After more than a decade of Microsoft “replacing and re-branding” its communications solutions, from LCS and OCS through to Lync and Skype for Business; we are now looking to a future with Microsoft Teams.
After more than a decade of Microsoft “replacing and re-branding” its communications solutions, from LCS and OCS through to Lync and Skype for Business; we are now looking to a future with Microsoft Teams. This latest announcement may have sent a thorough shock wave throughout the industry but in most cases, it will not have phased the enterprise, since it is well used to deploying Microsoft solutions within an ever-changing landscape. Any enterprise currently moving to Skype for Business will now be busy planning for Microsoft Teams and looking to dig into the details in the recently announced roadmap from Redmond.
The Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams Capabilities Roadmap, is split into the 3 core sections; Messaging, Calling and Meetings, and looks to provide clarity on how and when enterprises might start migrating to Teams.
The Messaging roadmap importantly talks of federation and Skype for Business interop with persistent chat coming in the first quarter of 2018. Both features will be needed for external communication with organizations still using Skype for Business. This obviously includes the large number of on-premises Skype for Business users.
The ‘calling’ roadmap is where Microsoft Teams clearly has a lot of work to do. It’s true to say that there are no companies using Teams, as their primary telephony system today, as the features needed for this just don’t exist yet. Many of these features are coming in Q4 this year, at which point organizations might well start to be able to consider Teams as a desktop UC platform. Said that, several key features are not going to be available until the middle to end of 2018, making it difficult to roll out fully. E.g. existing certified SIP phone support and transfer of calls to PSTN. The later arrival of some of these features calls for careful planning.
The most interesting line on the calling roadmap is the Skype for Business interop and federation one; and here it is fair to say the roadmap is light on detail. We are told that Skype for Business-Teams Calling will be supported in the last quarter of this year but nothing beyond this headline. There are more questions than answers! Does this include point-to-point video calling? Does this include joining Skype for Business AVMCU meetings or Teams meetings, from the other client? Does it include content sharing? – Unfortunately, we still do not know the answer to these important questions.
For meetings, again, the detail is light, “application sharing” is slated before the end of the year. The reference to “give and take control in sharing” is also in this time- frame. Intriguingly, does this mean that RDP will be supported? And does this point towards content sharing interop to Skype for Business, which also supports giving and taking control?
Critically, “federated meetings” arrives in 2018. This will be the first time that meetings will really be able to invite third parties / external participants beyond today’s guest capability. This is critical for a true UC solution that works outside of your own organization.
The platform and devices line are also interesting, Microsoft’s own meeting room system support doesn’t begin until the end of mid 2018.
Of course, with all of the above, it is important to remember that this only applies to organizations using Skype for Business online. Skype for Business on-premises does not get replaced by Microsoft Teams, and here we are going to see a new Skype for Business 2019 server solution (vNext) instead. With this, enterprises can continue any move to Skype for Business on-premises safe in the knowledge that the Microsoft Lifecycle Policy will guarantee support for Skype for Business Server for 10 more years! (5 years mainstream and 5 years extended).
The diverging on-premises and online strategies mean that the interoperability and federation described in the roadmap is most important and really does need to ensure that both Skype for Business organizations and Microsoft Teams organizations can make full use of all of the features described.