The Cloud and SharePoint

There have been a lot of interesting happenings lately, and I thought it would be a good time to discuss how a few fundamental changes are drastically impacting the SharePoint industry. Although none of these items are new news, the impact of several years of cloud innovation from the Microsoft stack are now coming full featured and the ripples are starting to become more apparent.

At last years SharePoint conference we were greeted by a keynote speech that stressed Microsoft’s desire to push everything to the cloud. Every possible objection has been countered, so put your clients in our sandbox and pay us our monthly fee. And the argument was very compelling, after all, the technology is far more advanced than our BPOS days and the advantages (in most cases) outweigh the disadvantages. The days of managing servers, infrastructure, and applications at a client site are numbered. And so it was, our great on-premise ships are now sinking. So do you go down with the ship or jump overboard? Good thing I know how to swim!

I haven’t been a network or server admin since the early 2000’s, so I see the advantages of what the cloud brings to my organization. Leveraging Office 365 I have tools available to my organization for a fraction of the cost of an on premise deployment. Add the flexibility to add features and scale my company on-demand leveraging services like Windows Azure and I can truly compete on a global scale with companies much larger than TekDog. Additionally, the management side of these tools has now advanced to a state where management personnel are reduced or eliminated based on your company's needs. Let’s just say, I wouldn’t want to be a server admin right now. The days of the server room and support team are numbered. Sure, there will always be companies that do things on-site, but for the other 60-80% of us that move to the cloud these roles go by way of the of the VHS tape and Lotus Notes.

So how does this all impact SharePoint and those of us who make our living on SharePoint? The most obvious impact is on the SharePoint Admin role. The days of configuring services and conducting deployments will disappear. Those who do not adapt their skill sets to other areas within the space will soon find themselves in a highly competitive market with fewer opportunities and lower bill rates.

Another area that is very interesting is within the ISV space. SharePoint has always been a very rich space for ISV solutions. As the space changes, so goes the ISV solutions. Solutions that will be most greatly affected are those dedicated to SharePoint Administration and Migration. I expect to see a fundamental shift in these solutions to initially be focused on moving on-premise solutions to the cloud. There will be an initial spike through 2015 as organizations push their SharePoint deployments to the cloud, after which time I expect a drastic shift in a downward direction. The recent acquisition of Axceler by Metalogix is an example of selling at the peak of the market and being able to forecast the future state of our industry. The ownership at Axceler pulled off an incredible feat that I’m sure will impact Metalogix’s long-term success moving forward. Although Metalogix will see immediate gain, the long-term implications will undoubtedly hit them hard within 2 years when the Admin ISV space dries up like the Sahara. So props to Axceler for creating an amazing business and selling at the right time!

Another area that is affecting traditional ISV’s is the rise of the App Store in SharePoint. When I first was exposed to the App Model I thought, “Wow, that’s going to change the landscape, not in a good way.” Although some of the traditional ISV’s like Nintex have released previews or full blown 2013 apps, many of the larger players are yet to be seen. While the “Big Boys” figure things out you have a million small firms and independent developers releasing applications (aka crap) for everything. Many of these applications lack the oversight delivered by traditional ISV’s that have managed developed solutions with roadmaps and fully developed SDLC processes. What type of risk do these new breed of applications present to enterprise customers? What happens if? I guess we’ll just have to see how it all shakes out, but to me, this is a frightening scenario.

One last thought as I close up the day. As we live and die in the cloud, and mega corporations control our business data and hold the keys to the preverbal kingdom, they also now control our entire support ecosystem system as well. Gone are the days of localized help desk support for our systems. With the cloud comes cloud support. And as support costs increase these mega corporations will undoubtedly look for methods to reduce their support overhead leveraging inexperienced and under educated support technicians… AKA outsourced support. So if you thought your help desk was incompetent before… well just wait my friends!

Jason