A Quick Look Under the Hood of Microsoft’s Pending On-Prem UC Release
As Microsoft Teams entered the picture in 2017, there was a frenzy in the air as speculation mounted about a potential, aggressive move by Microsoft to cutover to Teams and leave Skype for Business behind for good. This speculation was a major concern for the myriad of organizations who had already standardized on Skype for Business as their UC platform for voice and conferencing. So in late September of 2017, Microsoft officially announced that there would be another Server release of Skype for Business (Skype for Business Server 2019), it was quickly followed by many sighs of relief.
Fast-forward to late July of 2018 when Microsoft made available the preview release of the newest on-premises server version of Skype for Business, and two things have become clear. First, the Microsoft Teams frenzy has continued unabated. To Microsoft’s credit, their developers have been releasing new Teams features and functionality at a rapid pace – so much so, in fact, that Microsoft claims that Teams is now already at full feature parity with Skype for Business. Second, now that we see the full feature set of exactly what is included in Skype for Business Server 2019, there are a lot of IT professionals out there echoing the famous 1984 Wendy’s advertising line and asking, “Where’s the Beef?!” There’s certainly a lot of treading water going on with the 2019 Server and all signs continue to point toward Teams.
Two Key Reasons to “Upgrade” to the Skype for Business Server 2019
If one looks through the list of new features in the 2019 release there is a smattering of new features, such as Cloud Voicemail and Cloud Auto Attendant, but at the end of the day, in speaking to our customers, there are really only two major “features” which begin to create any sort of a draw to attract existing SfB Server customers to upgrade again (before they make the full move to Teams). The SfB Server 2019 offering is made even more pedestrian by the fact that there are a number of features which were previously available in the current Server release which are now “disappearing” – such as XMPP Gateway support, Persistent Chat, SQL Mirroring and especially in-place upgrades. In addition, a number of the previously supported tools are also falling off the radar. The Skype for Business Capacity Planning Calculator, Debugging Tools and Stress and Performance Tool are all fading away.
So what are the two key reasons to consider the upgrade? First, there is the CDC or Call Data Connector. This is a fairly simple, but potentially useful redirector tool that will allow IT to vector all of the analytics from your on-prem Skype for Business server up to the Office 365 Admin Portal – essentially achieving a single pane of glass for all of the on-prem and cloud UC data. Microsoft is transparent in saying that the full set of diagnostics for the portal won’t be available immediately, but will roll-out over time.
The second key enhancement is interesting, albeit slightly light-weight, yet powerful in its application. The feature is billed as functionality to help simplify the migration process for organizations transitioning users from Skype for Business to Teams. Microsoft is updating the Move-CsUser cmdlet to allow for a full (including meetings and the assignment of Teams only mode) user move to Teams. Such a move can obviously also be processed manually, but as such it would require multiple steps and still not completely move the users’ meetings. We can probably expect Microsoft to make this feature available in a future CU for SfB Server 2015 as well, given the strategic importance of helping organizations move as many users as possible to Teams.
Two Minor Reasons to Consider an Upgrade
There are two additional reasons, albeit minor, that you may want to consider before deciding whether or not to upgrade to SfB Server 2019. The first is that Microsoft may issue future CU to further enhance SfB on-prem, but these will not be available for the SfB Server 2015. And, finally if you’re still set on keeping SfB Server 2015 until it’s time to move to Teams in the cloud, keep in mind that mainstream support for the 2015 server will end in October 2020 (according to Microsoft).
Teams, Teams and more Teams
The bottom line reverts back to what we all thought prior to the Ignite announce last year: It is truly a Microsoft Teams world as far as the Microsoft Intelligent Communications story is concerned. In fact, at Microsoft Ignite 2018, there is only one session covering Skype for Business separate from Teams, and it will cover what’s in the Skype for Business Server 2019. Certainly for customers who expect to operate in a hybrid state for an extended period of time, this new Server 2019 upgrade might prove to be a benefit.
Then again, from a pragmatic and obviously biased Unify Square viewpoint, if the only two interesting reasons to upgrade are integrated performance monitoring and Teams upgrade simplicity, then you can create a better ROI for your organization by simply working with us. PowerSuite already brings together your UC and WSC (workstream collaboration) data in a single pane of glass and is arguably a more powerful, feature rich and innovative platform than the Office365 Admin portal. On the migration side, our Teams Transformation Services and Teams User Adoption Services provide the expertise and assistance to help transition users – and these services are likely a LOT easier to leverage and implement than a new Server release!