Blog Archive

Licensing Skype for Business

Skype for Business

 

 

Cast your mind back to November 2014.  Kim Kardashian broke the Internet; the title of the seventh Star Wars film was revealed to be The Force Awakens, or was it Spectre?  Half the USA had quite a lot of snow and One Direction still had five members.

November also saw Microsoft announce that the next version of Lync would become Skype for Business.  Starting from April 1st 2015, admittedly a strange choice of date to make changes, the new client, server and online service are becoming available so what are the implications for customers and when are the key dates?

Everything Lync is becoming Skype for Business.  Lync 2013 clients are changing to Skype for Business clients.  Lync Web app is changing to Skype for Business web app.  Lync admin centre is changing to Skype for Business admin centre.  Lync Online is changing to Skype for Business Online.  If you search for Lync in Windows 8, it will return Skype for Business.

The first thing to realise is the Server is changing first; not so much the client.  Lync Server is changing but the client won’t be new until Office 2016.  However the client user interface will be changing from to reflect the Skype look and feel.  More on that later.

Key Dates

April 1st 2015 – Lync Online Becomes Skype for Business

May 1st 2015 – Skype for Business 2015 Server released (replacing Lync Server 2013)

Lync Online is versionless so only the name and SKU description will change to Skype for Business.  Lync Server On-Premises SKUs will be replaced with new Skype for Business SKUs on May 1st and these new SKUs represent brand new, versioned offerings of the Lync Server products under the Skype for Business branding, for example Skype for Business 2015 Server.  There will be some legacy media SKUs that need to retain the Lync branding for those customers on current versions.

As mentioned, the Lync client software won’t be fully refreshed until Office 2016 but through software updates, there will be some branding changes.

What’s New in Skype for Business and the updated UI?

Lync was called Lync because it was about linking and connecting people everywhere to achieve more.  Skype for Business has:

  • All the capabilities of Lync, both for users and administrators
  • An improved UI that takes advantage of familiar Skype icons and colors to simplify adoption for people
  • Multiple deployment options, including server, cloud, and a combination of the two
  • The security, compliance, and control features that enterprises require

Lync users will have no problem getting around the updated UI and you can see some screenshots on Microsoft.com.  And if you’re a regular user of the commercial version of Skype, then Skype for Business will seem very familiar: the Contacts list, presence indicators, buttons and icons, and even the app sounds should make you feel right at home.

Of course, all the essential Lync features are still there—like the Quick Actions buttons, which let you IM, call a contact and more with just one click or tap.

Skype for Business UI

There’s a lot of similarity between Skype and Skype for Business.  Skype for Business takes advantage of people’s comfort with Skype to make adoption faster and easier within the enterprise.

Skype for Business makes it possible to connect to anyone else on Skype, using IM, audio and video.  Even people who are outside of your business can get the same capabilities.  Doctors can communicate with patients.  Employers can interview candidates.  I’m sure you can use your imagination.  This integration includes support for Skype IDs and directory search within the client.  Video connectivity to the Skype consumer network was enabled back in December for Lync 2013 users.

And Skype for Business has the full set of capabilities that people have come to expect with Lync, usable from small screens to large screens.

The Skype for Business UI will be made available in the Office 2013 so existing customers who use the Lync 2013 client need to prepare users for migration to the new UI.  For click to run users on Office 365, the new interface will be enabled automatically.  Admins will have the option to use a policy setting with the Wave 15 client to retain the vast majority of the Lync UI if desired.

Be aware that for customers with mixed estates (pc and mac), they will need to deal with mixed branding for a while.  Not a huge implication perhaps as they already have to deal with mixed versions (Lync client 2011 and 2013).  The conversation history feature will now be consistent across devices.  Skype for Business is also not supported on Windows RT devices

For IT, Microsoft is offering on-premises, online and hybrid deployment options, all based on the same underlying Lync and Skype technology and all interoperating with Office 365, Active Directory and other foundational technologies such as Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Fabric.

Skype for Business Server 2015 has the same hardware profile as Lync Server 2013 for easier upgrade and most of the existing software and hardware solutions that are qualified for Lync 2013 will also be compatible with Skype for Business.  So current Lync customers can quickly get up and running with Skype for Business and keep their existing investments.

The new Skype for Business Server 2015 (on-premises) adds native interoperability with numerous Cisco Tandberg VTC models, a new Call via Work feature for leveraging existing PBX handsets and support for SQL Always On resiliency on the back-end database servers.

And both on-premises and the online service as part of Office 365 includes the ability to host much larger meetings.  Office 365 currently has an attendee limit of 250.  This will increase to thousands.

Three Key Features and Services Coming up with Skype for Business

First – Call via Work is simple PBX phone integration which allows users to make outbound voice calls from the Skype for Business client.  When a user places a voice call, it is routed from Skype for Business to the originator’s desktop phone.  Once the originator answers the phone, the call is then directed to the destination number.  The call recipient answers and the call is established with Skype for Business serving as the control panel.  The originator can manage their presence and call controls from Skype for Business.  Why would you want to do this?  Well, you may not have headsets and you don’t want to use the pc’s microphone and speaker.  You may experience better audio through your PBX desk phone.  You can also place calls from the client using any phone near you (like your mobile, home or hotel phone).  The person you’re calling sees your phone number as though you were calling from your company’s main phone number.

So if I start a call from Skype for Business client, my desktop phone rings.  I pick up the receiver and hear the other person’s phone ring.  They answer, I say hello and they say hello David, lovely to hear from you.  We can talk and if the other person is also on Lync or Skype we can IM, app share, transfer files, etc.

Call via Work is only available for the on-premises Skype for Business.  There are also some things you can’t do in this scenario including record your meeting, upload a PowerPoint, use video, Whiteboard, OneNote integration, polling or Q&A features.  And you won’t be able to add people to the call; this is a you-and-one-other-person call.  If you need any of these features, then you should set up a regular conversation that isn’t routed through your PBX desk phone.

Second – Lync Room Systems evolve into Skype Room Systems.  There will be a range of devices optimised for Skype for Business from hardware partners like Crestron, Polycom and Smart.  These will be built on a Windows 10 platform and available for customers in the Windows 10 timeframe.  Polycom also have a new series of solutions called Polycom RoundTable, purpose-built for Skype for Business.  The first device in this new offering is the Polycom RoundTable 100, designed for small and medium businesses and expected to be around $1,000.  Spoiler; it’s not round at all.

Polycom Roundtable 100

The Microsoft Surface Hub is a new large-screen device built for ink and touch, optimized for group collaboration and designed specifically for Skype for Business.  It delivers digital white boarding based on OneNote, the ability for multiple people to share and edit content to the screen from any device and support for Windows 10 apps.

Both the Surface Hub and RoundTable 100 should be available around summer 2015.

Third – the addition of Broadcast Meetings to enable very large meetings.  This is because it leverages Azure Media Services and it will scale to thousands of endpoints.  Attendees view the video and content and listen to the audio of the broadcast using any browser; no client or plug-in is required.  Social streams like Yammer can also be integrated into the attendee experience and Broadcast Meetings can be recorded and stored in the cloud.  The Broadcast Meeting scenario is delivered as a cloud service add-on.  Lync Server customers have access to new cloud services when they take advantage of unique Hybrid capabilities in Skype for Business.  Hybrid effectively opens the door to new online add-ons, the first of which will be the support for Broadcast Meetings.

When will the Skype for Business service support PSTN calling?

Well, Microsoft intends to provide two methods for customers to add PSTN calling to Office 365.

The first is to buy a calling service from Microsoft in the same way customers might buy the service from telecom providers like BT today.  Microsoft will begin offering this in the US in the 2nd half of 2015, then expand to Western Europe and beyond in 2016 so a little way off yet but at least there’s a name for the service now.  The first targets in Western Europe are Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Spain.

The second method is to use existing on premises assets including trunks from the PSTN or PBX systems.  Using this option will require the use of some on premises equipment, based on Skype for Business Server technology.

In reality, don’t expect much detail on either method until Microsoft’s new financial year (July 2015 onwards).

It’s important to remember that Office 365 E4 plan provides Enterprise Voice (EV) on-premises and cloud service for meetings.  It does NOT provide EV in the cloud.  By having E4 now, customers will be positioned to move to EV in the cloud at a lower cost via a Skype for Business add-on when it becomes available.

Licence Transition from Lync to Skype for Business

The transition from Lync to Skype for Business has different implications for the client and the server/Server CALs.

Skype for Business 2015 Server is a new version of the Server.  As usual customers without SA will require new Server Licences and new CALs to access it.  Customers with current SA on their Lync Server will have rights to the Skype for Business Server when it releases to the pricelist on May 1st.

Skype for Business 2015 client is not a new client version.  The new UI and brand are being released as part of an Office Product Update for the Office 2013 Pro Plus Lync client.  This means that customers without SA can begin using the new UI and rebranded client without acquiring a new licence for the client.  As mentioned, IT Pros have the option to not expose the new UI to end users and to retain the Lync 2013 look and feel via admin policies.

The next version of Lync/Skype for Business will ship with Office 16 in H2 CY 15.

Microsoft’s aspiration is to be “Cloud First” by the middle of 2016.  By this time, customers should be able to use the online service without sacrificing enterprise voice or other key scenarios.  Not every feature will be exactly the same but there will be the full set of scenarios.

Skype for Business Licence Stack

Resources

If you’d like some Quick Start Guides for Skype for Business, Microsoft have put them all in a bundle that contains guides in both PDF and PowerPoint formats.  There are five guides including Audio setup and making calls; Contacts, presence, and IM; Meetings; Video and Sharing and collaboration.

And if you still want more to read then here’s a selection of Microsoft links:

Lync Online is becoming Skype for Business

Skype for Business change management and adoption

Skype for Business client on Lync Server resources: Awareness and readiness planning

Skype for Business client on Lync Online: Awareness and readiness planning

Switching between the Skype for Business client and the Lync mode client

Discover Skype for Business (client Help)

SfB Training resources (Download Center)

 


Windows Server 2003 End of Support

Windows ServerJuly 14th is a day perhaps better known as Bastille Day.  History buffs might remember it as the birth day of both former US President Gerald Ford and Jim Gordon (drummer for one time super group Derek and the Dominos).  Windows focused IT pros, on the other hand will know that July 14th 2015 is when the lights go out for Windows Server 2003 (and Windows Server 2003 R2).  In less than 200 days’ time from now, Server 2003 will no longer attract bug fixes or patches.

Looking Back at Server 2003

Server 2003 was another great version of Windows Server with a wealth of new and improved features.  It was released to manufacturing in April 2003.  This release coincided with the release of Windows XP as the client operating system for both home and business users, in effect replacing Windows 98/ME.

Windows Server 2003 included a load of new and improved features including Distributed File System, support for SANs, ISCSI, NUMA and Multipath I/O.  Active directory and it’s underpinnings (including DNS) were also much improved.

Server 2003 shipped in a large number of separate SKUs: including Standard, Enterprise, Data Center and Web. Server 2003 shipped for 32-bit and 64-bit processors and for the Intel Itanium range.  In addition a number of derivative versions were also shipped, including Windows Computer cluster Windows Storage Server, Windows Home Server, Windows Server for Embedded systems and of course Small Business Server

In December 2005, Microsoft issued a major update, Windows Server 2003 R2 (which also reaches its end of life this summer coming).  The R2 version kept the same kernel and driver set of Windows Server 2003, but included a number of non-kernel improvements, including better branch office support, improved identity and access management and, in an attempt to improve manageability a free add on Services for Unix (aka SFU) was also included.

So what?

But in just a few short month, the Server 2003 party will be over.  From that all free support will cease.  There will be no further publically issued patches.  Organisations may be able to contract with Microsoft for longer support – but such contracts will be expensive (certainly more expensive than the cost of upgrading).

From August, Microsoft will issue patches for bugs that may well have been in Server 2003 – but no patches will be issued for Server 2003 itself.  These later patches provide significant input to the hackers who can use the patches to help develop malware that would target Server 2003 specifically.  At some point in the future, any Server 2003 box that is internet facing will simply not be safe (or yours).

Now of course the sky won’t fall down on the 15th of July the day after end of life.  The world will not cease to exist from then.  But from that point on, your older systems are increasingly at risk.  One could argue that IT departments and possibly the company’s management, that fail to upgrade in time and later get hacked, were negligent.  If those servers are running inside some sort of compliance regime, you may find those servers out of compliance.  In the case of PCI compliance, you could find that Visa/MasterCard may cease doing business with you – and for some companies this could mean the end of the organisation.  Other compliance regimes can impose other sanctions.  All in all, there’s little upside to continuing running Server 2003.

There may be some cases, where upgrading is difficult, if not impossible.  Server systems running certain applications or supporting specialist hardware may find that software or hardware is not supported on later versions of the OS.  It’s easy to say that you should have had a plan B for such situations and had it figured out a long time ago.  But upgrading is rapidly becoming a requirement not an option.

Upgrading to what?

So let’s assume you do want to upgrade – what do you upgrade TO?  There are a lot of factors that you need to take into account.  These include the advances in hardware and software as well as the impact of both virtualisation and the cloud.

A lot of systems still running Server 2003 and R2 are old and well ready to be retired.  Technology has improved significantly since you implemented Server 2003.  Server hardware today is significantly faster and more energy efficient.  X64 systems now allow huge amounts of RAM, and SSD disks are significantly faster.  Networking has seen speeds rise by several orders of magnitude.  The whole hardware landscape has evolved significantly.

Newer versions of Windows Server have also provided significant new features, not least of which is Hyper-V, Microsoft’s approach to virtualisation. If you are wanting to upgrade, it makes sense to go for Windows Server 2012 R2.

Virtualisation has been another huge change in the way one designs a data centre.  In the Server 2003 era, virtualisation was not all that common, with VMware being about the only serious game in town.  Whereas Virtualisation was once a niche approach, today, there’s almost no system that cannot be easily virtualised.  There are of course some exceptions to this, i.e. servers that utilise specialised hardware – but for almost all commercial applications – virtualisation should be the only option.

In summary, you should be upgrading to the latest version of the Server OS you can.  Given that upgrading to a new version may well incur costs relating to the new Operating System – you might as well get the latest version (Server 2012 R2).  Besides the obvious feature benefits, Server 2012 R2 mean your next upgrade will be as far away as you can get!

It might be tempting to just wait for the next version of Windows Server (aka Windows Server 10).  But since Microsoft announced that this version would not ship for another year – you are going to be at risk till you can get the final version.  You could just go live on the beta versions – but going live on beta server software seems to me to be even riskier!  Waiting for the next server release is possible – but certainly a risky plan.

Your Upgrade Project

Gartner reckons it can take anywhere from 6 to 9 months to carry out an upgrade.  Now for some simple scenarios (a Server 2003 File and Print server), moving to the Server 2012 R2 for those features is going to be pretty simple.  But moving LOB of apps is likely to be harder.  And of course, almost every organisation has a number of applications that may not be simple or straight forward to upgrade.

To assist in the Upgrade, Microsoft has a couple of really helpful packages.  The first is the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit (AKA MAP). Microsoft say: “The Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit is an agentless inventory, assessment and reporting tool that can securely assess IT environments for various platform migrations”.  You can get the MAP toolkit for free from Microsoft at: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-gb/solutionaccelerators/dd537566.aspx.  This tool should help you to assess your network with respect to upgrading from Server 2003.  It will also help you to plan your project.

Another tool that can be useful as part of an Upgrade Project is the Application Compatibility Toolkit.  Microsoft describe the ACT kit as:  “a lifecycle management tool that assists in identifying and managing your overall application portfolio, reducing the cost and time involved in resolving application compatibility issues and helping you quickly deploy Windows and Windows updates.”  The ACT helps you to identify the applications within your overall application portfolio and to evaluate the upgrade.  The ACT also enables you to ‘fix’ applications so that they run properly in the latest versions of MS operating systems.  As such this tool will be invaluable in making older applications work without having to do costly upgrades.

The ACT and MAP tool sets do overlap a bit but both are extremely valuable.  And they are also both free.  Having said that, undertaking an analysis of your existing network, a step you really need to take as part of upgrading, can take time.  It’s NOT an overnight task.  And what’s more, you may find a whole lot of applications that are both critical to the business or some part of the business but are totally unknown to IT.  You need time to assess these applications and to plan for moving these applications forward.

Get Started SOON

If you are still running Server 2003 in any shape or form – you should have an upgrade strategy.  You should work out what you are going to upgrade, and what to.  This is not necessarily a fast process.  It can take weeks to work out all the applications you have and analyse each and every one for upgrade potential.  And where upgrading to a new OS means an upgraded or a totally new application suite, you can find the upgrade process is going to be longer.

So, bottom line: if you haven’t started now – you are going to be hard pressed to finish in time.  Get moving.

Of course a great first step is to become certified in Windows Server 2012 R2.  It only takes 2 minutes to register for our 13th April Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 MCSA or any of our official Microsoft courses.

About the author: Thomas Lee is a long standing IT Pro consultant, author and trainer.  He has had a consulting practice since the late 1980s after leaving what is now called Accenture.  Thomas has co-authored several books as well as writing for magazines such as BackOffice Magazine and PC Pro.  He has also spoken at Microsoft TechEd across the world.


Microsoft Azure Resources

Stack of books and resourcesIf you’re looking to use or build a practice around Microsoft Azure, good on you.  Here’s a bunch of links that might come in handy.  Feel free to bookmark the page, we like being bookmarked.  We like it even more when you train with us.

Manage the directory for your Office 365 subscription in Azure

Get started backing up to the cloud with SQL Server Backup to Microsoft Azure Tool

Building a highly available on-premises VPN gateway

Microsoft Azure in Open Licensing

Active Geo-Replication for Azure SQL Database

Backup and Restore Windows Azure IaaS Virtual Machines using BLOB Snapshots

New Azure Active Directory Sync tool with Password Sync is now available

Install or upgrade the Directory Sync tool

Azure Virtual Machines – Common Questions and Issues

Azure Service Level Agreements

Understanding Azure SQL Database and SQL Server in Azure VMs

Guidelines for Deploying Windows Server Active Directory on Azure Virtual Machines

Installing IIS Dynamic IP Restrictions in an Azure Web Role (PAAS)

Windows Azure Availability Sets

Manage the availability of virtual machines

About Regional VNets and Affinity Groups for Virtual Network

New D-Series Virtual Machine Sizes

Virtual Network Overview

Configure a Point-to-Site VPN in the Management Portal

Configure a Static Internal IP Address for a VM

IP Addressing

Name Resolution (DNS)

How To Change the Drive Letter of the Windows Temporary Disk

High Availability and Disaster Recovery for SQL Server in Azure Virtual Machines

SharePoint Server Farm

Active Directory Pricing

Azure Backup FAQ

Deploy Office 365 Directory Synchronization (DirSync) in Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure: Connecting multiple VNET’s to a VNET

Add a co-administrator to an Azure subscription

Azure SQL Database Security Guidelines and Limitations

About VPN Devices for Virtual Network

Free Azure eBook – Fundamentals of Microsoft Azure


Free Azure eBook

Man holding the word freeStaff at Microsoft aren’t usually allowed to say the word free.  Someone will sue on the basis of abusing market dominance.  However sometimes, it’s justified.

Eric Ligman, a senior sales excellence manager at Microsoft, has posted a few news items in the past about freely downloadable eBooks.  Microsoft Press can be pretty generous and the latest free eBook released is titled Microsoft Azure Essentials: Fundamentals of Azure.  I heard about this smack bang in the middle of teaching an Azure course.  How serendipitous.

The eBook, written by two Microsoft Most Valued Professionals (MVP) Michael S. Collier and Robin E. Shahan is a great point to start about the capabilities of Azure, which I describe as an enormous box of Lego.  Azure can be anything and you need to play and practice to get the best out of it.  I’ll explain some concepts and ideas in a future blog post.

The book also has a publication date of February 2015 so is up to date.  The change cadence of Azure is bewilderingly fast so it’s nice to read something which matches the current offerings.

You can download Microsoft Azure Essentials: Fundamentals of Azure along with a host of other titles directly from Microsoft Press.  And of course, we run Azure training courses so if you are looking to gain an MCP in Azure or kick-start your Azure technical knowledge, have a look at our cloud courses or drop us a line.


Is Office 365 Subject to the Patriot Act?

Great Seal of the United States

 

David from Newcastle upon Tyne asks “is Office 365 subject to the Patriot Act?”

This is a very common question when dealing with cloud services, not just office 365.  In short, the USA Patriot Act makes lawful access to stored data easier in certain instances.  If the request is lawful and obligatory, Microsoft cannot simply refuse.  Nor can any other company.  And don’t forget, the UK has similar powers and made almost as many law enforcement disclosure requests as the US between July 2013 and December 2013 (4,213 requests from the UK against 5,652 from the US).

Customers can be assured that Microsoft follows clear principles in responding to any government legal demands for customer data (whether from the US government, UK or other bodies):

There must be a valid subpoena or legal equivalent before Microsoft will consider releasing a customer’s non-content data to law enforcement;
There must be a court order or warrant before Microsoft will consider releasing a customer’s content data;
In each instance, Microsoft carefully examines the requests received for a customer’s information to make sure they are in accord with the laws, rules and procedures that apply.

Because Microsoft is committed to transparency in regards to who has access to customers’ data, when and under what circumstances, they publish the details of the number of demands they receive each year in a Law Enforcement Requests Report which is updated twice a year.  They have just released a report on US government requests (as opposed to law enforcement requests) and between January 2013 and June 2013 there were less than 1,000 orders seeking disclosure of customer content.  Brad Smith, Microsoft’s General Counsel & Executive Vice President of Legal & Corporate Affairs highlights that “while our customers number hundreds of millions… only a fraction of a percent of our users are affected by these orders.”

It’s also possible for customers on Microsoft’s cloud services to find out whether someone has accessed their data.

Due to the frequency of this question, the Office 365 Trust Centre is a useful source of information around privacy and transparency.


Handy Resources for Customers

I don’t know about you but my favourites list is longer than {insert your favourite tabloid celebrity here}’s list of ex-partners.  I’m trying to apply some minimalism and fit the most useful on this postcard which we’ll keep up to date.  Feel free to suggest any links you find useful and would like to share.

Update February 6th 2015 – handy list of Microsoft Azure Resources

Handy resource reference card