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Microsoft Will Put Spotlight on SharePoint at Ignite

Besides unveiling the final release versions of Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016, Microsoft says it plans to use its upcoming Ignite conference to showcase the new SharePoint Framework that was announced in May with the general availability of SharePoint 2016.

Jeff Teper, corporate vice president of Microsoft SharePoint and OneDrive for Business, revealed the Ignite plans this week during the 100th episode of the Office 365 Developer podcast (listen here). According to Teper, Microsoft's Ignite plans include the release of at least some of the SharePoint 2016 "Feature Packs" it had previously announced, as well as the revamped JavaScript-based SharePoint UI. Microsoft will also hold over 60 technical sessions centered around new and forthcoming features in SharePoint, as well as Office 365, which shares the same framework.

The 2016 Ignite conference will be Microsoft's second, and is scheduled to take place on Sept. 26 in Atlanta, Ga. Ignite was originally designed to consolidate Microsoft's older TechEd and SharePoint conferences. At over 20,000 attendees, it is now Microsoft's largest technical conference, but it targets a broad cross-section of IT executives, administrators, operations managers and developers. This year's emphasis on SharePoint is noteworthy compared to last year's Ignite, which was noticeably SharePoint-light. The lack of SharePoint-focused content at the inaugural Ignite conference gave many the impression that Microsoft was trying to downplay its flagship collaboration platform, and led to questions over Microsoft's commitment to on-premises SharePoint releases.

Perhaps in response to those criticisms, Teper, who is known as the "father of SharePoint," talked up the SharePoint agenda at Ignite in a 30-minute discussion with podcast co-hosts Richard diZerega and Andrew Coats, both Microsoft technical evangelists. ("I want to get a little hat that says, 'Make SharePoint great again,'" Coats quipped, though Teper quickly responded, "Let's stay away from either party.")

Teper outlined new features being delivered to SharePoint via Feature Packs, developer capabilities via the new PowerApps and Flow tools, a revamped modern UI, and a new SharePoint Framework, which enables the JavaScript rendering engine along with support for other modern languages.

Microsoft announced the release of the next-generation SharePoint Server in May at a "Future of SharePoint" event. Since then, Teper said Microsoft has made significant progress in meeting goals it had outlined. The company is about to hold its third "dev kitchen," a type of in-person event held by the Microsoft product teams in Redmond with MVPs.

"I think by Ignite, you'll see stuff people can use more broadly and we are really, really excited about it," Teper said in the podcast. "If you look at the performance of some of the new Pages, in the new SharePoint UI, you will see a taste of what's ahead."

The new SharePoint Framework is built with integration hooks with the Microsoft Graph and support for open source tooling that delivers client-side JavaScript rendering. This will give SharePoint a much more modern appearance that is also optimized for mobile devices. By supporting JavaScript and other popular environments such as Go and Swift, Microsoft is looking to enable developers who don't want to use C# or environments like SharePoint InfoPath to embrace the platform.

According to Teper, from an architectural perspective, the changes coming to SharePoint as an application platform are the most significant since 2003. Teper is hopeful this will draw new developers to the SharePoint ecosystem, including those in the open source community and developers building cloud-native, container-based apps. At the same time, he's optimistic that the large SharePoint community that now exists will find this equally appealing.

"I think this [new] model is really good," Teper said. "I think you'll see a simple user experience [and] we will have an extensibility model. The goal is not to have somebody have to read a 1,000-page how-to program in a SharePoint book. The goal is for any developer out there to come to SharePoint and feel welcome to the party. The .NET developers -- we're thrilled [to have] but we want to attract more [developers using other programming languages] to grow SharePoint. I think besides having a forward-looking architecture, this was a way to grow the community."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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