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Office 365 – The Future of Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business

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In the Episode 54 of the renamed Teams on Air broadcast (https://aka.ms/TeamsOnAirReplay), Sr. Product Marketing Manager and host Delanda Coleman along with General Manager of Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams Lori Wright recapped the news from Ignite 2017 along with a Q&A. If you’ve read my previous recap of the keynote from Ignite 2017, there was not a lot of new information from this broadcast. Delanda and Lori outlined that Microsoft Teams is going to be the new vision for unified (orĀ intelligent) communications in Office 365. Rather than putting technology together to solve a problem, Microsoft is bringing intelligence to elevate the collaboration experience with Microsoft Teams. In this post I wanted to touch on a couple of topics, in particular some information that came out of the Q&A at the end.
Skype for Business Online in Office 365 is going to be around for awhile. This means if you are considering moving from an on-premises Lync or Skype environment or starting new in the cloud, keep planning this project and move forward as normal. In the broadcast, Lori Wright addresses the concern that Microsoft is going to force people over to Microsoft Teams by emphatically stating that this is not the case. Microsoft is set on giving customers the tools to move their users to Microsoft Teams and help them when they are ready. Organizational change management can be a struggle for some, and the task of moving users to a new platform should never be taken lightly. If you are currently using Skype for Business, deciding when and how to migrate to Microsoft Teams should be planned as any other major project by training and preparing end users for the change.
During one of the Ignite sessions from this year, Microsoft said that they are looking to get full feature functionality from Skype for Business into Teams in the next 12-18 months. This means that if you are using advanced features such as auto attendants or call queues, the timeframe to move to Microsoft Teams could be a while. Audio conferencing in Teams is only in public preview right now, and PSTN calling has only been seen in demos and slides from Ignite. Some organizations will not be able to move until these features are fully ready, so there is time to continue developing your existing service until the Teams offering matures. The roadmap for Microsoft Teams features is expected to be released in the next few weeks, so keep a look out for new features be listed on the Office 365 Roadmap site.
Another topic that came up is the support for third-party integration, such as room systems, phones, and other devices. Microsoft fully intends to make all the current Skype for Business certified devices compatible with Microsoft Teams. This will provide some relief for both customers and partners as many have made significant investments in purchasing hardware to support their Skype for Business implementations. Microsoft has a continued commitment to supporting and to expanding the availability of devices provided by partners. This includes video interop capabilities such as Polycom, BlueJeans Network, and Pexip. During the Q&A for the Ignite Session Deploying and Managing Skype Room Systems and Microsoft Certified Devices, it was stated that IP phones will remain branded as Skype for Business and there will not be any Microsoft Teams branded phones. I believe this shows Microsoft’s continued commitment to the Skype for Business product name.
Along the lines of devices, there were several questions around customers who have deployed cloud-connector edition to bring their own SIP trunk to the cloud for PSTN connectivity. While the details are not finalized, Microsoft intends to keep this same functionality for Teams but in a different way. Instead of using CCE appliances, customers would be able to use session border controllers (SBCs) to connect their existing trunks out to Office 365. AudioCodes, a partner of Perficient, has already announced that their existing CCE devices will also function as SBCs. If you are considering deploying CCE for Skype for Business, continue down this path as your existing investment can be re-purposed for Microsoft Teams.
Lastly, Microsoft also announced during Ignite the vNext release of Skype for Business Server on-premises. This is tracking to be released in Q4 of 2018. If you look at Microsoft’s support model, this typically means 5 years of regular support plus 5 years of extended support. Microsoft stated several time during Ignite that they are committed to Skype for Business in the datacenter and are including several enhancements in a hybrid scenario with Office 365, such as leveraging Call Analytics, Auto Attendants, and Call Queues built in the cloud. I believe Microsoft will continue to release Skype for Business Server versions as there will always be organizations that have requirements to keep applications in a private datacenter. I also look at Skype’s cousin Exchange as an indicator of future on-premises version as it has had regular releases and will have an on-premises release in 2019 as well. Microsoft’s advantage over Amazon and Google for cloud computing is the fact that they have on-premises versions that gives them a foothold into the private datacenter, and I do not foresee Microsoft abandoning this.
To summarize, I see three scenarios that customers may be in and what action they should start taking now:

  1. If you are new to Skype for Business and are looking to deploy in Office 365, consider deploying Microsoft Teams instead IF it offers the features you are looking for. Outside of chat and presence, these organizations need to have SharePoint, Exchange, and OneDrive readiness as well as Teams relies heavily on these. If you require Cloud PBX/Phone System and other advanced capabilities, continue to plan and to deploy Skype for Business Online and migrate to Teams later.
  2. If you are an on-premises Lync Server or Skype for Business Server environment and are looking to move to a hybrid configuration, continue down this path as normal. Complete the hybrid setup or migrated completely to Online and wait for Teams to meet the functionality you are looking for before switching over.
  3. If you are an on-premises Lync Server or Skype for Business Server environment and have no interest in the cloud, start planning to deploy the vNext version starting in 2019. This version will be supported and maintained by Microsoft for many years if you wish to continue your on-premises deployment. Also consider a hybrid scenario to take advantage of features built in Skype Online.

Did you find this article helpful? Leave a comment below or follow me on Twitter (@JeffWBrown) for more information on Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams.

About the Author

I am a Senior Technical Consultant focusing on Lync/Skype for Business. I have a broad background in Windows system administration and enjoy writing PowerShell scripts.

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