Where did my Azure template go?

If you want to quickly set up a SharePoint 2013 developer VM, the quickest way is probably to do this in Azure using the appropriate Visual Studio Ultimate template. This is typically the template with Visual Studio Ultimate 2013 on Windows Server 2012 (at the time of writing it’s Update 4 of that template).

While doing this recently, I suddenly noticed that the relevant template seemed to be missing. I only had Visual Studio Community 2013 and a Visual Studio Ultimate 2015 Preview:

AzureTemplNoMSDN

After quite some searching I finally discovered the problem. I have two subscriptions for Azure: a personal Visual Studio Ultimate with MSDN subscription, and a company subscription.
In the Subscriptions filter in the top of the Azure portal window, I had unchecked my Visual Studio Ultimate subscription, leaving only the company subscription.

subscriptions

I had not realized that the company subscription didn’t have all of the same templates available. There are specific templates available for Visual Studio Ultimate subscriptions and even some only for MSDN subscriptions.
Sure enough, as soon as I also selected my Visual Studio Ultimate subscription in the Subscriptions filter, the missing templates reappeared:

msdn-azure-spdevimage

The Future of SharePoint

Over the past 1,5 years, speculations about the future of SharePoint have been running high. Much has been said already that people generally agree on:

  • Microsoft’s main focus is towards the cloud, the online version of SharePoint will get more and faster updates than the on-premise version.
  • The SharePoint brand name is getting less and less attention. Microsoft cancelling the big annual SharePoint conference in Las Vegas, in favour of the new, much broader Ignite conference (which again has cloud-related developments as one of its key topics)
  • Public internet sites are no longer a priority for SharePoint. This is confirmed by the recent announcement that the SharePoint Public Website feature (used for creating public internet sites) is no longer available in Office 365 for new customers as of January 2015, meaning the focus is on collaboration and document management capabilities – which has always been the strongest part of SharePoint, so a logical decision from my point of view.

The area where there is more unclarity and a lot less consensus, is what will happen with SharePoint on-premise, and more specifically, what companies should do who are now using SharePoint on-prem. Several analysts are saying that companies should shy away from installing and maintaining SharePoint in-house if they can. Or perhaps, depending on the functionality they use in SharePoint, even consider moving to another product altogether.

The speed at which devices and cloud services are taking over the world has been astounding. Going from SharePoint 2010 to 2013, Microsoft could not have foreseen how fast these changes would occur, but they’ve tried to accommodate as best they could. The acquisition of Yammer in June of 2012 and the huge investments in Office 365 over the last few years are samples of their efforts. Just look at the Office 365 roadmap and see the amount of updates rolled out, rolling out or in development.

Of course I understand we all want to work with the newest products, “newer is better”, cloud-first, mobile-first, and so on. My main concern with this is that a lot of IT people have a tendency to jump on the bandwagon here. Companies should always, always consider the business scenario that they need to support, the life-expectancy of that scenario and of the system(s) supporting it. Let me give you a simple example.
As most SharePoint-aware folks will know, InfoPath (Microsoft’s product for creating and hosting electronic forms) will not get a new version anymore. As a result I’ve heard several people state that we should definitely not use InfoPath anymore for the creation of new electronic forms. That simply does not make sense to me. The correct answer is: it depends.

Suppose you have a limited set of electronic forms, which is not likely to grow very much. And you need to add a simple new form, something along the lines of visitor announcements or booking a meal. What technology are you going to use?
Consider this: Microsoft extended support for SharePoint 2010 (on-premise) ends in 2020. If you’re on SharePoint 2013, that support will end only by 2023. And although deprecated, I’m fairly sure it will be supported in the next SharePoint version – and if not someone will undoubtedly find a way to get InfoPath forms working there as well.
Sure, if you are already moving towards the cloud I can understand the need for a different approach to any existing electronic forms, so you can then benefit from the regular automatic product updates. But what if you have a local SharePoint farm with no immediate need to move to Office 365? Migrations are hassle; they always tend to be a kind of big-bang, even if you ‘just’ move from one product version to the version after that. So are you really going to invest in new technology for electronic forms, when you have fully-supported, purpose-built (InfoPath) technology at your disposal that can easily create these forms? I would say no, especially if you consider that a real alternative for InfoPath hasn’t even been announced yet by Microsoft at the time of writing.

On a broader scale, the same logic applies. It fully depends on the actual situation of your organization if there is really a need to move to the cloud for (part of) your SharePoint functional landscape. In other words: there is still hope for new on-prem SharePoint customizations. Just dismissing this as an obsolete approach at this point in time seems plain wrong to me.

Having said that, SharePoint will definitely move away from on-premise. I’m not sure if even Microsoft has decided when this will happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if a “light” version of SharePoint collaboration and document management functionality will remain as a part of local Office installations, but chances are that SharePoint as we know it will disappear as a separately sold product – before 2020 if I would have to take a guess. Is that bad? No it’s not; I think it’s a good thing.

A major problem with SharePoint has always been that it can do so much, that it becomes hard to explain what SharePoint actually is. Many decision makers probably still don’t quite understand. And as the saying goes in Dutch: unknown, unloved. It was for a reason that SharePoint 2007 was officially called Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. The close link to Office was always part of Microsoft’s vision. The “Office” part never caught on though and was removed in the SharePoint 2010 name to indicate they were still different products. At the time that was true, but this was because Office and SharePoint simply weren’t ready yet for the one product absorbing the other. This is now changing rapidly, and Office 365 will be the better for it.

In the meantime, stick to on-premise, move to the cloud, or do a bit of both, whatever suits you as an organization. These all qualify as excellent choices.

D’Angelo – Black Messiah

In 2013 I saw D’Angelo live in Amsterdam at the Paradiso. This was supposedly a few months before the release of his (very) long awaited new album. It took another year however, but then suddenly it was there: Black Messiah.

Since its release, I have listened to the new album dozens of times. It is stunningly good and as far as I’m concerned the 2014 album of the year. I’m not the first one to make the comparison, but this is like Prince in his best years. Many styles combined in one album, but it still feels very organic. It’s just hard to stop listening, the grooves are awesome, there is so much going on in each song, all perfectly produced without sounding too ‘produced’ – all of these songs will also work very well when performed live (proven for ‘Sugah Daddy’ and ‘The Charade’ which were already on D’Angelo’s playlist in 2013).

Personal favorite song: ‘Really Love’, which has the most phenomal intro I have heard in years. The melody is continually passed on from one instrument to the next, Roy Hargrove’s subtle additions, the whispered lyrics, funky guitar and so much more. Listen to the first two minutes of this song and you will be sold.
This album is a must-have for your music collection, it will be referred to for many years as the new standard for funk and soul.