Kevin Kieller
Kevin Kieller is a partner with enableUC, a company that helps measure, monitor and improve UC and collaboration usage and...
Read Full Bio >>

Kevin Kieller | October 07, 2015 |


Success With Skype: The Cloud Is Coming... Slowly

Success With Skype: The Cloud Is Coming... Slowly Based on Microsoft's roadmap, 2018 should be the first year larger organizations could reasonably turn to Skype for Business hosted entirely in the Office 365 cloud.

Based on Microsoft's roadmap, 2018 should be the first year larger organizations could reasonably turn to Skype for Business hosted entirely in the Office 365 cloud.

When the Enterprise Connect Tour: Implementing Microsoft Lync/Skype for Business in Your Enterprise made its stop in New York City a couple of weeks back, cloudy, rainy weather marked the event. But that didn't dampen attendees' strong interest in clouds... of the virtual kind.

Cloud services hold a great allure for many organizations, as we saw among enterprise attendees in New York. Shifting unified communications to the cloud potentially makes it someone else's responsibility to manage the complexity associated with servers, gateways, and SIP trunks. You don't need accurate demand forecasts because cloud services allow you to add more capacity instantly. And, cloud services are often cheaper, at least theoretically.

As part of my "Success With Skype" keynote address in New York, Jennifer Suter, a senior marketing manager at Microsoft, joined me on stage to share the roadmap for the newly announced Skype for Business cloud services.

As you can see from the graphic above, Microsoft is rolling out cloud services for Skype for Business, but slowly. Consider the PSTN connectivity that is in preview now and expected to be generally available throughout the U.S. by the end of 2015. This is the same capability that, in February 2013, Microsoft had indicated would be coming within 18 months -- i.e., by August 2014.

Let's decode the Microsoft UC cloud services roadmap: what, when, and implications.

Firstly, here is a summary of Microsoft's cloud UC services:

  • PSTN Conferencing - allows Office 365-hosted audio conferences to include participants who dial in from ordinary phones. Without PSTN Conferencing, only participants within your company or at federated organizations can join conferences.

  • PSTN Calling - allows users of Office 365-hosted Skype for Business to make calls to and receive calls from regular phones and phone numbers. Without PSTN Calling, Office 365 Skype for Business users can only call people who are also using Lync or Skype for Business.

  • Cloud PBX - provides advanced call control features such as hold, resume (take people off hold), forward, and transfer. The feature set will grow over time, but will not have parity with the on-premises Skype for Business offering until the end of 2017.

  • Broadcast Meetings - enables broadcasting a Skype for Business meeting to up to 10,000 participants. Participants can attend using a browser-based application on almost any device. This is a one-to-many webcast.

Secondly, here is a look at when specific features are expected to be available:

  • Today - in the U.S. only, you can sign up and take part in preview programs for PSTN Conferencing with Office 365, Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling, and Skype Meeting Broadcast. Go to the Microsoft preview page for details, requirements, and limitations.

  • By the end of 2015 - PSTN Conferencing for Office 365 should be available throughout the U.S., as should Cloud PBX with basic call control features combined with PSTN connectivity. This means U.S. organizations with basic call control needs will be able to choose Microsoft as their carrier and voice provider. I expect this offering to be very attractive to small and medium-sized businesses. Outside of the U.S. you should be able to deploy Cloud PBX with a "bring your own PSTN connectivity" option -- that is to say, an on-premises appliance that connects to existing PRIs or SIP connections.

  • In 2016 - Microsoft promises more features for the Cloud PBX offering, likely including response group (automatic call distribution, or ACD) service. In addition, it will extend PSTN Conferencing capabilities in Office 365 to parts of Europe, and provide the ability for organizations in Western Europe to use Cloud PBX + PSTN Calling as their voice platform -- i.e., Microsoft acts as their carrier.

  • By the end of 2017 - Sometime in 2017, likely by the end of the year, Microsoft "aspires" to be able to provide in the cloud the same call-control features that Skype for Business on-premises currently offers: response groups (ACD), team calls, delegation (boss/admin scenario, answering and placing calls on behalf of someone else), E911, call park, and more. Additionally, Microsoft expects to be able to provide PSTN Calling and PSTN Conferencing in most global regions where it's not restricted from doing so by regulation.

Based on this, I expect 2018 to be the first year larger organizations could reasonably evaluate the option to replace an on-premises Lync/Skype for Business deployment with one hosted entirely in the Office 365 cloud.

Thirdly, and most importantly, here are several implications these new cloud services have for your UC journey:

  1. Don't let future options defer or confuse your current analysis.

    You need to evaluate your options based on the capabilities available now. I previously wrote, "Trying to evaluate options as of some future date is an insidious trap because every week and certainly every month, new versions and new capabilities are announced and introduced." (My detailed article describes step by step how to create a UC roadmap: "The Goldilocks Approach: 7 Steps to Get to 'Just Right.'")

  2. Proceed with any in-flight Lync or Skype for Business on-premises deployments.

    While several of the Microsoft cloud UC services are in preview, you have no certainty that Microsoft will be able to adhere to intended timelines. If you have a good business case to deploy Lync 2013 on-premises or to upgrade to a Skype for Business server infrastructure, I would recommend you proceed full steam ahead. You can always evaluate introducing cloud workloads or a full cloud UC deployment several years from now. There is no reason to forego returns now based on the future potential for better returns.

  3. The financial model for the Microsoft UC cloud is currently unknown.

    Microsoft has not published the pricing for these new cloud services, likely to be bundled into a new E5 client access license. Without pricing you cannot perform a financial analysis of options. Additionally, any of these cloud services requires an Azure ExpressRoute connection to Office 365 in order to provide consistent voice quality. ExpressRoute enables customers to create private connections between their premises and Microsoft data centers. Microsoft has announced that its partners AT&T, BT, Colt, Equinix, Level 3 Communications, Orange Business Services, Tata Communications, Telstra, Verizon, and Vodafone will deliver direct connections. Make sure you consider the additional cost of this element.

  4. The cloud is not a silver bullet.

    The new Microsoft cloud services provide excellent options for consideration for many organizations. Options are good. However, whether moving all or some of your UC workloads to the cloud makes sense for your organization will depend on your current investments in UC, your network infrastructure, the number of office locations, business priorities, integration requirements and security restrictions.

Despite the rain outside, inside the NYC Enterprise Connect Tour event was a great success. I predict the rise of Microsoft UC cloud services will make the next few years sunnier for many organizations.

Next up, my thoughts from the Orange County and Chicago stops. The 2015 Enterprise Connect Tour was a great opportunity to connect organizations and leading Microsoft UC vendors in a full-day interactive program. If you missed the 2015 tour, tune in for Virtual Event sessions, now available on demand.

Follow Kevin Kieller on Twitter and Google+!
Kevin Kieller on Google+


September 26, 2018

Join Kevin Kieller, Microsoft UC&C expert, along with Ribbon Communications and Polycom, for an update on Microsoft Ignite, and a focus on critical things you need to know about your voice deployme

August 29, 2018

Moving your voice services to the cloud introduces new challenges for 9-1-1 services. These include the need to serve multiple locations, and the increased mobility that comes with having a phone t

August 8, 2018

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a reality for your contact center. But to turn the promise of AI into practical reality, there are a couple of prerequisites: Moving to the cloud and integr

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.