Two decades ago, much of our transactional data was transmitted via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) through very expensive Value Added Networks (VANs). But with telecom and e-commerce advances, the development of XML and SOAP protocols and standards, the dramatic decline in the costs of hardware, and the move toward web services and virtualized environments, enterprises and service providers alike are trying to figure out their path forward in the cloud.
The cloud is the evolution of software and collaboration — it’s something companies need to be thinking about, or they will get left behind.
Within Microsoft’s ecosystem, what is driving much of this dramatic shift toward the cloud is Microsoft itself, rather than their customer base. With competitors like Google driving a new breed of products and services geared toward the cloud and away from the traditional operating system model, Microsoft has scrambled in the past few years to outline their own cloud strategy — whether or not their vast customer base is ready for it.
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At the forefront of Microsoft’s push toward the cloud is the latest release of SharePoint, which was designed with the cloud in mind. During his keynote at SPTechCon San Francisco in February 2012, Jared Spataro, Director of SharePoint Product Marketing at Microsoft, announced that SharePoint 2013 is being developed using a “Cloud First” strategy.
This means that Office 365 customers (which utilizes SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync functionality) can expect to have access to the benefits of new features sooner than on-premises deployments. In fact, some features developed for SharePoint Online may never reach the on-premises platform.
How is the cloud impacting the SharePoint roadmap, you ask? There are five overarching themes within SharePoint 2013:
Web Content Management (WCM)
SharePoint 2013 was designed for the internet and built for the mobile experience with everything from clean URLs, improved video and embedding capability and search engine optimization enhancements. But Microsoft has also added the advanced capability of building image renditions, variations and a design manager that allows users to build constructs around various device channels, creating unique user experiences for mobile and tablet devices, extending their publishing choices.
Rather than add a few new features to the My Sites model, Microsoft makes social central to the user experience in SharePoint 2013, with activity streams central to their personalization model. You now have the ability to follow documents, people, sites, tags and activities, easily share and follow content and people, making content more findable and social.
Because social is just another layer of the search experience, the social activities help end users to better apply metadata, making the overall system more searchable, findable and usable.
While Microsoft has further enriched the Office web applications, this advancement has more to do with building a consistent user experience across the various Office brands, of which SharePoint is a member. The most noticeable feature is the ability to drag and drop content from the desktop into SharePoint and vice versa.
When SharePoint was moved under the Office family, it was given the directive to make the user experience more consistent with the rest of the Office family. And they’ve done a great job at this, dramatically improving SharePoint’s usability, improving notifications and integrating with Office apps and Exchange.
With FAST Search now integrated into the primary SharePoint SKU, and a number of information worker usability features, such as hover panels, searching by metadata and improved analytics, the real power is in SharePoint’s ability to aggregate content wherever content is crawled, and is not limited by content database location as with older versions.
Many of the strongest personalization features in SharePoint 2013 are enabled by the new search, such as My Tasks, with the ability to get very granular and customized with your search results so that you display exactly the content you want to make visible.