Rencore TechTalks: Episode 3 – Getting to know Feature Pack 1 for SharePoint 2016 with Trevor Seward

10 min read
10 min read

Welcome to the Rencore TechTalks show. In this episode, I’m catching up with Trevor Seward on what the Feature Pack 1 is and what Trevor’s favorite features are.

[Recorded: 2016-11-9]

Listen to this show to learn more about things like:

  • Admin Audit Logging (My favorite!)
  • Modern OneDrive for Business experience
  • MinRole changes
  • Unified Auditing
  • And more

Guest: Trevor Seward

Trevor Seward is a SharePoint Architect, has been awarded the Office Servers and Services MVP title and is the author of Deploying SharePoint 2016.

Show notes:

Full transcript

[Tobias] = Tobias Zimmergren
[Trevor] = Trevor Seward

[Tobias]: So here we are again at the MVP Summit and I’m here now with Trevor Seward who is a 5-year SharePoint MVP. Welcome!

[Trevor]: Thank you.

[Tobias]: And as I understand it, you know a lot about SharePoint, right? 

[Trevor]: Some things.

[Tobias]: Yeah, a couple of things. And I think I picked your brain once or twice and that’s been a big help. We just discussed Feature Pack 1, which is something that customers might want to raise their eyebrows and actually start looking into. So what is Feature Pack 1? Can you tell us something about why I would consider using Feature Pack 1 or is it a requirement or can I postpone it? What is it?

[Trevor]: So, Feature Pack 1 is a set of features and the cool thing is it’s actually part of just a regular SharePoint update. It’s part of the November 2016 public update.

You don’t have to go out and download any special bits or anything like that. It’s baked into the normal patches you would otherwise apply. So if you don’t pick it up this November, if you install January 2017 when it comes out, you’ll still get those Feature Pack 1 features.
Tobias: What are those features? What’s in the feature pack?

[Tobias]: What are those features? What’s in the feature pack?

[Trevor]: Microsoft included a variety of features most targeted at hybrid and a couple targeted at administrator improvements. To kind of go over them, one I actually asked for was Administration Action Logging. I called it auditing, but Microsoft called it administration action log. And that feature primarily centers around administrators making some form of change to the SharePoint environment and it being logged. So we know who did it when they did it and ultimately what they did.

[Tobias]: Right, so you can put the blame, right?

[Trevor]: Kind of, yes.

[Tobias]: Maybe a way for people to be more careful when just going in and fixing things or changing things.

[Trevor]: Changing things, yeah. It’s not comprehensive. It won’t cover absolutely everything an administrator could do to the SharePoint environment, but it captures a good amount of actions.

[Tobias]: Yes, and I guess that’s something that hasn’t been possible to do in an easy way or at all in previous versions of SharePoint.

[Trevor]: You know, you could go through the ULS logs and partially parse out what somebody has done, but this makes it significantly easier just being part of the user’s database that you’re free to query directly unlike all the other SharePoint databases.

It just makes life a lot easier. You can use PowerShell to extract these usage actions as well.

So the next one to talk about is the changes to MinRoles. So when SharePoint 2016 came out, there’s this new concept of MinRoles which comes from SharePoint Online and pretty much every server had a specific role. We had a distributed cache role, we had a front end, we had an app and we had a search.

Each of those roles was separated and therefore a minimal highly available farm ended up being eight servers.

That’s a lot of investment from a hardware perspective and then from a licensing perspective as well. It’s a big investment. And even companies who have a couple of hundred thousand users may not need a farm that large. I’ve had experience with companies with one hundred to a thousand users, four to six servers, definitely don’t need eight.

[Tobias]: Do it right, right?

[Trevor]: Yeah, exactly. The great thing about MinRoles is it places the services where they should be on a farm topology. You’re not having to figure out in your head where to start this or that service. So those original roles are now called dedicated MinRoles. With the November public update of Feature Pack 1, they’re introducing shared MinRole.

So shared MinRoles consists of a minimum of four servers for a highly available SharePoint environment where we have two front ends plus distributed cache and then two app servers plus search. So much smaller environment, much smaller footprint and investment in hardware and software.

[Tobias]: It makes a lot of sense and easier to make that decision to actually operate the servers and deploy 2016.

[Trevor]: Yeah and I have some customers where I told them four servers and use Custom when SharePoint 2016 came out. You can actually convert the role. So I’m able to say take your front ends, convert them to distributed cache plus web front end, your back ends to do app plus search. So Microsoft did include that ability to switch between custom or any role in any other role which is awesome for these kinds of customers.

[Tobias]: Yes, and that in itself makes it totally worth looking into an upgrade into Feature Pack 1 or getting the bits with Feature Pack 1. Right?

[Trevor]: Exactly! So, the next one is the Modern OneDrive for business experience. This is a very similar experience to SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business Online as it stands today. There are a few bits and pieces here that are missing but for the most part, the UI is very familiar to all of us and not so much that legacy look and feel anymore. It’s kind of got that more modern document library feeling. And it’s only for OneDrive for Business. And this feature has an exception. You require software assurance.

Except it’s on the honor system. So if you’ve bought SharePoint 2016 retail, did not get software insurance or you’re not under an enterprise agreement, Microsoft does have a short three line script to disable it.

[Tobias]: Right, so you still get the bits, but then you have to disable it.

[Trevor]: Yeah, you have to disable it. It’s one of the features that’s automatically on and provisioned for you.

[Tobias]: OK. Yeah, got that. 

[Trevor]: So no other changes besides the UI really. You know. How you interact with it. We don’t get the newer OneDrive’s sync client or anything like that but we just get the UI.

[Tobias]: That is good to know, though, because normally you just read a bullet point of what’s in Feature Pack 1 and you’re like, that’s awesome. Let’s go. But that’s a good thing to know about the licensing. Read the licensing first, right?

[Trevor]: Exactly! The next one is the Custom Tiles. So much like Office 365 and SharePoint 2016 RTM, we got the waffle with the free… You know, it came out of the box with the newsfeed, the sites and the OneDrive tile. If you enable hybrid with RTM or preview Feature Pack 1 you could also get tiles that were created in the Office 365 administration center coming back down to SharePoint on-prem. They work pretty well. No complaints there, but one of the ask from a lot of people were well, I don’t either have Office 365 or I don’t have the ability to create this hybrid environment for whatever reason.

And so what Microsoft did was create this new feature called Custom Tiles and what it really is it is a feature you enable through PowerShell. It provisions a list on a site collection on a web application and it allows you to specify a name of a title, an URL, an image and you can also apply an audience from the user profile service if you like and it’ll just add another tile in the waffle. It’s really easy to use.

[Tobias]: This is just not just tenants?

[Trevor]: Yes, it’s farm scope. So really if you have more than one web application, in most scenarios you will only have to provision this on one web application to apply to multiple web apps.

[Tobias]: Right. And in audiences, you can control what different people see.

[Trevor]: Exactly! Different tiles that people see.

[Tobias]: Cool.

[Trevor]: Under the hood, it’s very seamless. There’s really no duplication of effort. If you’ve got a separate my site web app and a separate team site web app, you don’t have to do the work twice.

[Tobias]: Yeah, makes sense. 

[Trevor]: So the next one is SharePoint Hybrid Unified Auditing. This does require the use of the hybrid picker from your Office 365 admin center. It will configure a SharePoint Server with that hybrid connection and it allows basically audit logs to bubble up from SharePoint on-prem into the Office 365 admin center, the auto log-in up there.

[Tobias]: And not the other way around, right?

[Trevor]: Not the other way around and unfortunately there’s no on premises only equivalent of this feature. If you don’t have an Office 365 tenancy, you’re kind of out of luck on this one.

[Tobias]: And do they need to be paired? Like your on-prem need to be configured as hybrid with your 365 or can you just on-prem say, I want to point to an admin center that I know is mine or do you have to set up a trust between those?

[Trevor]: Yes, there’s a form of a trust in place that’s actually done for you. There is some software that you need to install on the SharePoint server which Microsoft goes into good detail about. And then you have to run what’s called a Hybrid Picker, which is something you initiate for your browser logging into the Office 365 admin center and that does all of the heavy work for you. So besides the installing the software and running the Hybrid Picker, it’s pretty seamless.

[Tobias]: So the job is about planning how to set that up and then you just run that Picker essentially. Right?

[Trevor]: Exactly!

[Tobias]: Cool! I like that feature.

[Trevor]: So the last one I want to get into any sort of depth on is the Hybrid Taxonomy. Today the Office 365 site is still in preview, but it’s fully supported by Microsoft. Preview to them at this point more or less means we’re looking at the feature and flushing out any issues that customers might have and make some form of improvements. Again this requires the Hybrid Picker. Not a big deal, but what it allows you to do is have SharePoint online sites and SharePoint on-premises sites share the same terms from your MMS.

The SharePoint Online MMS does become the source of truth, but you are able to copy your on-premises term sets through a commandlet that’s provided with Feature Pack 1 up into SharePoint Online. After that point, you just manage those terms.

[Tobias]: OK, yeah. Right. Is there like a dual sync or you have to run that commandlet?

[Trevor]: It’s a one-way sync. It flows from SharePoint Online.

[Tobias]: From cloud and down. Got that! 

[Trevor]: Yeah and then the last one which is kind of out of my depth is that there is the One Drive 2.0 API. I haven’t got too much detail about it, but it provides some extra end points or something to that effect. It’s more of a developer type.

[Tobias]: More up my alley. Cool. Thanks for the insights into Feature Pack 1 and what that means. Hopefully, more people will get their eyes up for that and actually start looking into deploying that to their service as well and to their farms. Right?

[Trevor]: Definitely! As people deploy it, make sure to get feedback to Microsoft. They are looking at how these features are used, who’s using them, what additional things they may want.

[Tobias]: That’s a good point. Give the feedback to Microsoft, but most people will probably say is where do I do that, where do I go to tell Microsoft my experiences with setting this up? 

[Trevor]: The great thing is, I just had this discussion with Microsoft today. The best places are – great place to provide feedback. You will find the administration’s action log already in there and you can just provide an additional comment to the existing thread. But if there’s something else that you’re not seeing, you can definitely open up a new topic. Microsoft does read those. They read every one of them so make sure to provide feedback there.

The other one is on the technical documentation or even the MSDN documentation. Again, they read those comments. It doesn’t just go into a black hole. For those who have enterprise agreements, you probably have a Microsoft TAM or technical account manager. It’s an alternative way to provide feedback but may not be the best. On the other hand, it is a private conversation versus a public one.

[Tobias]: I guess it depends on what kind of feedback you have. Right?

[Trevor]: It depends on the context of the feedback. Those are definitely the best ways to provide feedback and Microsoft does read it. They don’t just ignore it.

[Tobias]: All right. So thank you for that and enjoy the rest of the [MVP] Summit. 

[Trevor]: Yeah, you too. Thank you very much.



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