Microsoft Shifts Enterprise Telephony to the Cloud

Microsoft has recently revealed plans to favor enterprise telephony as a part of its Office 365 services within the company’s latest Lync to Skype for business re-branding. This does not require an on-premise enterprise server. There are several choices for utilizing the Skype cloud for business as discussed in the subsequent sections. 

The cloud strategy of Microsoft for Lync has always posed significant challenges for Enterprise IT architects.

Till data, the organization had a divided offering: on-premises Lync server for enterprise PSTN access and telephony functions and Online Lync within Office 365 for video chat, voice and web conferencing. Such a system implies organizations implementing Microsoft Office 365 for document sharing, calendar, email, and Yammer social computing should still have an on-premises server if they want to use Lync enterprise phone setup.  

The condition turns gloomier for those firms not prepared to dedicate all their telephony services to Lync. Users who are not exploiting Lync for IP telephony can go ahead with their accounts that are serviced by Office 365 for web conferencing, instant message, and for video or voice chat, while those using Lync for telephony get not only phone services, but web conferencing, video/voice chat, and instant messaging also from the server that is on the premises. This implies a possible division in provisioning of accounts with few users residing away from the local Lync server, but others are associated with the cloud.

 

Enterprise users who don’t want to run any service completely on-premise, have moved to partners of Microsoft like British Telecom, AT&T, Verizon, Orange Business Services, HP, and others that offer a combination of Office 365 and Lync as a comprehensive unified hosted package. This helps them to save the complexity and cost of running their own Lync on-premises server.

 

PSTN Access and Enterprise Telephony

In Feb. 2013, Tony Bates, who was Skype’s president at that time period, announced at the inauguration conference of Lync that Microsoft would include PSTN access as a part of Lync Online in 1.5years. 

Now, even after two years, Lync Online, which is now called Skype for Business Online, doesn’t still include enterprise IP-PBX facility and PSTN access. During Enterprise Connect conference in March this year and Microsoft Ignite meet in May, Microsoft has again proclaimed to offer such a feature to Skype for Business Online in a 2-phase staged launch. 

Cloud telephony’s Phase-I is the inclusion of enterprise telephony feature to Skype for Business Online. This implies that it will have all abilities to provide IP-PBX functionalities, which are presently only offered through a dedicated example of privately hosted or on-premises Skype for Business Server. 

During the launch’s second phase, Skype for Business Online will offer access to PSTN without requiring users to have connectivity to on-premises PSTN. Microsoft has associated with a range of international service providers that will offer access to PSTN via their own connectivity into the services of Microsoft Azure.

In US, this service will be available by late 2015 following which it’ll be offered globally. 

If Microsoft ultimately goes on to offer PSTN access and enterprise telephony, users will have a comprehensive hosted choice for all Office 365 and Skype for Business Online applications. However, it’s expected that service provider associates will continue to pack on-premises federation, bundle management, compliance, cloud-to-cloud federation, and security offerings with Office 365 to keep users from opting for Microsoft. 

If your company opts for the deployment of a purely cloud-oriented Microsoft Skype for Business, focus on the efforts of the organization to move the present on-premises telephone and PSTN access features to the cloud.

Anyway, global availability is likely to be just one or two years down the lane. Meanwhile, work in association with your vendors to find out how they can assist you in realizing your objective of hosting enterprise telephony features before Microsoft is out with its completely baked product.