Microsoft Vice President Teper: What's next for OneDrive and SharePoint

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Jeff Teper, talks about what's next for Microsoft's integrated cloud storage and SharePoint team.

After a stint on the Microsoft Corporate Strategy Team, Corporate Vice President Jeff Teper came back this summer to run Microsoft's combined SharePoint, OneDrive for Business and OneDrive consumer teams.

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Teper -- considered by many the father of SharePoint -- has been working on "clarifying" Microsoft's cloud storage offers for consumers and businesses, as of late. Teper was the one who blogged earlier this week about Microsoft's plans for delivering (partially, at least) its promised OneDrive for Business cloud storage.

Teper also announced availability of Microsoft's Next-Generation Sync client for OneDrive for Windows. On Twitter today, he also announced that the Mac version of that client is available as of today, December 18, too, as is an updated version of the OneDrive app for iOS that includes offline support.

I had a chance to talk with Teper earlier this week by phone. A few highlights from our conversation follow.

Teper said that he had agreed when asked by CEO Satya Nadella to work on the Corporate Strategy Team -- "a big change for me from engineering" -- to do that job for a year. In July, Nadella asked Teper to come back and run the unified OneDrive-SharePoint engineering team. Teper said he was interested, especially because "I hadn't worked on a consumer service before."

The unified OneDrive-SharePoint team was formed at the same time in 2014 that Microsoft melded the Outlook, Outlook.com and Exchange teams into a single unit.

"There are a couple of reasons we brought OneDrive and SharePoint together," Teper said. "We want to make the (storage) experience consistent across users' personal and professional lives. Browsing and sharing documents should be consistent. Yes, some things in business need to be more locked down. But those should be extra things on top, not a completely different experience."

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The OneDrive team used to be in Windows "and was focused exclusively on consumers," Teper noted. As a result, that team didn't think a lot about things like mobile-device management. Now, with a unified team, "the OneDrive team has gotten more savvy about business requirements, security and the like. The SharePoint team has gotten a dose of simplicity and user delight" from the once-exclusively-consumer-focused part of the combined team.

As of now, the bulk of OneDrive is running on top of Microsoft's Azure platform-as-a-service, Teper said. All of the storage for OneDrive in SharePoint is already there. An "increasing portion" of the databases are in the process of being moved from SQL Server to SQL Azure, he said. Ultimately, "we'll have exabytes of storage in Azure," Teper said. Over time, "you will see more and more of the compute and the storage for OneDrive in Azure PaaS," he added.

At the same time as the team is working on its Azure migration, it also is looking to integrate OneDrive and SharePoint with more Azure services, Teper said. There are some interesting potential synergies, such as the development of PowerApps for SharePoint, with the logic for those apps living in Azure, he said. (PowerApps is Microsoft's new service aimed at getting business users to build mobile apps.)

What else is on tap for Teper and team in 2016?

The release of SharePoint Server 2016 is still looking likely for "early spring," he said. With this release, the sixth for SharePoint, "almost all our code has been running in production on 37,000 to 38,000 servers in Office 365," Teper said. "There is some new code for things like upgrades, but 95 percent of the SharePoint code (that will be in the on-premises release) has already been running for tens of millions of users."

Teper reconfirmed that supporting hybrid on-premises and cloud scenarios are the big emphasis for SharePoint 2016. As OneDrive for Business is running in the cloud, a hybrid set-up is a way to "unlock people" about moving to the cloud, he noted.

Another area to watch is what Teper's team does around the Microsoft Graph, the unified application programming interface formerly known as Office Graph. In 2016, Microsoft Graph will "make views really pop," Teper said. Microsoft's goal is to make Delve, which is built on Microsoft Graph, and OneDrive integration with OneDrive and SharePoint even more seamless, he noted.

Finally, I asked Teper about when and how Microsoft planned to deliver something to replace the placeholder functionality it removed from OneDrive a year ago.

Teper noted, as other Microsoft execs have said, that selective sync in OneDrive now provides "some of the scenarios that people want." But he reiterated that placeholders "mostly worked, but never integrated with the Windows file system, meaning some apps, APIs and command line tools didn't work as they should." He said that functionality should have been implemented at the file-system level, not the UI level.

Teper's team is continuing to work with the Windows team to try to deliver something to stand in for Windows 8.1's placeholder technology, he said, but he declined to provide any timing goal as to when that new technology might be available to Windows 10 users.