How does SharePoint Online fit in the Office 365 roadmap?

Microsoft has long maintained distinctly different roadmaps for cloud services and products designed to run on…

premises. This practice is ongoing for the cloud-based SharePoint Online and its on-premises counterpart, and it’s likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future.

In a way, the idea of Microsoft maintaining separate roadmaps for the two versions of SharePoint seems somewhat counterintuitive, especially given some of the things that Microsoft has been doing with some of its other products lately.

Consider Windows 10. Traditionally, desktop versions of Windows were released every few years. And, while Microsoft might add some functionality through service packs, the Windows operating system historically retained its core feature set until the next release. In the case of Windows 10, however, Microsoft is adopting a roadmap that more closely resembles their cloud service offerings, in which Windows will be treated as a service and frequently updated with new features and functionality on an ongoing basis.

Similarly, Microsoft recently announced that Azure Stack will allow customers to run Microsoft Azure in their own data centers, rather than having to subscribe to Azure in the cloud.

The point is that Microsoft is increasingly closing the gap between cloud services and products designed to run in a customer’s own data center. There is starting to be much less difference between Microsoft’s on-premises offerings and its cloud offerings.

SharePoint Online, which is available through the Office 365 suite of cloud services, seems to be a big exception to this trend — at least for right now.

At Microsoft’s Ignite conference, the vendor indicated that on-premises versions of SharePoint will continue to be released every two or three years with interim service packs. New features are planned for each major release.

Conversely, the Office 365 roadmap calls for monthly updates that will deliver new features on an ongoing basis.

Presumably, there will eventually be a point at which Microsoft is forced to maintain SharePoint Online and SharePoint on-premises the same way. For right now, though, Microsoft will be updating SharePoint Online more frequently than SharePoint on-premises. 

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