The upgrade is dead! Long live the upgrade! In his day two keynote, titled Microsoft SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 Upgrade and Migration: Strategy and Tactics, SharePoint MVP Dan Holme addressed the most pressing question organizations face when new major software is released: To upgrade or not to upgrade? Lucky for us, according to Dan, there is only one option: Migrate.
To illustrate his point, Dan took us on a quick journey through technology and Microsoft’s product life cycles. In 2006, Microsoft started building SharePoint 2010. As Dan pointed out, the world was a very different place. Facebook was unheard of, iPhones didn’t exist, and people interacted in fundamentally different ways. “SharePoint 2010 is so 2006” according to Dan, which is to say that SharePoint 2010 is passé, On the other hand, “SharePoint 2013 is designed to work in the world we live in NOW,” not the world we were living in when Microsoft started building it. If all this makes it seem like we need to be on SharePoint 2013, it’s because we do. The only catch? What we all are used to as an upgrade is not the way things work anymore. Look at Office 365 or Adobe Creative Cloud, there is no such thing as an “upgrade,” but rather, only updates. We are so constantly fed fixes and new features on a rolling basis that gone are the days (or at the very least, well-numbered) of big version upgrades.
So then what do we do? Dan’s core message: We keep moving forward. Microsoft is fully embracing this idea, as exemplified by how SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 function. SharePoint 2013 allows it to be run alongside SharePoint 2010. You can have a hybrid farm all the way down to the core 14 hives. It’s included in 2013 along with the new stuff in the 15 hive. This allows organizations to have what Dan explained as “tech portfolios.” These are set-ups that vary in complexity that run both SharePoint 2013 and 2010, as well as physical and virtual servers. The level of complexity will depend on your organization, but the ultimate set-up today includes all four of these elements.
This makes the migration (Microsoft calls it an upgrade) to SharePoint 2013 much easier. Basically, if you are running 2010 currently, you can set up a parallel 2013 farm and run whichever is more beneficial to what you are doing. In addition, you can deploy all your current 2010 site collections on 2013 – without the end-user seeing a difference or even knowing. You even have the ability to create 2010 site collections, workflows, and more in 2013. Over time, everything your organization is doing will end up in 2013, and voilà – you’re now running SharePoint 2013 exclusively. As Dan noted (and as you probably could’ve guessed), this process has a higher cost but, inevitably, the benefits and business value obtained greatly outweigh the cost.
Another casualty of this new rolling software cycle is the service pack. While it is true that Microsoft will be releasing a service pack for SharePoint 2013, it’s a little different than the service packs we’ve grown accustomed to. These releases will come with the normal bug fixes but will also include new features. Subsequent releases will provide fixes for the new features in the last release as well as more new features. See where this is going? The mentality of waiting for Service Pack 1 before adopting new software will become a thing of the past. Now, the software will constantly be new. A good example of this is that if you look in Office 365 URLs closely, you can see that they are actually already running version 16, with 15 being touted as the hot new thing.
Hopefully, it should be a lot clearer why SharePoint 2013 seems to have such a split personality. The goal with 2013 is to be able to bring in the new stuff in the background and slowly implement it as needed. In fact, a new best practice (one that Microsoft uses in-house) is to build a new farm whenever an update comes out and then migrate the content database into the new, updated farm as opposed to adding updates directly to the current active farm. So now that you have taken the plunge and migrated to SharePoint 2013, what’s next?
The next natural step according to Dan is to move on up to the cloud. Today’s market is brimming with solutions and offers a ton of options including Office 365, Windows Azure, third-party solutions, and what Dan calls the “private cloud” (essentially your standard on-prem server). Each option has its own strengths and weaknesses, but with some careful thought, there could be a very helpful solution offered in the cloud. User beware, however, as Dan cautions that moving to the cloud is definitely a journey, so be prepared for what may be a bit of a bumpy ride.
In conclusion, Dan showed us a glimpse into the future of technology and urged those in the room to rethink what IT is. It’s time to change IT from Information Technology to Innovation Technology.