Microsoft announced today that their Office services machine learning project, codenamed “Oslo” when introduced to the world at the SharePoint conference, will be called “Delve” when released as a capability to Office 365 tenants sometime toward the end of 2014. In May Microsoft filed to register Delve as a trademark for a software as a service product.
The Microsoft announcement is buried in a release preparing the way for next week's WorldWide Partners Conference (WPC) and says:
"Announced earlier this year as Codename Oslo, today we’re sharing that the official name is Delve. Delve, the first experience powered by the intelligence fabric we call the Office Graph, will be available to Office 365 customers later this year. It’s an incredible new way to search and discover content across Office 365 that delivers personalized insights based on machine learning. Delve surfaces information that would be of interest and relevance to you, enabling you to discover and connect with new information you might otherwise not have. Delve effectively removes the information silos that exist across applications, while better supporting information discovery to enable teams to work together as a network."
As the name implies, Delve is intended to allow users to gain a much better understanding of the breadth and depth of knowledge that exists within company repositories such as SharePoint and Exchange by using machine learning techniques to recognize connections between people and joint interests such as common projects or other areas of activities.
Delve is not currently scheduled for an on-premises version. The more I think of this, the more I understand Microsoft’s stance. First, machine learning programs usually need an awful lot of tweaking during the transition from research to something that delivers value inside large organizations. And although there’s no doubt that Microsoft is gaining valuable experience from using Delve internally, that’s no guarantee that something which works well for one specific organization that has a specific culture and method of working will do as well when used across a variety of different companies. Thus, it’s expected that frequent updates for code and data will occur as Microsoft refines Delve based on real-life observation of its use within Office 365.
When everything stabilizes and Delve becomes a well-understood program in all meanings of the word, Microsoft might be able to create a package that is installable within on-premises deployments. But there’s no guarantees that this will be the case.
Another reason is that Microsoft controls every aspect and moving part within Office 365 and can therefore engineer Delve to operate inside a highly specific software environment. Achieving the same conditions in an on-premises deployment is much harder as software, hardware, and operations resources have to be coordinated to meet the needs of Delve. Although I have no hands-on experience with Delve, I imagine that its installation and configuration is a tad more demanding than installing Exchange or SharePoint.
So it’s easier for Microsoft to innovate inside Office 365 and examples of new functionality like Delve appearing in a cloud-exclusive form creates certain challenges for both on-premises customers and hosting companies who offer services that compete with Office 365.
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