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

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:

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

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:

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.

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