Finally, there is a new search service that indexes both on-premises content within SharePoint 2016 and also Office 365 or SharePoint Online content. The indexes will then be combined and users can search a single time and have results that match their search query string populated from both locations without any additional fuss.
Upgrades and migrations
As far as what the upgrade process looks like, it's decent if you've already moved to SharePoint 2013. With some attention and babysitting, you'll most likely be able to do an in-place upgrade of your deployment to SharePoint 2016 without a lot of additional work. To get this going, you'd simply attach your SharePoint 2013 database to SharePoint 2016. If you have sites on SharePoint 2013 that are still using the SharePoint 2010 experience (in the industry these are known as "14.5" sites to signify they're between version 14 of SharePoint, which was 2010, and version 15, which was 2013), you'd need to move them to the 2013 user experience before attaching the database.
Unfortunately, most organizations are on SharePoint 2010 or even still getting their content out of SharePoint 2007, and if this description fits your deployment, then you'll find the upgrade path quite a bit bumpier: Your content in SharePoint 2010 will stay there until you physically migrate (that is, lift it and shift it) out of SharePoint 2010 into SharePoint 2016. You can choose to go to SharePoint 2013 if you have the proper licenses or downgrade rights through your volume license or enterprise agreement and then pop over to SharePoint 2016, but this is doing twice the work. If you're still on SharePoint 2007, the migration is obviously the way to go. Third-party toolsets and services should be on your shortlist within the next few months as you play with the beta and figure out what your next move should be.
What does this denote about the future of SharePoint?
It's good to see such a solid and firm commitment to delivering a really valuable piece of on-premises software from Microsoft. This isn't just a "check the box" sort of release, if these plans end up being reality--this is a fully baked release worthy of the fees you'll pay to upgrade. You should note, however, that Microsoft also had an in-depth session later in the week at the Ignite conference about how its own internal IT department has decided to roll up all of their SharePoint deployments to SharePoint Online and Office 365, save for a couple of very specialized subsites overseas that remain export controlled. In one Ignite session, the presenter revealed that just shifting the main employee news site, MS Web, to Office 365 saved over $400,000 in hosting costs alone in the last fiscal year compared to the previous status quo.
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