In Microsoft land, cloud comes to you! Office 365 stuff to be bled into on-prem Office 2019 Server

Redmond smiles: We want to support customers in journey to cloud

Microsoft threw a commercial preview bone to cloud-phobes* this week in the form of on-premises versions of its Server and Office applications.

While the software giant really, really wants its customers snugly ensconced in the loving embrace of Office 365, realists within Redmond Towers accept that a large portion of their customers would rather keep their data firmly within their own data centres.

Since those users obviously don't see all the goodies that regularly appear in Office 365 updates, the 2019 release should bring a temporary sense of parity. Kind of.

Exchange 2019

Exchange 2019 can now take advantage of 48 processor cores and 256GB RAM. Handy for indexing and Bing-powered searching, as well as the usual mail and appointment flinging duties.

Do Not Forward and Simplified Calendar Sharing, already familiar to Office 365 users, make an appearance as well as tools to assist admins with delegating permissions.

Unfortunately, the upgrade fairy giveth and taketh away, and users will be bidding farewell to the Unified Messaging role. An existing Skype for Business Server or third-party PBX will no longer be able to be hooked up to an Exchange 2019 mailbox. Instead you'll need to either jump to Skype for Business Server 2019 and use Cloud Voicemail, or bite the bullet and migrate to Office 365.

There's that pesky cloud again.

Skype for Business Server 2019

Those who have inflicted Skype on their organisations will see an on-premises upgrade that, frankly, is all about cloud features.

With Unified Messaging being discreetly pushed off a handy balcony, Cloud Voicemail will be providing voicemail services, with the messages stored in the user's inbox unless users opt to stick with the previous version of Exchange. The Cloud Auto Attendant is now supported, providing an always up-to-date way of irritating callers with interminable menus. Finally, Cloud Call Data Connector will shunt call quality data into Office 365, meaning the data doesn’t have to be stored locally.

Unsurprisingly, Skype for Business 2019 also includes tools to give users a shove in the back assistance in their migration to the cloudy world of Teams.

SharePoint Server 2019

SharePoint has been thoroughly beaten with the "Modern User Experience" stick as Team Sites, Pages and Lists all get the "Modern" treatment, which Microsoft hopes will lead to more appealing and easier to navigate sites.

Libraries gets a OneDrive-like facelift, meaning that OneDrive users should the experience of uploading or creating folders a little less jarring. The 10GB file size limit of SharePoint 2016 is upped to 15GB this time around and SharePoint 2019 is dragged kicking and screaming in the 21st century as the maximum URL path length jumps from 260 unicode characters to 400.

If you're using SharePoint 2019, Microsoft will also be happy to sell you Project Server 2019, which requires the former platform and gets some improvements in the reporting area.

Office 2019 and beyond

Users seeking the old-fashioned perpetual licence world of bygone days still have the option of an Office 2019 suite containing the likes of Word, Excel and Powerpoint with what Redmond describes as "a meaningful subset of features found in Office 365". Non-subscribers will, however, not see any new features in same way as their cloudy counterparts.

In a surprise to nobody, those Office 2019 installations will also need Windows 10, while the server products will work on Windows Server 2016 or 2019 (although Microsoft would obviously prefer you use the latter platform). Exchange 2019 can also take advantage of the Core Server product.

The exception is Skype for Business, which currently lists Windows Server 2016 as a requirement. The Register has dropped Microsoft a line to check, since the omission of Sever 2019 is a curious one.

While Microsoft are keen to state that it understands that customers might prefer to stay on-premises, the wind is certainly blowing cloudwards. Redmond said: "We want to support all our customers in their journey to the cloud, at the pace that makes the most sense to them," before adding ominously that it "will continue evaluating customer needs and industry trends to determine the need for future versions of our products and services".

So, perhaps start packing your bags for Azure if you want to stay on Microsoft's server platform through the next decade. ®

* Or nephophobes, if you like, before you "I think you'll find" us...

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