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New Clarity on SharePoint and Office Release Cadence

For the past few years, Microsoft has been talking about cloud computing, as it continues to transition itself into a devices and services company. As part of this transition, there has been a strong push from within to increase its release cadence, shortening the time between major releases of its products.  In fact, we’ve seen the result of this in Office 365, with now features coming to the product every 3-4 months or so. As a side note, the place to keep track of the changes is the Office 365 technology blog.

What has been less clear is how this impacts the traditional on-premises versions of the products. Being a part of the SharePoint community, I’m obviously concerned with staying on top of developments with it, and from some of the messaging from Microsoft, it appeared that we were looking at minor releases on a quarterly basis, with major releases coming annually.

While the idea of this is very interesting from a technical standpoint, it causes some very real concern for IT departments that don’t want to be retooling every year. The good new is, these concerns are unfounded. This morning, at a session for the Office group MVPs, Julia White, a General Manager in the Office division cleared this up for us, and succinctly articulated the release strategy moving forward. (She specifically stated that this information was not NDA and could be freely disseminated).

While the cloud versions of Office 365 will continue to receive updates every few months or so, the on premises versions of the components will continue to be updated every 2-3 years, with patches being released in the form of incremental updates every two months. Essentially, it’s business as usual for on-premises deployments.

In my opinion, this is a solid approach. Those wanting access to the latest and greatest can turn to Office 365, or use it in a hybrid scenario, and IT departments will be able to keep pace as well. This “cloud first” approach benefits everyone. New features don’t need to wait for a major release to see the light of day, early adopters can get access to the latest and greatest in a speedier fashion, and when major releases are rolled out, they will have benefitted from the fact that the constituent features have been proven in the field.

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