Get ready for Skype for Business Server 2015!

April 20, 2015 by Rija Raharinosy
Get ready for Skype for Business Server 2015!

As a follow-up to my first post on the Skype for Business client currently in technical preview, the purpose of this post is to provide you insight on the new Skype for Business Server 2015 planned to be available for general availability May 1st, 2015. My goal is also to provide a little bit of my insight on what I think  Microsoft is trying to do in a mobile-first and cloud-first world. So for that purpose, I will start providing a short analysis on the new world of IT and then provide details on new features available with Skype for Business Server 2015.


1. A new world: the advent of computing power

Friends, the Internet of Things is here. There are now literally billions of sensors, screens and devices being interconnected through your smartphone, conference rooms, living rooms, cities, cars, phones and computers. We have moved away from a world where computing power was scarce to a new world of unlimited computing power where it is now possible to digitize nearly everything around us. Through big data, it is possible to derive insight from all of the data and the interactions among users and their machines. It is estimated that there will soon be 3 billion people with digital devices – from farmers in remote parts of their countries with a smartphone to professionals with multiple devices and apps spanning work and life. Those devices are all connected to the Cloud via the Internet. In this world, the commodity will no longer be the quantity of your Internet bandwidth but the human attention.

As you watch the vision casting video below that Microsoft is launching to support Skype for Business Server 2015, Microsoft’s goal really is to create natural human-computing interfaces that power individuals and businesses through secure and cloud-based communication platforms that enable anybody to create intelligent and personal experiences.

2. What is new with Skype for Business Server 2015?

Lync is now Skype for Business, it has a new client experience, a new server release and a new online service available through Office365. Skype for Business and its rich user client take advantage of the familiarity people have with Skype to make them comfortable and confident using it for voice, video, chat, meetings and sharing.

A new Skype for Business user interface

Skype for Business has included the best of both Skype and Lync:

  • Skype look and feel with color and minimum chrome, common Skype icons and placement, and native support for Android, iOS, and Windows
  • Lync feature set with IM and presence, Audio, Video, and web conferencing , Enterprise Voice, and Office interoperability

Important note: Customers who need to prepare and strictly manage their migration to the new Skype for Business user interface will be able to control which interface is presented to their users - Lync UI or Skype for Business UI – using a PowerShell command.

Features added from Skype

  • Call Monitor which allows you to maintain a small call window that floats over other applications (when Skype for Business is minimized or another application is selected), so that no matter what you’re doing in the background the important call control features are always readily available.
  • Skype for Business also make it easier to get to a full screen experience with a simple double click – to toggle into full screen view.
  • Users will appreciate helpful videos that explain how the key features of Skype for Business work – a sort of feature concierge right there in the client. Videos help new users rapidly learn the key features of Skype for Business

Hover please, no touch

Microsoft has eliminated the “peeks and hover” functions in Lync 2013. People found them confusing. Now it is touch or click.

Call controls like “transfer and hold” are now front and center with a call control button.

 Across the board, Microsoft reduced the number of clicks required to access features and functionality.

Improved mobile experience

Through Skype for Business, Microsoft is continuing to do quarterly updates to the mobile clients to add capabilities, and to improve performance and media quality.  This is particularly important given the wide variability of cellular and WiFi networks nowadays and the broad use of Skype and Lync mobile clients – with over 100 million Android and iOS clients connecting each month.

A more powerful browser-based Web App

With Skype for Business, the web client experience goes to the next level –a ubiquitous, feature rich and easy to use communications experience accessible right from the browser.

Skype for Business will enable P2P communications within the Office 365 experience where Users will be able to start with instant messaging and escalate to voice and video, and eventually, to multi party meetings. Making IM, voice, and video accessible from the Office web App will make the browser experience richer and make it possible to enjoy Lync capabilities without installing a Lync client.

Skype for Business for Mac

Microsoft is building an entirely new Skype for Business for Mac, from the ground up, with delivery roughly aligned to the new Office for Mac.  This new client will build on the success of Skype’s consumer focused Mac experience, and will bring significant feature enhancements including multi party video and Skype connectivity.
Ubiquitous Room System

Through Skype for Business, Microsoft is bringing the familiar experience available on smartphones, tablets, and PCs, to a much larger form factor provide the same meeting experience to the room system and dramatically simplify use of room systems by employees vs. traditional approaches.

With Skype for Business Server 2015, it will be possible to:

  • Extend the touch experience for example to include personal phones and slates
  • Add additional cameras options for video
  • Add UI functions for sharing your laptop screen and dialing out
  • Improved whiteboard experience
  • Make it even easier to get a meeting started with support for new group context as well as the ability to start an unscheduled meeting based on where you are in a document (Unified Groups)The Room System will be able to connect with legacy meeting room endpoints from e.g. Cisco through the Video Interoperability

Convenient conversation history

With Skype for Business, every conversation history will be stored in Exchange and accessible no matter what device you use. Conversations will conveniently be travelling with you from mobile device to meeting room.

End-to-end Skype Connectivity

Customers who choose Skype for Business can connect over the Internet with the millions of Skype users in business to business and business to consumer scenarios of all types.

Skype for Business users can more easily communicate and work with the clients and customers they’ve added to their extended contacts lists. Use IM, presence, VoIP, and video with every contact.

Easier contact management, with the ability to search the Skype directory and add contacts from within Skype for Business. Calling will be supported between Microsoft Accounts (MSA) and SkypeIDs

Higher audio quality and better performance over the Internet using the SILK codec that Skype has used for years and Video calling with H.264 SVC

Skype for business will use the same trusted security mechanisms in Lync:

  • Encryption of both signaling and media using TLS and SRTP
  • Firewall traversal with STUN/TURN/ICE

Interoperability with legacy PBX and traditional meeting room

This new functionality lets end-users operate any PSTN phone with Skype for Business. “Click to call” from Skype for Business and the dialed number of their choice and they will be connected to their PBX phone. Extremely easy to set up. When the user makes a call, presence is automatically updated and basic call control is available to the end user. All the mid-call control capabilities of the PBX phone continue to be available for the end-user, aiding end-user adoption.  Finally, the entire feature is centrally controlled by policy which allows administrators fine control in the groups of users who have this capability and the phones they use as their local endpoint.

Enabling a SIP trunk to existing PBX systems has the added advantage of enabling other Skype for Business capabilities like remote voice access for users (simultaneous ringing) and PSTN connectivity to Skype for Business meetings.

Video Interoperability with traditional meeting room

Video Interoperability Service (vis) is a native video interoperability capability that eliminates the need for customers to deploy additional 3rd party gateways or 3rd party services to be able to talk to Tandberg VTCs. In combination with existing Polycom interoperability, this gives good coverage of the installed base and eliminates the need for customers to deploy additional 3rd party gateways or 3rd party services. Microsoft is prioritizing Tandberg VTCs first because of the large installed base and will include single screen TIP systems as well.

‘Broadcast’ large meetings

Microsoft has realized that customers prefer a single solution for their conferencing, collaboration and meeting needs. With the addition of Broadcast Meetings, Skype for Business will enable a wide range of scenarios including the structured and very largest meeting types. Broadcast scenarios include internal company audiences, such as the Town Hall meeting, or a mix of internal and external participant’s characteristic of EDU or Marketing scenarios. Broadcast meeting scenarios will far exceed the current Lync participant limits and Live Meeting Services (LMS) as well. Broadcast meetings leverage Azure Media Services and scale to thousand(s) of endpoints. Attendees view the broadcast using any browser, no client or plug-in is required. Social streams such as Yammer can be integrated into the attendee experience. Broadcast meetings can be recorded and stored in the cloud.

PSTN Connectivity in Office365 and Enterprise Voice in the Cloud (US only)

The voice capability in Skype for Business Online will grow to include more and more features customers are familiar with for existing on-premises installations of their legacy PBX system and Skype for Business Server 2015.  Initially the offering will include

  • Reliable PSTN connectivity delivered out of Office365 through Microsoft carrier partners and directly from Microsoft including emergency dialing services (dynamic E911 coming later)
  • Robust calling features for end-users including call forwarding and simultaneous ringing across all of their devices from phones to mobiles to workstations.
  • Fine-grained control of features along with a detailed reporting system for tracking usage across your enterprise.

With Enterprise Voice in Skype for Business Online, Microsoft has the ability to continuously deliver incremental features across both PSTN interface capability including dynamic E911 support, calling features such as media services for automated call treatment, queuing and routing with response groups and operational features for administrators including network integration, prioritization and policy through admission control.

Enterprise Voice capability will be coming to Office 365 with consistent updates over the next several years.

These begin with the ability to offer native PSTN dial-in to Skype for Business online meetings.  Today this capability is provided by a number of third party providers called ACPs (Audio Conferencing Providers) who provide the dial-in conferencing numbers and trunking into Office 365.   Going forward customers will have the opportunity to choose between a Microsoft-provided service for dial-in conferencing and those provided by an ACP.

Reliable PSTN connectivity will first be offered in the US with additions of other major markets internationally coming quickly thereafter (European markets).  Delivered out of Office365 through both carrier partners and directly from Microsoft including emergency dialing services.  This will be both for inbound and outbound calling including adding new numbers and over time number portability.

Voice features will be arriving in successive releases.  First will be basic calling capabilities delivered over any device from IP phones to mobile devices and includes:

  • Call hold/retrieve, transfer, forward, simul-ring, team call, delegation
  • IP Desk Phones
  • Lync Mobile clients with PSTN calling
  • Voice Mail
  • Auto Attendant
  • Call History
  • Emergency Services Calling
  • Tenant Admin PSTN Calling Reports

Coming afterwards will be more sophisticated voice features involving media services (such as Group Call Pickup and Response Groups) along with emergency calling with location delivery.

  • Enterprise Voice Features
  • Response Groups
  • Unassigned Number Service
  • Group Call Pickup

Skype Translator

This new technology leverages the Bing translation mechanism that has been in developer trial for about two years. Microsoft leverages the considerable advances achieved in natural language translation using recent developments in the area of neural network processing from Microsoft research

Translator is self-learning, the more it is used, the more precise and useful are the translations. To access the public preview click here and to watch a  pretty cool video showing the power of Skype Translator:

Real time communications for Office365 groups

‘Unified Group’s bring the power of Lync, Exchange, SharePoint, and Yammer together to deliver a single, cohesive collaboration tool for Office365 groups of users so users can get things done even when they are physically apart. Groups provide users with:

  • a shared inbox,
  • calendar,
  • document collaboration experience 

Skype for Business will use persistent Chat in Lync Server and Groups in Office 365 to provide real-time text messaging for teams enhancing the current Office 365 Groups feature by adding real-time text messaging using Skype for Business.

OneNote Whiteboard for online meetings

For joint brainstorming, in person and online meetings, OneNote will be the default white-boarding application leveraging cloud storage services like OneDrive, supporting pen and touch from small screen to large.
Office Graph


In conclusion, there are quite a few changes coming up and I find Microsoft’s vision quite exciting and exhilarating especially for those of us working in the Enterprise Unified Communications space. If you are planning a phone system upgrade or you are interested to pilot some of the features presented in this post, contact Solulan today to start a Proof of Concept or a Skype for Business pilot. Our team has deployed over 15,000 users on Lync 2010 and 2013 all over Canada, US and Europe and we would love the opportunity to work with you and deploy Skype for Business Server 2015 in your environment.


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