For the past couple of years, we IT pros really haven't known what our place in the world was going to be with SharePoint. But I feel like in the past couple of months I've seen the future.

At least for me, as an IT pro, part of that future is identity. So you're going to be hearing a lot more about that from me. But also the reason you're going to be hearing about a lot of that is because next month — August — we're going to get our first public beta of SharePoint 2016.

Now Microsoft told us at the Ignite conference in Chicago in May that they were going to give us the beta in the fourth quarter. So it looks like they lied to us because Microsoft announced last week at the Worldwide Partner Conference that the SharePoint 2016 beta will be released publicly in August. And that's the third quarter.

Gentlepeople, Start Your Engines

So this is pretty cool. Get out there, get your virtual machines (VMs) warmed up. You're going to need a domain controller. You're going to need a SQL box, and it's gotta be in the new version of SQL 20-whatever. Get that warmed up.

You're going to need two or three VMs. Get them ready, get them warmed up. Give them some RAM. Give them some storage.

I don't think Microsoft has released a date yet but August starts on Saturday, so it could be as early as Saturday. It won't be. It will probably be the middle of the month or something like that. So that's super exciting.

Now, before you get too excited, I don't think this means the RTM (release to manufacturing) version of SharePoint 2016 is any closer than we ever thought it was.

They told us at Ignite that there would be a public beta in the fourth quarter of this year and they edged that up a little bit. Then they said the RTM would be the first half of next year, and I think that's probably still where they're going with that, so don't get too excited.

But the beta release means that what they've got is stable, It was finalized in April, so we're looking at a build that's a couple of months old.

That lets you know that a couple of months ago it was stable enough that you could install it and the guts are there. So that's really good.

Be Nice - It's a Beta

Now, it's still a beta, and Microsoft has been super up front with betas the last couple of years. The Windows 10 beta, all kinds of great stuff like that.

So don't get too wrapped up about what it does or doesn't do or what's broken. It's not complete, it has a bunch of rough edges and it's not feature complete.

There's a bunch of things that SharePoint 2016 RTM will ultimately do that you'll get no hint about in this beta.

Now Microsoft did talk about a few infrastructure advancements that will be in there, like MinRole.

MinRole is this thing that's new to SharePoint 2016 where you can give a server a specific role when you install it and add it to the farm. You can say, "This will be a web server, this will be a job server, this will be a search server, whatever."

And SharePoint will make sure that all of those services that are needed for whatever role you give it are present and running on that box. If something happens and those servers fail or crash or whatever, if SharePoint knows what role that box is supposed to have, it will make sure all those roles are started and will start them if they fail.

So that's really great.

Now They Understand

This is one of those things that we're getting because Microsoft is now hosting SharePoint.

For 10 years or so guys like me who were out in the field and up to our elbows in customer SharePoint farms kept telling Microsoft "You gotta fix this, you gotta fix that, this is broken, whatever."

And Microsoft didn't always listen to us, didn't always give us as much attention as it should. But now Microsoft is hosting SharePoint — a lot of SharePoint, big SharePoint. Now they're seeing some of these things and this is one of those great things that will help SharePoint Online be more stable. It will also trickle down and make your on-premises farms more stable.

Another thing that will be in this build is a larger file upload. Those of you who have been using SharePoint since forever know the file upload has always been capped out at 2 gigabytes.

Now, as a SharePoint guy, I always told people that SharePoint is strongest when it comes to collaboration and things like that. And I stand by that. That's SharePoint's bread and butter.

But there does come a time when you want to upload larger files into SharePoint — things like super high res images are a good example. And the 2GB limit in this day and age is starting to feel a little dated.

The SharePoint 2016 beta will have an expanded file upload limit of 10 gigabytes. Now, I have to tell you, it's like the old Chris Rock thing, “Just because you can teach a bear to dance doesn't mean it's a good idea.” The same goes for this.

Just because you can upload 10GB files into SharePoint doesn't mean it's a good idea. There are still a lot of things— browser experience and network latency and all kinds of stuff — that can make that a bad experience.

So, if you need something like that, now you have the opportunity. But don't open it up just because you can, just because it's there. That's a bad idea.

The Cloud Sees Everywhere

Another thing that will be in this preview beta is the cloud search service application, and this is really awesome technology.

When I first saw this I was like no way! I was just blown away by this. This is the ability for you to have content that is on-premises — content being crawled by an on-premises search service app — but your search index gets pushed up to your office 365 index so that all of your search results can be found in either place because the indexes can talk to each other.

Now, this is pretty cool, and I know what you're thinking. You're like man, there are a ton of times that I could use this with SharePoint 2013. I wish it would show up in SharePoint 2013. It's supposed to, it's going to.

Next month we're all supposed to get that same deal. So apparently the August 2015 cumulative update for SharePoint 2013 will also include this functionality. This is another reason why I've been saying that hybrid is becoming a thing and identity is becoming a thing.

All of those things have to be in place before you can use something cool like this cloud search service application. I'm pretty excited about it. This is cool stuff.

Enough Gushing About SharePoint

Ok, we have more for you in Podcast 255. So if you're tired of reading, watch the podcast or listen on iTunes. The time stamps will link to the location of the content.

  • 19:15 — Those guys at Microsoft have been busy. Windows 10 is out
  • 32:44 — And now for a less happy topic: I switched to Android

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  Title image by Moyan_Brenn.