Microsoft rolls out first public preview of SharePoint Server 2016

Microsoft has released the first technical previews of SharePoint Server 2016 and a new cloud hybrid search offering for SharePoint 2013 and 2016.

The first technical preview of SharePoint Server 2016 is available to the public.

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SharePoint Server 2016 IT preview and the related new cloud hybrid search preview for SharePoint Server 2013 and 2016 are both available for testing as of August 24, Microsoft officials said today.

As officials said previously, the new features in SharePoint Server 2016 -- which is due to be generally available in the second quarter of calendar 2016 -- largely overlap with those in SharePoint Online.

There's a new App Launcher in SharePoint 2016 that will allow users to more quickly launch their apps, browse sites and access personal files. Microsoft also is working to make it easier for users to create, share and manage files in the new release. The coming release also provides support for uploading files up to 10 GB in size.

On the compliance front, SharePoint 2016 includes new In-Place-Hold and Document Deletion Centers.

Microsoft execs have also said they are aiming to make operating, patching and updating SharePoint easier. (Mini server roles will help tame the patching and updating beast, officials said, by reducing overall datacenter footprint, as will new "zero downtime" online patching technology.)

PerformancePoint services -- which many of us last heard about back in 2009 when Microsoft dropped PerformancePoint Server -- are being ported back to SharePoint Server 2016. Project Server will be more tightly integrated, from a database standpoint, with SharePoint Server, though still remain a separate and separately priced product.

The new hybrid search offering, also available in preview today, is meant to allow SharePoint on-premises users to retrieve unified search results via a combined search index in Office 365. Hybrid search also will enable customers to find relevant information in Delve, regardless of where information is stored -- in the cloud or on-premises.

Although the cloud hybrid search preview is available now, it won't be able to be configured for use with Office 365 until September 7. Users can start dabbling with the preview today to get familiar with the features and to start planning for it, according to company officials.

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Microsoft officials have said to expect a full beta of SharePoint 2016 some time before the end of this calendar year. SharePoint 2016 is being designed t run on Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2016.

Microsoft officials said earlier this year and reiterated at Ignite that SharePoint Server 2016 will not be the last on-premises version of SharePoint. More versions are planned "for the foreseeable future," officials said.

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