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Survey Maps Landscape of SharePoint Environments

A recent survey that aims to determine the makeup of SharePoint deployments -- and the extent to which organizations plan to maintain them -- confirms what many observers have long preached: Hybrid deployments are poised to become the new normal.

The survey, which was fielded last month by graduate students at the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University and spearheaded by Microsoft MVP Christian Buckley's CollabTalk, found that nearly a third of organizations have SharePoint hybrid users. Just under half (46 percent) still have deployments that are entirely on-premises, and 22 percent use the SharePoint Online service offered via Office 365. In addition, more than half have cloud-based implementations of SharePoint yet claim they don't have plans to transition entirely to the online version.

The survey, available for download here, was sponsored by Microsoft, a number of ISVs and several media partners, including RCP sister publication Redmond magazine. Its intent was to map the SharePoint landscape as organizations move more applications and infrastructure to the cloud, and as Microsoft continues to emphasize Office 365 as the future of its collaboration strategy.  

Those with on-premises deployments plan to have hybrid solutions by 2020, according to the survey, which validates what proponents have long emphasized: Most long-term SharePoint users either already have hybrid deployments or plan to move part of its functionality to the cloud while maintaining hybrid implementations.

"While Microsoft's messaging continues to focus on cloud-first, mobile-first when it comes to product innovation, the company has realized the need to bring hybrid features and messaging more to the forefront in recent years," Buckley said in the introduction to a report based on the survey results. "Office 365 may be the future of collaboration, but Microsoft has softened their tone in regard to on-prem customers needing to move to the cloud -- not only reassuring them that on-prem will be supported as long as customers are using it, but acknowledging hybrid as a valid strategy for some organizations."

While 32 percent of organizations of all sizes claim that they have hybrid SharePoint deployments, nearly half (49 percent) have hybrid licenses, while 35 percent say they have on-premises licenses. The remaining 17 percent are for SharePoint Online.

The overall makeup of SharePoint licenses, according to the survey, shows that 63 percent are on-premises and 37 percent are online. Given the overlap and the fact that it's not unusual for Microsoft customers to have more licenses than actual usage, the report based on the survey stated: "We know that the number of SharePoint users are fewer than the number of licenses, and consequently, the percentage of licenses coming from companies using hybrid solutions will be greater than the number of users they have."

Among the 626 respondents representing 510 different organizations, the findings not surprisingly showed that mid- and large-sized enterprises are more partial to hybrid and on-premises implementations of SharePoint and less likely to move everything online. Small businesses are more likely to already have or plan to use SharePoint entirely online. More than half of those with on-premises SharePoint implementations today will have hybrid deployments by 2020.

Small business with 51 to 200 employees accounted for 16.7 percent of respondents, while 21.4 percent had 1,001 to 5,000 employees and 17.5 percent had more than 10,000. Respondents came from all over the world, with the United States making up 35 percent of the sample.

The findings underscored the overlap between licenses and users. To that point, the survey noted: "In many cases, we assume that a single user possesses a single license, which, in many cases may be true, but not in a hybrid environment, where a single user may have two licenses: SharePoint Online and on-premises SharePoint. Recognizing this might not always be true, with some on-premises users not having SharePoint Online licenses and some online users without access to the on-prem environment, because the scope of our analysis focused specifically on SharePoint, we found that respondents overwhelmingly owned or planned to acquire Office 365 e-licenses where SharePoint is included. In other words, SharePoint on-prem users were generally given appropriate online licenses."

Organizations least likely to move from SharePoint on-premises to Office 365 are those with workloads that require SQL Server Reporting Services Integrated Mode, PowerPivot for SharePoint or PerformancePoint Services, noted John White, SharePoint MVP and CTO of UnlimitedViz, an ISV that provides an analytics solution for SharePoint, Office 365 and Yammer.

"Companies that have made significant investments here cannot move these assets, making a complete move to the cloud impossible. Hybrid is the only cloud option," White stated in the report. "Combine this with the prevalence of third-party solutions (Nintex, K2, etc.) and custom solutions, and it is easy to see why some on-premises presence will be with us for quite some time."

Such issues, coupled with a vocal SharePoint community, are among the reasons Microsoft has shifted its emphasis to hybrid deployments. Speaking to that issue in the report, Jared Shockley, senior service engineer at Microsoft, said: "Migration of customizations used in on-premises installations is biggest blocker to cloud migrations of SharePoint. Many companies do not want to rethink or redevelop these solutions as that is an additional expense to the migration. There are tools and frameworks, like Cloud App Model, to accomplish this work. But they are not the same as on-prem tools and frameworks. This training for the development teams can be one of the main blockers for migrations to SharePoint Online."

While the report notes Microsoft is closing this gap, "the challenge of reducing functionality to end users is not trivial," said Ed Senez, president of UnlimitedViz. "A simple example is that SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) does not currently have a cloud solution. It would be a hard sell to tell employees that you can no longer get the reports that you need to do your job. Again, this gap is closing, but it remains an issue."

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.