What’s new in SharePoint 2016 Preview User Profile Service Application

I have kept wondering over nights what changes Microsoft makes in User Profile Service Application since Bill Baer shared some things about SharePoint 2016 at Microsoft Ignite. A 6-year-old service application having made a lot of people cry when setting up. “stuck at starting”  is one of the most notorious buzzwords in SharePoint historically.

To crack off my curiosity about User Profile Service Application in SharePoint 2016, I have taken a quick look and have realized a few easy-to-see changes. This article is going to share my findings in the preview version of SharePoint 2016 platform.

Unable to name synchronization database

Previously when creating a new User Profile service application, you have chance to name the synchronization database which stores configuration and staging data for use when profile data is being synchronized with directory services such as Active Directory. However in SharePoint 2016 Preview, you are unable to name this database. It basically means Microsoft doesn’t want User Profile service application to be responsible for bearing a set of complicated configuration structure in synchronization.

If you do the comparison between the SharePoint 2013 sync database with the one in SharePoint 2016, you will realize that the new sync database doesn’t have tables related to SharePoint.

Active Directory Import is the only built-in synchronization type

When creating a new synchronization connection, Active Directory Import is the only synchronization connection type available. Previously in SharePoint 2013, Microsoft supports several types allowing you to connect to different directory services, such as IBM Tivoli, Novell eDirectory. Forefront Identity Manager (FIM) is the core synchronization engine which has not been talked too much these days. The announcement during Microsoft Ignite about the discontinuation of traditional SharePoint profile synchronization makes clear to all of us. SharePoint 2016 no longer uses Forefront Identity Manager client to synchronization between Active Directory and SharePoint. Instead, Microsoft is in the progress of developing Microsoft Identity Manager 2016 which can be used an external FIM service to synchronization between directory services and SharePoint.

If you are to configure synchronization option, you will only see two options: SharePoint Active Directory Import and External Identity Manager. Without traditional SharePoint profile synchronization, User Profile Synchronization Service is also removed. You won’t have to worry about “stuck at starting” which is truly a nightmare to every SharePoint administrator.

Earlier versions of SharePoint used Forefront Identity Manager client (FIM) to synchronize between Active Directory and SharePoint. SharePoint Server 2016 IT Preview no longer uses FIM as the synchronization client. The default process is Active Directory Import. You can also use any synchronization tool such as Microsoft Identity Manager 2016, or any third-party tool. We’ll soon release tools to help you deploy and configure Microsoft Identity Manager 2016 to work with SharePoint Server 2016 IT Preview for identity synchronization. More information: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt346112(v=office.16).aspx

New default user property

Compared with SharePoint 2013, User Profile Service application in SharePoint 2016 offers more user properties by default. Microsoft has not fully introduced changes and replacements yet. Some new noticeable properties include UserProfile_GUID, SPS-OWAUrl, SPS-LastColleguageAdded…etc. It looks like the new platform is going to offer more for the implementation of social network.

There may be more changes in User Profile Service Application that I haven’t noticed enough. I will try to keep this article up to date and share links related to User Profile Service Application in SharePoint 2016. Bookmark this article if you want to be on track.


  1. Naveed
    November 25, 2015 — 5:43 pm

    Hi, I am new to SharePoint Administration side. My question is, In what scenario should I use Microsoft Identity Manager 2016 synchronization tool; keeping in view there is an option “Start Profile Synchronization” under Synchronization section in User Profile Service Application.? Do I really need this new synchronization tool?

  2. August 30, 2016 — 2:57 pm

    Good Article , Which cleared by doubt.

    So my question is , Am about to work on the requirement , which is actually we use to do it in 2010 and 2013 as well. that is User Profile Synchronisation with SQL Custom Attributes through BCS.

    So this is not possible in Sharepoint 2016?? are you sure?

    I have been searching for options in 2016 environment , no use. So i thought of open a ticket with microsoft.

    But as per your article , this is not possible. right. ??

  3. Hilal AlBusaidi
    May 8, 2017 — 4:36 pm

    I create C# code read OracleDB and update User Profile properties
    and let .exe run every day

    • Thuan Soldier
      May 8, 2017 — 6:20 pm

      Thank you for your sharing Hilal. I agree with you such an approach. I had a customer who wrote managed .NET code to read to Active Directory then synchronized to a custom database.

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