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External Content with Hybrid SharePoint

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On average, only 28% of the information that workers need resides in SharePoint or O365. The majority is spread across multiple line-of-business systems both on-premises and in the cloud. Intranets and Portals are expected to provide easy access to everything employees, partners or customers need – so what to do?  Moving it all to O365 is rarely an option.  

A centralized index hosted in O365 … now you can do it!
 
With on-premises SharePoint, you can use a consolidated index and leverage search as a mechanism for agile information integration. This is a great solution, and I see it working in real, production applications every day. But there was just no way you could bring external content into the Office 365 index….until now.
 
Microsoft’s new cloud hybrid search capability (unveiled at Ignite} with availability announced this week includes a key element called the Cloud SSA, which provides a mechanism to bring content into the O365 index.  BA Insight’s software uses this mechanism to incorporate content from many different sources into a single cloud-based index. This in turn powers portals, intranets, extranets – and any and all search-driven experiences.
 
What does this look like?
Search experiences simply show additional content. The content can be presented together as a single result set, or in separate tabs or result sources:  
 
A CBS web part can look to the user however you like: as an ordinary list, as a grid of catalog items, or as part of a larger experience. Here’s a ‘hello world’ example courtesy of my friend Helge Solheim – it looks like a document in a library but it’s really coming from the index, and the document could be anywhere.
 
 
Content indexed via the Cloud SSA is also in the Office Graph, and visible through Delve. Delve and next-gen portals use cards to show content. This content can now be from anywhere: in O365, SharePoint on-premises, or in external systems crawled with our connectors.  
 
Check it out
Microsoft’s cloud hybrid search preview program starts very soon. You can download the cloud SSA today via the Microsoft Download Center and nominate yourself to get your Office365 tenant scheduled for set up at connect.microsoft.com/office/SelfNomination.
 
This is still a preview program, with limits on throughput and scale, not-for-production-use, and some rough edges. But it’s very cool.
 
Along with this, take a look at the BA Insight’s products; we’re working in lockstep with Microsoft. 
 
There are some scenarios where you can’t use this approach, most notably where you have data residency restrictions that keep you from putting some of your content in the cloud. We’ve got these covered, too. I personally love solving the most challenging scenarios. The trick is to make solutions simple and easy for the majority case and also powerful and flexible enough for the tricky situation. I think we’ve got that covered, and would welcome any and all feedback.
 
I’ve been surprised at how many people are interested in using this for Office 365 without Hybrid SharePoint in the picture.  We found a way; I’ll talk about that in my next blog post.
 
 
 
 
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Guest December 12, 2017