Microsoft

Skype for Business Server 2019 Preview

Over the past few months Microsoft has been pushing Teams, Teams, and more Teams. However, today Microsoft has given some love to Skype for Business Server 2019 by releasing it for preview. In this article I’ll be discussing what’s new in Skype for Business Server 2019 as well as what has been deprecated in this new revision.

Note: This blog describes pre-release software that may change substantially before it is released. 

What’s New?

  • Cloud Voicemail
  • Cloud Auto Attendant
  • Call Data Connector
  • Side-by-side migration
  • Migration to Teams

Unified messaging services: Cloud Voicemail

With the latest updates, pairing Skype for Business Server 2019 with Exchange Server 2019 provides users with voicemail services such as Cloud Voicemail and Cloud Auto Attendant features. This is the alternative to Unified Messaging which was previously provided through Exchange. That said, Exchange 2019 will not be offering Exchange Unified Messaging, however for organizations leveraging Skype for Business Server 2019 with Exchange 2013 or Exchange 2016 you will still have the ability to leverage Exchange Unified Messaging. Cloud Voicemail will allow all Skype for Business 2019 users (on-prem and online) to use the same voicemail service in the Microsoft cloud. By leveraging the Cloud Voicemail service you get the following benefits:

  • Access to voicemail in your Exchange mailbox by using the Skype for Business Online, Teams, or Outlook clients
  • Ability to use the web-based portal to manage your voicemail options

To learn more about planning to implement the Cloud Voicemail service check it out here. If you’re looking to learn more about your Skype for Business Server 2019 and Exchange Server 2019 migration check out the link here.

Unified messaging services: Cloud Auto Attendant

Now on-prem customers will have the ability to use Cloud Attendant. For customers syncing to Azure AD they will need to use a hybrid configuration. This functionality is not yet available but is slated for release later this year.

Call Monitoring: Cloud Call Data Collector

You may be familiar with the Call Analytics from Skype for Business Online. This tool is great but if you were operating in a hybrid environment it would get cumbersome to switch back and forth between the online tool and the on-prem tool to monitor call quality. Now, whether you’re hosted online or on-prem you can choose to view all call quality metrics for your entire organization online. As Microsoft updates reporting to the cloud, customers will have the ability to take advantage of CQD (Call Quality Dashboard) experience in cloud for all on-premises customers later this year. With this new call data collector, you can perform the following tasks by using a single toolset:

  • Monitor your user experience across Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business Online, and Skype for Business Server.
  • View and troubleshoot problems across your network
  • Assign help desk and administrator roles for Call Analytics, so that you can empower help desk workers to view and troubleshoot their areas of responsibility.
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Installation and Upgrade: Side-by-side Migration

In this scenario you deploy Skype for Business Server 2019 alongside a corresponding server that is running a previous version (Skype for Business 2015 or Lync Server 2013), and then transfer operations to a newer server. This also gives you the flexibility to roll back to a previous version if need be. For more information, see Migration to Skype for Business Server 2019.

Installation and Upgrade: Streamlined Teams Migration

As an on-premises customer you may realize that right now isn’t the best time to move to the cloud but do have future intentions of getting there. Fear now, to ease the transition Microsoft has further simplified the experience for when you are ready to migrate to Teams.

What’s being deprecated?

  • XMPP Gateways for Skype for Business Server
  • Persistent Chat for Skype for Business Server
  • SQL Mirroring for Skype for Business Server
  • In-place upgrades
  • Mobility Service (Mcx)

XMPP Gateways for Skype for Business Server

With SKype for Business 2015 and Lync Server 2013 you could configure an Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) proxy on the Edge Server and an XMPP Gateway on the Front End Server or Front End pool. This is no longer the case and is not offered with Skype for Business Server 2019.

Persistent Chat for Skype for Business Server

This server role has received some scrutiny over the last few server revisions and Microsoft has finally decided to scrap this server role since Microsoft Teams now has the capabilities of persistent chat.

SQL Mirroring for Skype for Business Server

SQL Mirroring has been dropped for Skype for Business Server 2019. Other options for providing High Availability and Disaster Recovery are still supported and you should choose from among them. This includes the AlwaysOn Availability Groups, AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instances (FCI), and SQL failover clustering methods as the preferred with Skype for Business Server 2019.

In-place upgrades

In-place upgrades were avaialble in Skype for Business Server 2015 but are no longer supported in Skype for Business 2019. However, side-by-side upgrade and coexistence is the preferred option, you can see Migration to Skype for Business Server 2019 for more information.

Mobility Service (Mcx)

Although Mcx has been supported throughout many of the previous revisions of Lync and Skype for Business, this isn’t the case for Skype for Business Server 2019. This mobility service has been deprecated in Skype for Business Server 2019 in favor of UCWA (Unified Communications Web API) which all current Skype for Business mobile clients already support. For those still using a legacy client you will need to update to the latest client for this to work in Skype for Business Server 2019.

For more details, see Plan for Mobility for Skype for Business Server and Mobile client feature comparison for Skype for Business.

Tools being Deprecated

As mentioned above, not only are some server roles being deprecated, but also many of the tools available to Lync Server 2013 and Skype for Business 2015 will no longer be available for Skype for Business Server 2019.  You will notice below that this is separated into two separate sections, one being tools that won’t be available during the initial release (meaning that they may be available at a later time) and others that will not be supported with Skype for Business Server 2019.

  • The following tools will not be available for use at the initial release of Skype for Business Server 2019:
    • Skype for Business Server Capacity Planning Calculator
    • Skype for Business Server Debugging Tools
    • Skype for Business Server Resource Kit Tools (some tools will be removed)
      • Call Parkometer
      • Lookup user console
      • Unassigned number Announcement Migration
  • The following tools are not supported with Skype for Business Server 2019:
    • Call Quality Methodology Dashboard
    • Microsoft Call Quality Methodology Scorecard, v1.5
    • Skype for Business Server 2015 Planning Tool
    • Skype for Business Server 2015 Stress and Performance Tool

I am sure Microsoft has specific reasons for why they are not supporting these tools and I am confident they will be releasing alternative tools to compensate for this. However, with Microsoft’s primary focus on Microsoft Teams you can tell where a lot of their effort will be geared towards going forward. With all that said, Skype for Business is far from dead and Microsoft has even stated there will be much more to come at Microsoft Ignite! I hope you have found this high level overview of SKype for Business Server 2019 helpful and I will be writing a blog series on this new server revision soon as more information is released.

About the Author

Brian is a Technical Consultant for Perficient’s Unified Communications practice focusing primarily on Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams workloads. He has been in this role since December 2017 and has an active presence blogging about all things Teams related. Currently, Brian resides in the suburbs of Chicago and enjoys running, swimming, weight lifting, and playing soccer in his free time.

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