On the face of it, you might think that every organization was rushing to move all of its SharePoint (and many other) workloads to the cloud, to take advantage of the much-vaunted benefits which we have all heard about. So why has Microsoft devised its “hybrid architecture”, and where is it most useful?
In the latest Collab365 Live Show, Andy Talbot and Nick Brattoli talk to Adam Levithan (Metalogix) and Jasjit Chopra (Penthara Technologies) about the progress of their commercial clients in moving to the cloud, and explore the barriers as well the benefits associated with this migration. The reality is that many organizations can migrate some of SharePoint’s functions, whilst others are still best hosted in on-premises SharePoint. Microsoft’s hybrid architecture facilitates hosting some workloads in SharePoint on-premises, and some in Office 365, whilst allowing some services, of which Search is probably the most important, to be shared.
Collab365 – Hybrid SharePoint Discussion
This article summarizes the Live Show and explains the circumstances in which Adam and Jasjit have found the hybrid model most useful, and the myriad of reasons that organizations cannot currently move all of their SharePoint workloads. Interestingly, Microsoft’s view is that peak usage of the hybrid model is not likely to be until 2020, illustrating the very real barriers that organizations face in migrating.
Most Commonly Stated Reasons to Stay On-Premises
As you might guess, the most commonly stated reason for retaining data on-premises is security. However, Adam doubts that in reality there is any more danger in the cloud, and points out that in any case, if organizations implement a hybrid model, they will have to implement the same control as if they were full in the cloud.
Closely related to security are the externally imposed regulatory and compliance requirements that many organizations are required to follow. There may be an organizational requirement to host data within national boundaries, and Microsoft’s global hosting model sometimes makes this difficult to guarantee. On the other hand, some regulatory requirements may be easier to achieve in the cloud. As an example, RMS is often needed for compliance, and in the cloud, much configuration can be avoided, as RMS is “just there for you”.
Both Jasjit and Adam work with large organizations, which host many different workloads in SharePoint. It is often the case that some workloads are more suitable for cloud hosting than others. Many organizations have significantly invested in a highly customized Intranet and quite often, this may be in an older version of SharePoint.
Line of Business Integration
Users are accustomed to fast page load speeds in their intranets, which can be hard to match with cloud-hosting. Things can get more complicated, and performance harder to achieve, if there is any line of business integration.
Moving to the Cloud
Team Sites are often pretty straightforward in their configuration and use out of the box designs. This is a scenario where an organization might decide to migrate Team Sites first, adopting the hybrid model, and leaving their Intranet (and especially any sites with line of business integration) on-premises. An additional advantage of a gradual, or partial, migration is that end users, IT professionals, and developers can all become accustomed to new ways of working over a period of time.
Jasjit also sees an opportunity for organizations to decommission some of their SharePoint customizations by migrating to the cloud and leveraging cloud-based services to deliver the workload. There is a broad range of software services that can extend and complement SharePoint online, organizations need to take a high-level architectural view, looking beyond the “SharePoint box”, and considering Azure-based services, Power Apps, Flow, PowerBI, and the even the broader range of SaaS services available beyond Microsoft’s servers. Of course, if organizations take the “brave” decision to move everything to the cloud, they will avoid the need to maintain a hybrid environment.
“Microsoft is clear: SharePoint is now a PaaS, and should be used for its sweet-spot use cases, this should mean that you no longer need heavy-weight customizations. Take your architecture to a higher level, thinking about a wide range of cloud-based services, not just SharePoint.”
In another twist, the use of old versions or of multiple versions of SharePoint can sometimes be a driver towards cloud hosting. Many organizations run multiple SharePoint versions, and support for SharePoint 2007 will soon end, so one possible strategy is to adopt a hybrid strategy, migrating those workloads that are hosted in older versions initially.
One of the main pressures discouraging organizations from using the hybrid model is complexity. From a user perspective, the integrated search is probably the most compelling advantage, however, shared services in a hybrid environment take some setting up. Adam refers to some “configuration hogs” — like the complexity of creating a cloud-based index of from multiple (on-premises) data sources in large scale multiple domain environments. And of course once these are set up, the search software needs repeated access to the source data, so the organization is going to need sophisticated firewalls to allow the essential access while preventing unwanted access.
Is It Worth Upgrading Before Moving?
Does the on-premises version of SharePoint make a difference to the hybrid decisions made? When Andy raised this question, and whether organizations “going hybrid” would do well to first upgrade to SharePoint 2016, things were reasonably unanimous. The panel saw Microsoft’s “cloud first” testing model, and the new mechanism for upgrades, as bringing a significant degree of robustness, and so, lower costs of ownership, to SharePoint 2016. So in general, they thought that most organizations should upgrade to 2016 prior to implementing a hybrid architecture.
This article is a summary of conversations that can be found in our Hybrid SharePoint Live Show.
For more on Hybrid SharePoint Cloud, have a look at our Hybrid SharePoint Ultimate Business Decision Maker’s Guide.