Microsoft Is Removing Code-Based Sandbox Solutions in SharePoint Online – Be Prepared!

Though Microsoft announced that sandbox solutions with “code” (this is becoming a more confusing distinction than ever with JavaScript becoming a first class coding citizen!) were deprecated back in 2014, last week’s announcement that sandbox code was being shut off caught many people by surprise.

There was a post that went up last Friday, July 29th, 2016, on the Office Dev Center blog that let us know that they were Removing Code-Based Sandbox Solutions in SharePoint Online. Unfortunately, there’s no date on the post, so quite a few people I shared it with doubted its relevance. But if you go up a level, you can see it was posted on the 29th.

Removing Code-Based Sandbox Solutions in SharePoint Online SharePoint team - Published 07/29/2016

Removing Code-Based Sandbox Solutions in SharePoint Online
SharePoint team – Published 07/29/2016

Here at Sympraxis, we’ve never used Sandbox solutions (client side rulez!), but this quick shutdown seems to be hitting many people hard. I would have thought there would have been  series of reminders, maybe a countdown clock, and some targeted emails to people who are still running this type of solution to help them prepare for the eventuality.

There’s been an active discussion on reddit, confusion in the SharePoint group on Facebook, complaints in the SPYam Yammer network, etc. In other words, the communication either didn’t hit or it hit too late.

Even worse, it seems as though the support people had no idea this was going to happen. As late as last Friday afternoon, this was considered a service issue, with updates coming into the Office 365 Admin Center to explain why it was happening.

Custom Solutions and Workflows - Service degradation

Custom Solutions and Workflows – Service degradation

I really try not to be publicly critical of my friends at Microsoft (I know some of you may find that hard to believe!), but this one could have been handled far better. Microsoft is learning how to be more open, and this is one place where I think they are going to learn some things. There may be good reasons why this shutdown is happening ex post haste, and letting us know what those reasons are would be helpful. With SaaS, whether we like it or not, we’re all riding in the same ship. When it springs a leak, not just the women and children need to know it’s time to head to the lifeboats. And it’s August, when not that many people are running at full steam.

There are clear ways to solve this for your own organization, and good articles explaining how to go about it. But you don’t have a lot of time (we’re hearing as little as 30 days, at least in the rumor mill), so you’d better get cracking!

 

Update 2016-08-01: Check out this post from Dave Feldman (@bostonmusicdave) about getting some non-code solutions to activate: Sandbox Solutions removed from SharePoint Online–Here’s the fix for your Visual Studio developed WSPs to get them to activate. It seems as though the change to SharePoint Online may be blocking some solutions it shouldn’t.

Update 2016-08-02: Apparently, some people are seeing a message like this in the Admin Center. If you aren’t sure if you have sandbox solutions, be sure to check!

MC73347 in the admin center:

We’ve detected that you are using a code-based sandbox solution with your tenant account. Please be advised that we’ve moved forward on our plans to remove code-based sandbox solutions as previously announced in 2014.

As part of the removal process, activation of new code-based sandboxed solutions, as well as updates of existing solutions are no longer available. In approximately 30 days, currently running, code-based sandbox solutions in the SharePoint Online environment will be disabled.

Update 2016-08-03: Be sure to read my follow up post New Script Available from Microsoft PnP: Generate list of sandbox solutions from SharePoint Online tenant

5 Comments

  1. Hello Marc,

    Thanks for the article. I’m wondering if the solutions related with custom site templates are considered code-based.

    I guess they aren’t as the package only contains declarative files inside. But I cannot find any reference stating this clearly.

    What’s your opinion about this?

    Regards,
    Ricardo.

    Reply
    • @Ricardo:

      As I understand it, these changes only apply to code-based sandbox solutions. Declarative solutions should continue to work fine. If you have code-based sandbox solutions, you should see messages in your Admin Center explaining that you need to act on the issues. I’m not sure how detailed those messages are, however, as I’ve only seen the example above. For example, it would be great if the messaging told you which solutions pose issues, but I don’t know if that sort of personalization is in place.

      M.

      Reply
      • Thanks!

        I share that opinion. I don’t know if MS is going to tell us where/what is the problem… A tenant might be too huge to find those coded solutions. At least, after some tests, I feel more confident about the template packages.

        Regards,
        Ricardo.

        Reply
  2. The ‘no notice whatsoever’ was indeed surprising to our customers who use our PDF Conversion Workflow Actions as part of their SharePoint Online business processes. Workflow Actions can only be rolled out via Sandbox solutions as the App Model doesn’t support them for some reason.

    Microsoft very kindly maintains a ‘Canary Tenant’ environment where changes are rolled out first, which we religiously check out code base against at least once a week, but it turns out that this Canary environment is only used to roll out new functionality, not changes such as this one. As a result the change went unnoticed until it was too late. We implemented a workaround in record time, but still…

    I have started a UserVoice topic to see if these kind of changes can be rolled out to the Canary environment as well to make sure we find out about changes before they become a problem. You can vote for this topic at https://sharepoint.uservoice.com/forums/330318-sharepoint-administration/suggestions/15496650-roll-out-all-changes-to-the-canary-tenant-before-g

    Reply

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