Microsoft shows off ‘Project Nucleus’ intelligent sync technology for web apps

Microsoft officials had a “one more thing” surprise for web-app users during the opening day of its virtual Ignite 2020 conference on Sept. 22. In a demonstration of Microsoft Lists, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Jeff Teper showed off “Project Nucleus,” new technology that Microsoft plans to make part of Lists information-tracking app later this year and likely other apps as well. 

Project Nucleus is sync plumbing that Microsoft ultimately plans to add to some, if not all, of its Microsoft 365 OneDrive and SharePoint web apps and SharePoint portals. Nucleus enables data availability regardless of internet speed or size of the data stored by an app. As officials said during a session about Microsoft Lists, “no synchronous round trips are needed for filtering, sorting or scrolling,” and large lists will work without throttling with the addition of Nucleus technology. All changes made to content offline will automatically sync once internet connection is reestablished.

Microsoft officials in another Ignite session described Project Nucleus as going beyond Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) for fast access and editing of large and complex datasets. 

Project Nucleus enables the caching of web content on local machines in the name of improving performance. It’s not just caching data; it is also synching changes to the local cache leveraging some of the underlying technology that Microsoft uses in OneDrive sync. Project Nucleus uses SQL Lite as a metadata store and for lightweight processing, I hear. It also will expose an application programming interface (API) that a web app can use. 

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I was wondering if Project Nucleus has anything to do with Microsoft’s other favorite plumbing technology: Fluid Framework. But other than the fact that both of these technologies plug into the Microsoft Graph API, I believe the answer is no.

Fluid Framework — which Microsoft recently open-sourced — is more about evolving content collaboration so that users and developers can share parts of content in real-time. Nucleus is more focused on synchronization, with synced data (files, address lists, etc.) available to Microsoft Search, the Fluid Framework, and more. 

In the Microsoft 365 roadmap, offline access for Microsoft Lists is shown as a December 2020 deliverable, so Nucleus may be making its public debut soon.

Microsoft’s official statement about Project Nucleus, provided to me by a spokesperson when I asked for more information:

“As Jeff (Teper) shared in his keynote, Project Nucleus is the latest of our investments coming to the SharePoint platform — powering experiences across Microsoft 365 and custom solutions. Project Nucleus will initially manifest in Microsoft Lists and will power the next generation of our web apps and portals. It will use intelligent sync to a database to keep a cache on the client that our web apps use to deliver a leapfrog in performance.”

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