​​SharePoint hybrid deployments - the social disconnect

In previous insights and webinars delivered by the BrightStarr team we've highlighted some of the key benefits of 'Hybrid' deployments, when looking at transitioning from a SharePoint on-premises deployment to a SharePoint Online tenant.

​​SharePoint hybrid deployments - the social disconnect

For details on this topic see my slides covering this here. As a quick refresher on the subject, a hybrid deployment can prove to be a useful deployment scenario when looking to run certain workloads in SharePoint online, but maintain others running in a SharePoint on-premises deployment as part of a longer term migration strategy or otherwise.

SharePoint supports three Hybrid deployment options (I won't repeat the details of all three as they are described in detail here) of which the most common is Search, allowing users to retrieve content from sites across multiple sources in a single location. This particular workload is handled extremely well by SharePoint as it allows users who don't really care where content is stored, to find the content they need, when they need it.

You want to allow users who are working with sites in both locations to be able to:​​

  • Manage and maintain a single User Profile for themselves.
  • Provide users with a single personal site (SkyDrive Pro site) in one location.
  • Aggregate all social activity including following of tags, documents and sites, and microblogging activities in a single Newsfeed location.

The first two items above can be addressed partly today. SharePoint provides us with the ability to configure a "Trusted Host Location" for My Sites within the User Profile Service Application. Historically this has allowed organisations with multiple on-premises farms, usually separating content and services capability, to configure a single location to host My Sites and User Profiles.​​​​

However in a hybrid deployment we can use the same functionality to configure our Trusted Host Location to either be our on-premises My Site host or our SharePoint Online My Site host. Configuring this so that we tell our on-premises deployment that our Trusted Host location is our SharePoint Online My Site host will now mean:

  • Users that attempt to edit their profile by selecting the "About Me" link from the suite bar drop down in sites on-premises or SharePoint Online will always be taken to the page to edit their SharePoint Online profile.
  • Users that attempt to access their Newsfeed or SkyDrive Pro site through the suite bar in sites hosted on-premises or SharePoint Online will always be directed to the corresponding site in SharePoint Online.

However as aforementioned, this really is an incomplete solution. Although users will always be dir​ected to the same newsfeed page in the same My Site host wherever they attempt to access it from, the Newsfeed page will only display activities from that particular deployment, i.e. for the scenario outlined above, only activities the user has performed in sites hosted in SharePoint online will be aggregated on this page. All following and microblogging activities performed by users in sites hosted on-premises will obviously be stored in databases in the on-premises environmen​t and there is no way for this information to be replicated to the cloud (or vice versa) today, and I very much doubt this will ever change.

Throw Yammer into the mix and things get even more complicated. All of a sudden we now have three social experiences to consider! One thing is for certain though, Microsoft has a single area of focus when it comes to social, and that is Yammer. We can be sure that the SharePoint social issues described above are unlikely to be addressed, but the Yammer integration story will only get better. Although this is not fully baked today, we are seeing rapid improvements here day by day, with the new Yammer integration improvements in every major service update to SharePoint online. In the last few months we've seen Yammer commenting on SharePoint documents and Yammer Search integration to name a couple of examples.

I for one am sitting tight, keen to understand how Microsoft will deal with this "social disconnect" moving forward. As mentioned above, given the cadence of updates to this area of Office 365 as of late, I am confident that we will see great improvement here in the not so distant future.​

Sam Hassani Principal Consultant

‘Sensible’ Sam is an asset to the consulting team. Having jumped the fence from Microsoft a few years back, he now consults and designs large scale SharePoint, O365 and Azure solutions for BrightStarr. His conscientious approach got him his nickname, and although he’s not afraid to take risks, he’s always a safe bet. Delivering stable, well thought out solutions time and time again.

In his previous job, he specialized in SharePoint, working in the field and with the product team, Sam is genuinely excited by his vocation and speaks at conferences and events with enthusiasm. Just don’t get him started on hybrid search! At the weekend Sam likes to ride his road bike and hang out with his young son.

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