Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Age of the Devs approaches… thanks to Office 365!

Well, if you’ve been keeping up with the latest Microsoft news, you might have heard that MS has been pretty excited about their upcoming release of Office in the Cloud – Office 365. In a nutshell:
  • we’re talking Microsoft Office suite, Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync (instant messaging and presence) being offered ‘online’ with pay-as-you-go pricing
  • we’re talking no more server patching, updating, or upgrading
  • we’re talking a subscription-based option for businesses that want to purchase Office
  • we’re talking about cloud services being offered to public schools as a no-cost or low-cost hosted service
  • we’re talking access to all your productivity tools and enterprise data wherever you go, across PC, phone, and browser
If you’re thinking, “hey, this could be a game-changer”, I’d say you’re probably right. The opportunities here are huge, not just for Microsoft, but for consumers and IT professionals like myself who are constantly striving to use technology effectively for our own productivity. And the positive impact this could have on small business, particularly in today’s economy, is also exciting.

But I’m actually excited about it for another reason. As a SharePoint Developer, one of the things I’ve noticed in the different companies in which I’ve consulted is that, when SharePoint is introduced, there is often a LOT of activity related to installation, hardware optimization, scaling, and maintenance. And for good reason – SharePoint is certainly a strategic and central platform for many enterprises. But many times what that means is that developers like myself, itching to start building solutions on top of SharePoint, are given the ever-popular “no custom code” speech.

I think this mandate comes from the fact that they’re so out of breath from the efforts put into standing up the SharePoint farm, and so worried about its ongoing maintenance and stability, that they don’t want to also imagehave to police some cowboy developers trying to create the next best super-solution within the SharePoint environment. : )

Certainly, that’s an oversimplification, but here’s the punchline – in a world where SharePoint is reliably managed in the cloud, backed by best-of-breed data centers with 99.9% uptime guarantees, data backups, and pay-as-you-grow scalability… I wonder if, in that world, companies will begin to sit back in their chairs, breathe a sigh of relief, and then start to wonder what kind of kool solutions might they be able to get their developers to create on their new worry-free collaboration platform!

Thus begins the Age of the [SharePoint] Devs – an era where there’s more code deployments than imageinfrastructure patch updates. An era where business meetings are more about envisioning creative solutions rather than discussing how many web front ends we need. Where business users EXPECT their developers to deliver innovative solution designs – and not just for SharePoint in the browser, but also SharePoint Mobile, offline capability, and integration with LOB .NET applications as well.

That’s the day I’m waiting for. I’m not sure how near or far we are to that day – certainly, SharePoint Online still has some capabilities that must be added. Perhaps for now I’ll have to be happy living in the world of cloud-based sandboxed-solutions. But the point is, I see a new day a-coming. Do you?

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