Hybrid SharePoint is on the rise. Combining SharePoint Online (in Office 365) with SharePoint Server (on premises, in Azure, or in a hosted offering) is an important strategy for organizations seeking to move to the cloud and/or leverage the latest Microsoft offerings. For some workloads, such as portals and search, Hybrid SharePoint is the new reality.
BA Insight has been working with Hybrid SharePoint since its inception, and we rolled out our first product offerings around it just as SharePoint 2013 launched. We’ve just rolled out our new Hybrid strategy, which you can read about in a new section of our web site.
As we’ve worked with our customers and helped them move to the cloud, we have arrived at seven specific scenarios that are driving our strategy. We have developed solutions for these as well as some reference configurations. Three configurations cover all seven scenarios, and these are detailed on our web page. Take a look and let us know if this is clear and useful, if you have additional challenges we should work on, and any other feedback on this topic.
Microsoft is working hard to make the building blocks for Hybrid SharePoint solid. There were some major gaps when SharePoint 2013 first came out, which made it nearly impossible for people to field successful ‘split-workload’ configurations (where the same user worked on sites in SharePoint Online and also on sites in SharePoint Server). SP1 was a big improvement and made deploying federated identity practical. Some great training, documentation, and guidance came out over the summer from Microsoft, which you can reach through the Hybrid SharePoint Center on Technet. Directions on Microsoft has also come out with some fabulous analysis and recommendations (read DoM’s analysis of Hybrid SharePoint here ), and just released their Office 365 Evaluation Guide. My colleague, Joel Oleson, also wrote a nice intro to Hybrid Search in SharePoint on this very blog.
We’ve learned from our customers, though, that OOB Hybrid Search is just not enough. Our customers have found that installing and using the OOB hybrid model isn’t easy, and that the resulting user experience is inadequate. They have discovered that integrating content from outside of SharePoint using a unified index is powerful and effective, that automatically created metadata applied consistently across farms drives findability and exploration, and that creating portals with pre-built user experience components makes for responsive IT and happy users. That’s why they work with BA Insight, and that’s what motivated us to roll out a comprehensive strategy for Hybrid SharePoint.
In a nutshell, our strategy is to extend our offerings to make Hybrid SharePoint effective for IT and seamless for users. Our overarching goal is to make a seamless user experience possible through a rich index, including consistent metadata and content from enterprise and line-of-business systems, accessed with full security. Whenever possible, this is a single centralized index; where data residency or content volumes prohibit a single index, a virtual index is created across farms, and unified into a single interleaved result set. Our products connect to on-premises and cloud-based systems so they can be crawled alongside SharePoint content. All content is automatically tagged with metadata and processed for easy findability, including creation of our Smart Previews. Portals driven from this index can provide a remarkable user experience by leveraging pre-built components such as Content Assembly and Visual Refiners.
Roadmap and Cadence
BA Insight has been a close Microsoft partner for years, and we’re working very closely with Microsoft on Hybrid SharePoint. As you’ve noticed, Microsoft’s “cloud-first/cloud-only” strategy has also meant a dramatic change in the way new capabilities are announced and released. This has been both challenging and fun for us as we work to make sure that our customers have a smooth migration experience and develop new capabilities to help them get the best of both worlds – SharePoint Online and SharePoint Server.
We’ve gone further than usual in disclosing our roadmap for Hybrid SharePoint because many organizations are developing their strategies and plans now. In particular, Microsoft has announced an upcoming Cloud Connector to bring content from an on-premises farm into SharePoint Online and index it into a single centralized index in the cloud. BA Insight plans to support this when it becomes available and leverage it to provide a seamless hybrid experience for primary portals in SharePoint Online. On our web site you can read a bit more about this and also see how we help our customers work with current releases today with confidence that they can use the Cloud Connector tomorrow, in combination with BA Insight products. As Microsoft evolves Office 365 and Azure with new capabilities such as Delve, HDInsight, and Azure Search, BA Insight is continually working on extending our technology to make it easy to surface content from anywhere in remarkable portals and info apps.
Hybrid is here. It’s not easy, but it is often the best way to reap the benefits of cloud services and leverage new Microsoft capabilities. I’m quite proud of what we’ve been able to do at BA Insight, excited about our new hybrid strategy, and thrilled to see our customers succeeding with Hybrid SharePoint.
What are you seeing with Hybrid SharePoint?