the cloud.”
  2. Updated UX: Some days SharePoint just plain stinks. The user experience feels outdated, and accessing content requires too many clicks. Microsoft is bringing modern experience to the cloud and soon to follow on-premises.

What do you think the future has in store for SharePoint Hybrid? Let me know in the comments below.