Sunday, May 22, 2016

SharePoint 2016 Excel Services Deprecated and the Road Forward

I felt it was worth writing a little something extra on this topic as I have been seeing this question come up a lot with the new release of SharePoint 2016.

What is Excel Services?
Excel Services was introduced way back in SharePoint 2007 which was SharePoint’s first step at bringing Excel into the browser to create dashboards.  The concept was straight forward, empower users who know Excel to create a web dashboard with the tools they know.  It was made part of the SharePoint Enterprise Suite and has gone through several improvements over the years.

Is Excel Services really gone?
Excel Services in SharePoint has been deprecated as part of the SharePoint 2016 on-premises release however you can still get to a similar solution with Office Online Service (OOS) and Power BI.

When you review the deprecated features listing, it specifically states that Excel Services is no longer “hosted on SharePoint Server” and that Excel Services functionality is now part of Excel Online in OOS.  My understanding of this is that there is a general move of capabilities.

What is Office Online Service (OOS)?
The new Office Online Service (OOS) can be installed on-premises and is the replacement to the Office Web Apps Server 2013.  This will provide you the similar services to Office Online that is part of Office 365.  OOS provides you the ability to view, edit and co-author Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.  OOS integrates with SharePoint 2016, Exchange Server 2016 and Skype for Business 2015 which all have capabilities to provide Office through a browser.  Moving the Office Web Apps Server out into its own service has been part of the vision to provide Office Online to all Microsoft productivity and enterprise services.

What Excel Services features are lost as part of this move?
Are there some changes as part of the move?  Yes, for sure.  When you review the deprecation listing, it says that feature such as Trusted data providers, Trusted file locations, Trusted data connection libraries, Unattended service account, Excel Services Windows PowerShell cmdlets, and Opening of Excel workbooks from SharePoint Central Administration site are deprecated. 

However, with OOS, you still have access the following Excel Services capabilities: Viewing and editing Excel workbooks in a browser (with or without the Data Model), Excel Web Access web part for SharePoint, ODC file support (no longer requires Data Connection Libraries), and Programmability features such as JavaScript OM, User Defined Function Assemblies, SOAP and REST protocol support.

So, if you are reliant on features that were deprecated, then you will need to achieve the same end result through other means.  But in most cases, organizations are going to be able to do almost everything they had been doing with the old Excel Services with the new OOS.

So how do I Excel Services moving forward?

Transition to OOS: My personal recommendation is the following, I would try to start making the transition over to OOS with Excel Services altogether.  I would review what you are doing with the older Excel Server web parts and try to get completely hooked in with OOS.

Introduce Power BI: Additionally, if you are using Excel Services to make connections to line of business databases that is still supported on-premises.  For instance, you can still connect to Analysis Services, SQL Server, and Custom data providers (via connection string) on-premises.  However, making these line of business connections in SharePoint Online (Office 365) is not possible.  If you are really thinking about transitioning to the Office 365 cloud, you really need to start thinking about moving over to Power BI because that is the direction moving forward.  Power BI has the ability to connect to a wide range of data sources whether they are on-premises databases, data in SharePoint Online, data residing on other clouds, etc.  Power BI is the next generation cloud BI service that will allow you to create high end reporting and dashboard solutions in the cloud.  You can make this work with your on-premises SharePoint and when you transition the rest of it to SharePoint Online, Power BI will already be in the cloud.  From a get started perspective, you basically need to introduce the Power BI Gateway into your on-premises environment this will refresh your data in the cloud for reporting purposes.  I have some references below.

What about licensing of OOS?
OOS is available to customers who have a Volume Licensing account with at no cost.  This will provide you the ability to get view-only functionality.
If you need the ability to create, edit, save, and co-author, you will need to have an on-premises Office suite license with Software Assurance or an Office 365 ProPlus subscription.  Note if you have purchased on-premises Office 2016 suite VL before Aug 1, 2016 you are exempt from the Software Assurance requirement through Aug 1, 2019.

What's deprecated or removed from SharePoint Server 2016 -

Business intelligence in Excel and Excel Services (SharePoint Server 2013) - - This provides a good comparison between Excel Services in SharePoint 2013 and Excel Web Apps.  I recommend reading this to help remind you why you picked Excel Services in the first place.

Office Online Server now available -

Office Online Server -

Data authentication for Excel Online in Office Online Server -

Power BI -

Power BI Gateway – Enterprise -

Data sources for Power BI service - 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

SharePoint Online Announcements and Futures

There was a bunch of new announcements in beginning of May 2016 in regards to SharePoint Online.  Here are my notes and initial thoughts on each.

There are several new sharing and collaboration features that are being release for SharePoint Online.  There is a focus making it easy to share information across devices.  Some of the new features being released are:
  • New Mobile App - Access to SharePoint Online document libraries and Office 365 Groups from the OneDrive mobile app.  Plus access to SharePoint document libraries on-premises.
  • Discover View - Intelligent discovery of items in SharePoint and OneDrive.  Specifically, there is a new view Discover View which uses Office Graph to suggest relevant and trending files to you in a similar fashion Delve does.  It recommends based on the work you do.
  • Copy and Move from OneDrive to SharePoint Online – This is a really neat new feature and really needed.  Users typically create files in their OneDrive and then want to publish that file out to a team site in SharePoint Online.  New capability is being created to do this easily through the browser.  Yes a user can easily share files from their OneDrive to broad audiences, however users sometimes want to share their files through team sites that are already set up to support broader collaboration experiences.
  • Pin to Top – Really cool collaboration feature.  A document library may have tons of files in it.  A user can pin a file to the top of the library for all users to quickly see, regardless of how the library is sorted or filter by default.  Very cool.
  • Link to File – Another new feature will allow you to easily link an item to a document library that resided in a different document library.
  • Document Analytics – What this will do is show you over time how many people have discovered and viewed your files in a very user intuitive and graphical report.  You can see views, who is viewing it now, likes, comments, mentions, etc.  This will tell you how the content being created is utilized within the organization.
  • New Synchronization – New OneDrive Sync client twill work with SharePoint Online document libraries and shared folders.
  • SharePoint Mobile App (Intranet) – There is going to be a new exciting SharePoint Mobile app that will not just bring files to your mobile device, it will bring the Intranet so you can access news, announcements, people, sites, content and apps.  Yes there is still a mobile browser experience too.  It is highly integrated with the Office 365 Graph to surface up information and data that is relevant to the user.  Users will see all the list site that are relevant to you and ones the users follow, so you can access your sites while you are on the go.  Users have access to all the content of that site, not just documents.  Also on this app, I can see all the people who I interact with the most and can quickly find them and collaborate with them.  It is worth noting this new mobile app will work with SharePoint 2013 and 2016 on-premises.
  • SharePoint Home – This is a new page that will be presented to end users which will show users all the files and sites they use the most very quickly across devices and browsers.  Again it is integrated with the Office 365 Graph to show you files that are relevant to you.  Users will also be presented sites that corporate wants to push out to all users.  Plus from this page, users can quickly create new Modern Team Sites.
  • Modern Team Sites – Specifically SharePoint Online Team sites and Office 365 Groups are being brought together.  They are completely integrated now and I see this as the best path forward bringing together SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Exchange Online and Office Online together for a unified user experience.  Document libraries will have an updated user experience, site pages are revamped and are streamlined for a strong mobile user experience.  When you create a new modern team site, you have the ability to create a new Office 365 Group that will be associated to the team site.
  • Modern Pages – There has been a ton of new work to provide a new page authoring experience.  You have the ability to create clean, highly visual web pages that work well on a browser or in an app on mobile device.
  • Microsoft Flow – Is a new service for automation workflow that can work directly in SharePoint lists.  It has connectors to work with third-party services as well as SharePoint; you have the ability to create mash-ups of services.  For instance you can connect SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business with over 35 difference services such as Slack, Twitter,, DropBox, Google Drive, Dynamics CRM, etc.  There will be a new Add Flow button in a list that will allow you to quickly add workflow to a list or document library.  You can create flows that create a flow that will send me a text message when an important email message is sent to me.  Another flow could monitor Twitter for information that is important to the user and then save the information about those Twitter to OneDrive.  You can even do the traditional content approval workflows.
  • PowerApps – Is a new enterprise service to connect, create and share business apps that can be integrated directly into modern team sites, list and document libraries.  Specifically, it will allow you to create mobile apps that are connected to SharePoint Online and drive by data and logic that reside in SharePoint Online, yet the user is interacting with a mobile app in iOS, Android, etc.  You can create these apps right out of the SharePoint Online list or document library and the PowerApps can leverage the Microsoft Flow automation previously discussed.  Plus, these apps integrate with the new SharePoint mobile app and are available through the browser too.
  • New Site Activity and Insights – There is a new page in SharePoint Online that provides a redesigned user experience to visually the activity occurring in a modern team site.  You can see site visits, trends around site visits and the content being accessed, etc.
  • SharePoint Framework – is an enhanced page and part model that fully supports client side development, integration with Office 365 Graph and embrace open source tools (React, Angular, etc.).  It delivers a new client side rendering framework that developers can use JavaScript and web templating frameworks.  There is a strong trend to move away from server side code and focus on client side code given the evolution of browsers and mobile devices.  Microsoft put this into practices, as all the new modern list, document libraries, SharePoint homepage, new mobile apps, etc. are all leveraging this new SharePoint Framework that uses client side APIs.  Customers and partners can use the same APIs that Microsoft uses to deliver its user experiences.  There is also a new solution called the SharePoint Workbench will allow you to test you web parts locally without having to deploy it into SharePoint Online; which is great for remote development.
  • Dynamic Conditional Access Policies – This new feature will allow you to intelligently define access based on who the user is, the app/device being used and the network location.  This is a huge update and is very important to enterprise organizations.
  • SharePoint DLP – This has been released for awhile in SharePoint Online and it will continue to have move investment.  Specifically, SharePoint Site Classification is being added.
  • User Activity Audit Logging – Several new capabilities, specifically the ability to see activity for views and downloading have been added.  There is a brand new reporting and filtering experience.  You have the ability to get pretty granular information down to the users and documents.
  • Customer Lockbox for SPO – SharePoint Online customer lockbox is being added just like in Exchange Online.

The Future of SharePoint -

Keynote -

Announcing simple and powerful file sharing and collaboration for Office 365 -

SharePoint—the mobile and intelligent intranet -

Power to the people: introducing Microsoft Flow and announcing the public preview of PowerApps -

SharePoint and Flow -

Microsoft Flow -

Get started with Microsoft Flow -

Welcome to Microsoft Flow -

PowerApps and SharePoint - 

Announcing Public Preview for PowerApps -

The SharePoint Framework—an open and connected platform -

SharePoint 2016 GA Announcement

Here are some of my notes.  For the new SharePoint 2016 on-premises announcement.
  • Cloud Inspired Infrastructure – The learning experience from running SharePoint Online have been brought back into the SharePoint 2016 server that you install on-premises.  Microsoft has benefited from all the learning experiences of having to support SharePoint at hyper-scale in SharePoint Online.  Additionally, since there is a unified code base for SharePoint, APIs have been standardized which will assist with integration between SharePoint deployed on-premises and in SharePoint Online.  End of day, SharePoint 2016 is a major infrastructure investment.
  • SharePoint Server Releases – New Feature Pack Model which is going to allow organizations to deploy updates quicker on-premises.  No longer need to wait for major release like in 2003/2007/2010/2013/2016.  New feature releases will be available on a regular cadence for you to make available on-premises so it will be possible for you make features available very quickly to your end users.  There is an additional feature called Zero Downtime Patching which plays a part in this solution.
  • Streamline Deployment (MinRole) – There are new administrative management experiences that allows you to see all the servers in the topology and manage them.  Specifically there is the new MinRole which allows administrators to define roles in the server topology.  Using this approach to define your servers will simplify your deployment as you do not need to worry about configuring roles on each server, the configuration is built on SharePoint Online best practices which will reduce network latency and increase reliability, and you will leverage better predictable and prescriptive capacity planning guidance.
  • Increases in Boundaries and Limits – increase by two times, now support 5M items per search server application.  New improvements in list views (more than 5,000), site collections (10,000 per content database), content databases (supports TBs instead of 200 GB) and file size limits (now supports 10GB instead of 2GB), document libraries support 30M docs,
  • DLP – The new Data Loss Prevention solution initially made available in SharePoint Online is now available on-premises.
  • Enhanced User Experiences – New updates to document libraries have been made to make working with files super simple.  You start seeing the OneDrive user experience moved into SharePoint.
  • Modern Attachments – There is Exchange and SharePoint integration that allows files to be easily shared from Outlook.
  • Seamless integration with Office 365 – Specifically for features that are only delivered from SharePoint Online; providing a seamless experience to transition from on-premises to cloud.  For instance Delve, OneDrive for Business and Yammer can be accessed through the App Launcher.  The App Launcher is available in Office 365 and provides user with a consistent approach to access Office 365 applications when they are on SharePoint 2016.  So now it is easy to integrate with OneDrive for Business in the cloud.  Another interesting hybrid experience is the Office 365 Video service which uses Azure Media services.  You can integrate that cloud based application through the App Launcher to offer video service to end users.  Another hybrid experience that can be considered is around extranets.  Instead of hosting extranets in your environment, you can use SharePoint Online as the extranet because it does not reside in your organization’s managed boundary.
  • New SharePoint Home Page – This new page has ability to show sites the users works with both from on-premises and SharePoint Online.
  • Hybrid Search – SharePoint Online and SharePoint 2016/2013/2010 can be configured to support a hybrid search experience.  This also empowers Delve and Office Graph to have access to SharePoint 2016/2013/2010 data located on-premises.  Plus you no longer have to worry about sizing and manage your search index because it is managed in Office 365.
    New SharePoint Mobile App – Will work with SharePoint on-premises as well as SharePoint Online.
  • Deprecated Features – There were some things deprecated with SharePoint Server 2016 on-premises: Duet, SharePoint Foundation, Standalone Install mode (use new MinRole), Excel Services (replaced by Office Online), SharePoint BI capabilities, Tags/Notes and Stsadm.exe (use PowerShell)

New and improved features in SharePoint Server 2016 -

What's deprecated or removed from SharePoint Server 2016 -

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Access to Office 365 Third Party Audit Reports

A common request I have from customers is how to get access to independent third-party audit reports that Microsoft Office 365 provides.  For instance getting access to:
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)
  • Financial Industry Regulation Authority (FINRA)
  • Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP)
There are some new tools that are available to get access to this data. 
You can gain access to it through the Office 365 Security & Compliance Center.  Instructions are located here -
You will need to work with the Global Admin of your tenant to give you access to the Service Assurance role.  Once you have access there is a portal where you can access documentation.
Additionally, there is the Service Trust Portal (STP) which can give you access to the same data, just different steps.  Here are the instructions -