SharePoint Server 2016 public beta will be available for the public in the coming months. For those ambitious people who can’t wait to test it out you can download the IT preview from here!

Improvements

1. Authentication
Microsoft has rightfully decided to keep the old authentication methods like Windows, Claims, Forms-based, SML, etc. for backwards compatibility. SharePoint 2016 is going to use SAML as its default authentication method.

2. Min Roles
In the previous version of SharePoint, the type of server you have correlates to the services you run on it. If you have set up search services on a server then it would become a “Search Server.”

SharePoint 2016 has a new feature called Min Roles. Min Roles allows the user to give each server in the farm a different role during SharePoint installation. They will allow the admin to specify which server is going to be an Application Server, a Web Front End server or a Search Server.

Min Roles will consist of three discrete roles:

  • Robot Services role (Application Services) – Responsible for provisioning, search and timer jobs
  • User Service role – Responsible for handling things like user profiles, sync clients, sandbox code, Excel services, One Note, page rendering, subscription settings, etc.
  • Cache service role – Support for distributed cache (load balances requests from end user)

3. Patching
Applying patches and updates in previous versions of SharePoint was cumbersome and complex. In SharePoint 2013, it was necessary to take the farm offline when applying patches, but in SharePoint 2016 Microsoft Promises “Zero downtime updates,” which means you can install patches at any time without having to worry about users not being able to access the farm.

4. Boundaries and Limits
The amount of data SharePoint can handle will increase exponentially in SharePoint 2016. The maximum content database size will be around 1TB, which is a huge step up from SharePoint 2013’s 200GB limit. Content databases will be able to hold around 100,000 site collections. Lists and libraries are getting a serious upgrade; the maximum size of items in a view can go from 2,000 to 5,000. Libraries will also be able to hold much larger files, with a maximum file size of 10GB opposed to 2GB from SharePoint 2013. Search engines are also getting a massive boost with searchable items growing to a maximum of 500 million items.

Table

5. Fast Site Creation
The creation of site collections in SharePoint takes a lot of time mostly because of the massive site feature activation overhead. However, if you clone an existing site collection then there is no feature overhead to worry about, because all the provisioning has already taken place.
To reduce the provisioning time needed for new site collections SharePoint 2016 will rely much more on cloning wherever and whenever it can. Provisioning performance of Site Collections increases by instrumenting a copy operation using SPSite.Copy at the Content Database level.

6. Compliance improvements
SharePoint 2016 leverages many new compliance features present in Office 365. It will also be able to use Azure RMS and eDiscovery. The new In-Place Policy Hold Center and Document Deletion Centers will enable users to create hold policies to preserve items for a large amount of time. OneDrive for Business sites will also be able to leverage the power of In-Place Hold Center.

7. User Profile service
The following are improvements to the User Profile Service:

  • Improved bidirectional synchronization
  • Built-in FIM (Forefront Identity Manager) service replaced by External FIM service
  • Unidirectional Synchronization provided through native AD synchronization

New Features

1. Office Graph & Delve integration
Delve, primarily a feature of Office 365, fully embraces the hybrid architecture and will seamlessly integrate with the new search service application of the On-Premise SharePoint 2016 environment. Delve highlights key information of interest to you, based on the work provided to you and the actions of people in your network. To do this, delve uses Office Graph, which is Microsoft’s new machine learning engine that connects users to their relevant documents, conversations, and people around them.

2. Touch Based UI
SharePoint Server 2016 users will now be able to enjoy the same mobile experience that Office 365 users have. Users will be able to access content, people and applications across a multiple range of devices of various screen sizes. This is a much-needed feature because having access to important information while on the go is now a necessity.

3. Platform Resiliency
There is a new endpoint on web servers that can create an affinity between web servers and load balancers in order to maintain a stable connection. SharePoint 2016 will also be able to make much more intelligent routing decisions based on server health.

4. Link Durability
SharePoint 2016 will be able to create durable links to documents that will not break even when the documents are changed or moved to some other site or site collection. Previous versions of SharePoint can also assign unique ID’s to your documents, but it is limited to a specific site collection. SharePoint 2016 enables a discrete URL that keeps documents intact giving users the freedom to rename or move documents around without fear of not being able to locate them.

5. Hybrid Search
SharePoint 2016 search application will fully integrate with Office 365, which will allow Office 365 to use On-Premise SharePoint search index just like it would use its own. In a hybrid deployment, both Office 365 and SharePoint 2016 can perform a combined search by using each other’s search index. Users can also decide to show only the results of their current environment and not use the search index of the other environment.

6. Hybrid Profiles
With SharePoint 2016 and Office 365 users will be able enjoy a solid single profile experience so your followed documents are shared between your on-premises farms and the cloud. In this way, followed sites and documents will follow you across both environments.

7. Office 365 video
Office 365 Video is an Intranet portal where people inside your organization can watch, post and share videos. It’s a streaming video service for your organization that’s available with SharePoint Online in Office 365. In a hybrid scenario, the Office 365 video will integrate with on-premises SharePoint server environment allowing users on the On-Premise environment to leverage the functionality of Office 365 video.

8. Insights and Data
SharePoint 2016 will have a much Improved Real time user monitoring for Services, Actions, Usage, Engagement, and Diagnostics. Advanced data analysis and reporting will be immensely improved as well.

9. SMTP Support
SharePoint 2016 users will be able to send mail to SMTP servers using STARTTLS connection encryption. Since SMTP can use non-default ports SharePoint 2016 will not have to rely on port 25 for mails.

Conclusion

By looking at the feature set that SharePoint Server 2016 brings to the table, it is clear that Microsoft is pushing more and more towards Cloud and Hybrid architecture. Microsoft is using SharePoint Online as a foundation for developing SharePoint 2016. This is why SharePoint 2016 is going to integrate so well with Office 365 in hybrid scenarios. It will be interesting to see how many organizations opt for hybrid architecture once SharePoint 2016 is launched.