Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Cloud Connector Edition (CCE) Deployment - Lessons Learned

Hey everyone! Yes, I know, it has been STUPID long since I wrote a blog post, and my excuses are pathetic. Pathetic as they may be, let me list a couple out to try to redeem myself a bit:
  • I changed jobs. Again! - Yep, I my stay at Deloitte ended up being a little shorter than I originally thought it might be, but an opportunity at Integration Partners came my way, and I just couldn't pass it up. While I worked with an amazing team at Deloitte, and was very grateful for that opportunity, this new role has been a pretty awesome ride already, with an awesome team to boot!
  • I've been keeping up with my weekly #Skype4BRecap webcast. -  Yes, I know, webcasting alone is not good enough, but with a weekly schedule, it does actually take up quite a bit of time!
  • My family did a cross-country move. - You have to admit, that is a pretty big task, moving an entire household from NC to TX. And all the packing/prepping was being done while keeping the house in "Showing" condition for potential buyers.
  • And the lamest excuse of all... I was a bit burned out on "written" material after Version 2.0 of my Skype for Business Hybrid Handbook. - I know, cry me a river, but hey, Version 2.0 was a pretty big increase in content, with an entirely new chapter devoted entirely to Cloud Connector Edition! Which leads me to today's topic.

One of the more recent projects I have had the pleasure to dive into has centered around a Cloud Connector Edition (CCE) deployment. The situation was that the company was deploying a greenfield Skype for Business Online environment in Office 365, meaning they did not already have Skype for Business (or Lync Server) on-prem, and wanted to bake in PSTN calling capability for their Skype for Business users. This was all fine and great for their U.S.-based users, who could simply use Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling. However, this company also had a small group of users in a South American country, and with no PSTN Calling functionality outside of the U.S. and U.K. (ok, AND technically Puerto Rico), they would not be able to place PSTN calls via Skype for Business for their South American users.

Enter CCE! The plan was to move all users into Office 365, with all U.S. users using Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling, and all South American users using Cloud PBX with a new on-prem CCE deployment (the CCE would be connecting to a Sonus SBC as the PSTN Gateway, but that doesn't really matter much for this post). So far, all is well! Below is a nifty little network diagram of how CCE was to be deployed (networking info changed to protect the innocent, of course!):


As you can see above, there was only going to be a single PSTN Site created (a single CCE instance); there was no HA to plan for, or other potential complications. A simple deployment was right up my alley, though, as this would be my first production CCE deployment. I was quite excited.

About those "Lessons Learned"?


Alright, I know you are ready for me to quite blabbing and get on with my pointers already, so I want walk you through this step-by-step - we'll save that for another time! Today is simply about a few lessons that I learned when deploying CCE.

1. Plan your networking ahead of time.


This may seem silly to even call out, as it should be obvious, but I found it really helpful, and almost necessary, to have Visio or other diagram that gave you a good visual of how all the networking components were going to be layed out, and more specifically, what IPs would be assigned. Unlike a Skype for Business Server 2015 on-prem deployment, where you can deploy certain pieces in phases, coming back for things when you are ready, CCE requires you to modify a single text file (CloudConnector.ini) with ALL the necessary values for building out your ENTIRE VM environment before deploying your build script.

This means that you needed to prepare your SSL and have it issued and placed on the server prior to running the script, whereas you could simply execute Step 3 in the Skype for Business Deployment Wizard when you were good and ready for on-prem. You needed to provide the public IP for your Access Edge component, as well as the IPs for each of the 4 VMs, and an additional public-facing (but internal) IP for the Edge server, on a separate network than the 4 IPs assigned to the other VMs. You needed to provide the DNS server IP addresses that your VMs would use for public name resolution (I used Google's public DNS servers at 8.8.8.8 for all public name resolution). As you can see, there were plenty of variables to have completely laid out before pressing that Enter button to execute the PowerShell cmdlet for building the environment.

2. No Errors on the build script doesn't mean everything deployed as expected.


After getting all the requirements gathered and documented in your config file, running it smoothly, and seeing that the cmdlet finished without any errors, you may think the execution was flawless. You may be especially tempted to think this when you see those 4 shiny new VMs in the Hyper-V manager, and start accessing them, noticing the presence of all the right software. Sweetness! Or maybe not so much...

Let's say you go to make that call after getting your user configured completely and logged into a client, and bummer of all bummers, the call doesn't go through. First you try an outbound call from the client, and it doesn't even ring; it pretty much just kills the call after a couple seconds. Then you try an inbound call, dialing the assigned LineURI of this new CCE user. Unfortunately, it may start to ring, but never gets through.

In my case, I ended up installing Skype for Business Debugging Tools on the Mediation server VM, and using CLS Logger. With CLS Logger I could not see any attempts at all when placing an outbound call. Looking at the diagram above, we see that the CCE user would first hit Office 365, and then the call would attempt to route through the Edge role and then the Mediation role before moving on to the SBC (my test users was external to the corporate network). Since I saw nothing on the Mediation server via CLS Logger, this meant that the traffic was only getting as far as the Edge role. I then installed Wireshark on the Edge role, and discovered that a Reset was being sent back to Office 365 from the Edge server every time the outbound call was made.

At the same time I noticed that INBOUND calls were getting further, making it to through the Sonus SBC and to the Mediation server, but were not getting any further as the CLS Logger revealed a 503 error, stating that the Invite failed via the proxy, and that it was unable to establish a connection. With both issues, the Edge server appeared to be the common denominator. This confused me, as I would have figured that any problems with the build would have been reported on the PowerShell window during the build. After all, there wasn't any custom config; all config was done by the script, using the values provided in the config file.Well, I thought I would check out the Edge server for the heck of it.

What do you know, there were several Skype for Business services stopped on the Edge, including the Access Edge service! Trying to start these services failed, and further analysis of the Skype for Business event log showed that the reason for the services not starting was missing certificates. How could this be? The CCE cmdlet succeeded in building the environment, and didn't complain about any certificates...I opened up the Skype for Business Deployment Wizard, go to the certificates section, and sure enough, all of the external certificate fields were blank!

Alright, I don't get how that happened at all, but when I highlighted the External section and clicked "Assign", the external certificate was present as an option. This means that the script did in fact install the certificate on the server, but just didn't assign it during the Skype for Business deployment on the Edge. *SIGH*. I assigned it, restarted services, and BOOM. Traffic started to flow through, and calls started ringing. There were still issues to deal with at the carrier level, but the CCE portion was now fixed.

3. Location, Location, Location (for Office 365 License assignment)


Remember how I said that some of the users in this company were in the US, but others were in South America? Well, when this test account was setup, it was configured like most of the other accounts, leaving the default location as US when assigning licenses. No big deal at first, but remember, I was getting ready to test dialing from with this user, making the assumption that the user was located in this South American country. Well, when I try to dial out international, using the expected format for the specific country, the dialing did not work. At all! Never made it to the Edge server. As a matter of fact, the only way I could dial and make it to the Edge was to start out dialing an E.164 formatted number.

I then used the following cmdlet to view the user's properties:

Get-CsOnlineUser -Identity <user>@<sipdomain>

Looking at the output, I could see that the user's DialPlan was set to "US". Clearly this would not work. So, I went back into the Users section of Office 365, into the Properties for the test user, and went to edit the assigned licenses. When prompted for Location, I changed this to the proper country in South America. After saving the settings, I could now see that the user had the DialPlan that reflected their respective country. Perfect! After waiting about 10 minutes for replication, I signed the user back in, and was able to dial as expected, as if the user was in the South American country.

The thing to remember of this point is that many adopters of CCE are going to be global or international firms that want to make a move into Office 365 for most of their services, but are still not able to move many non-U.S. or non-U.K. users into PSTN Calling; they will be interested in moving as much as they can into Office 365, while leaning on CCE to provide PSTN capabilities to the geographically-dispersed portion of their user base via on-prem infrastructure. With this in mind, specifying the correct location when assigning Office 365 licenses will be very important.

In Summary


Well that's about all the lessons I have to share for now from my recent adventures in CCE. However, I feel like there will be more of these in my future, with maybe other factors to consider, so I may just update this post as I come across any more interesting things to watch for as you wade into the fairly new waters of CCE. Hope this has been helpful in some shape or form. If you have run into any of your own interesting "Gotchas" in a CCE deployment, feel free to share your experience in the Comments section!

Stay techy, my friends!


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Published: Skype for Business Hybrid Handbook, Version 2.0

It's here! Six months after the initial release of the Skype for Business Hybrid Handbook, I have published Version 2.0 to the TechNet Gallery. Oh, and the best part: it's still FREE!



So, what prompted Version 2.0? Well, I knew when I created this book, and had it pointed out afterwards, that I chose an area within the Skype for Business product that would be a frequently changing and evolving beast, which would in turn be difficult to keep up with in book form. This was proven to be very true, and so to keep the content relevant, frequent updates are necessary. The last 6 months have had a large number of fairly major changes in the Skype for Business Hybrid realm, and so it was definitely time to get a new version out there.

What's new?

Azure AD Connect 1.1

Chapter 6 covered the Azure AD Connect portion of configuring a hybrid environment, and with the release of Azure AD Connect 1.1, there were a few changes. Not only were there functional changes, but the screenshots themselves were not fully up to date. On top of this change, the Office 365 Admin Portal Preview is in full swing, so I wanted to get some of those shots in there as well.

Cloud Connector Edition

Cloud Connector Edition was still being called "Min Topology" when the first version of the book was released, and there was much uncertainty about what it would be exactly. All this time later, CCE has been released to General Availability, and people are beginning to kick the tires on it. This was clearly a Skype for Business hybrid scenario that should be accounted for in the book! Here is a preview of one of the diagrams I made for the new Chapter 13 of the of the book:


General House-Cleaning

Besides these more notable updates, there was a lot of grammar cleanup to be done, and just some other rough spots that needed to be smoothed over. Now that Chapter 13 is present, I am sure I will have to go back through and clean up some grammar or punctuation that I missed. That is where all of your awesome feedback comes in handy! ;-)

Well, I hope you are able to use the link above (below the first picture) to grab the latest and most relevant copy, and that it continues to be of use! If you haven't downloaded a copy in the first place, again, it's FREE, and I really appreciate the feedback. If you like it enough, please feel free to share it!

Stay techy, my friends!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Welcome, Skype for Business Cloud Connector Edition

The road has been a bumpy one, but the project formerly referred to as "Min Topology" is finally out of Preview and available for download in General Availability (GA). Everyone, can we please give a warm welcome to the latest member of the Skype for Business Hybrid family, Skype for Business Cloud Connector Edition!

Before I discuss too much about Cloud Connector Edition (CCE), let me provide a few helpful links. I must point out this post is NOT a deep-dive into CCE; rather it is a discussion about what CCE is, and how your organization can take advantage of it. The below links will provide deep-dive information from Microsoft for all the specific requirements and deployment steps.

 First, before you go racing to download it, check out the TechNet article on how to plan for it: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt605227.aspx.

Once you feel like you have a good handle on planning for CCE, read up a bit on how to configure it: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt605228.aspx. That last one doesn't appear to be quite ready for prime time yet, though, as it says that it is "Coming Soon", and refers to the product as still being in Preview. So, one of these days soon, that link will be a bit more useful...

Alright, finally, the link to download CCE: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=51693.

Excellent! Now, if you are still reading this, and haven't raced off to start tinkering with CCE, let's talk a bit about the nature of this product. At the heart of this tool is a very specific deployment: CCE addresses a scenario in which all Skype for Business users in your organization are using Skype for Business Online in Office 365, but you have an on-premises voice infrastructure already in place that provides PSTN connectivity. This means that your organization DOES have the on-premises voice infrastructure, but DOES NOT have any Skype for Business infrastructure deployed on-premises; all Skype for Business users are Office 365-based users. Savvy?

Now, of course your users in Skype for Business Online could simply use PSTN services offered by Microsoft through Office 365, assuming they are licensed for Cloud PBX already, but you will also have to pay for the extra voice licensing (in addition to Cloud PBX licensing). If your organization has already invested in the on-premises voice configuration, and still has a contractual obligation to use this infrastructure, it is likely that the most desired approach would be to leverage this on-premises voice infrastructure to provide PSTN connectivity to your Skype for Business Online users. How, you ask, when there is no on-premises Skype for Business deployment to facilitate the needed hybrid configuration that could provide such functionality? This is where Cloud Connector Edition comes in!

Available as a download from Microsoft, CCE is actually a collection of four virtual machines (VMs) that get deployed on a Hyper-V host server in your organization's DMZ network. These four VMs serve as a mini on-premises Skype for Business deployment, but no users will actually be homed on this instance; it exists solely to facilitate connecting the Skype for Business Online Cloud PBX users with your on-premises voice infrastructure to provide PSTN connectivity to them. The four VMs that get deployed and configured via a guided wizard are:

  1. Domain Controller
  2. Central Management Server (CMS)
  3. Mediation Server
  4. Edge Server
Before you become concerned about the Domain Controller component, let me make it clear that this little virtual environment is completely self-contained, including the Domain Controller (DC). That means this DC is deployed in its own brand new forest, and will not be connected to your corporate Active Directory.

The other pieces are fairly obvious, as they put into the place the bare minimum requirements for a functioning Skype for Business deployment that can facilitate the traversal of the media from your Cloud PBX to your on-premises voice infrastructure (thus the previous term, "Min Topology").

Now, what would this look like in your environment? At a very high-level, we can see the overview of traffic flow through CCE to your on-premises voice infrastructure here:















What would a more detailed media flow look like? The below image shows us that our signaling traffic does have to traverse through Office 365 before coming back through our CCE deployment, and then making its way through the gateway and out into the wild PSTN. It seems like this would be less than optimal for audio, though, doesn't it? Luckily, as we can see in the same diagram below, once the signaling traffic verifies the information for the user, that user's media is able to flow directly to the CCE host (completely skipping the Office 365 infrastructure), and on to the on-premises PSTN gateway. Beautiful!



So, would do you think? Is this a pretty cool solution for providing existing on-premises PSTN connectivity to your Skype for Business Online users without having to have a full-blown, licensed, on-premises Skype for Business Server 2015 deployment? I think so!

Like I said, I am not going to go deep on this post in regards to requirements, planning, and detailed deployment; that is all highlighted quite nicely in the Microsoft links provided above. Instead, I hope this post has been helpful in familiarizing you with what Cloud Connector Edition is, how your Office 365-based Skype for Business users can benefit from it, and whether or not this is something your organization needs to explore a bit more deeply. For the consultant crowd, this is certainly a deployment option to gain knowledge on to be ready to pitch it to the customer that is the right fit!

Stay techy, my friends!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Issue With Provisioning Skype for Business Online DNS Records in Office 365 for Recycled Domain

Happy Weekend, UC Geeks!

So, I was inspired to write a little blog post based on some odd behavior that I ran into the other day in Office 365 when trying to allow the Domain Management wizard to auto-create my required DNS records for Skype for Business Online. Yeah, sure, I could have just gone into GoDaddy's DNS tool (yes, I use GoDaddy for domain registration and DNS management - let the hazing begin!), but what is the fun in that when Office 365 has a handy little wizard for taking care of those DNS records for you?

The Scenario


Alright, in this particular Office 365 tenant, I have my domain, 's4blab.org', added in and verified. This domain was added in previously for other testing, but in the previous tests, the domain was used in a Hybrid environment, so I also used the domain name in my on-prem Skype for Business deployment as well. As such, my DNS records originally pointed to my on-prem Edge and Reverse Proxy servers. Savvy?

Now, that on-prem environment is long-since gone, but the Office 365 tenant has been left up, and therefore the domain was still verified and ready for use. I still had Skype for Business Online (Plan 2) licenses purchased. That meant that it was now time to make sure everything looked OK with the domain itself (DNS, etc.) within Office 365 so that I could start creating user accounts and assigning licenses.

To verify I was good to go, I first logged into the Office 365 Admin Center Preview (yeah, I am using the Preview interface cause I am awesome like that), hovered over the Settings menu item in the left-hand navigation, and then clicked Domains:

















This brought me to my Domains page. Here we can see that I only have the Default 'onmicrosoft.com' domain, and my custom 's4blab.org' domain. Clearly the domain is not ready for production. It has a warning icon beside the domain name, and tells us that there are "Possible Service Issues":










Clicking on the domain itself brings up another modal screen that shows us that there are DNS errors. It then proceeds to highlight all of the required DNS records for the various Office 365 services that can be used in our tenant. Next I click on View Errors:


















The next screen shows us what the expected CNAME Records are, compared with the Current values, which are empty. Reading the text at the top of this screen we can already see that Office 365 recognizes GoDaddy as the location of our authoritative DNS zone file for s4blab.org. We can also see that it lets us know that we can use that handy little Fix My Records button up top instead of going to GoDaddy and manually fixing the records. Sure, why not?!















Once we click the Fix My Records button, another pop-up window appears asking us to input our credentials. In my case, this is my GoDaddy credentials.





















Upon successfully authenticating at the above screen, you are now presented with another screen in which you must click Accept, authorizing Office 365 to make DNS changes to your domain in the DNS zone file hosted at GoDaddy. Of course, we click Accept here:














Once we click Accept, this GoDaddy pop-up disappears, and we now see a grey box across the screen showing us that our DNS records are being configured:


















The Problem


So, what's the problem? Normally, if this domain had not ever been used for another Skype for Business (or Lync) deployment before, your records would simply be created, and you would be on about your business! Remember though, I had used this domain for an on-prem Skype for Business Server 2015 deployment previously. So, at this stage in the game, that Configuring your DNS records... box just kept spinning, never completing. After about a few minutes I figured something was wrong.

My next step was to log into my GoDaddy portal and navigate to the 's4blab.org' DNS zone file. The Office 365 Domain Management wizard claimed that the CNAME records flat-out did not exist. Looking at my CNAME record section, I can see that this was indeed the case: no 'SIP' or 'Lyncdiscover' records were present:










Alright, so why won't the wizard just create the records and finish. Aha! My eyes glance up at the A Records above, and that's when I see the problem: The 'SIP' and 'Lyncdiscover' records did exist...as A Records!









Yes, I blotted out the IP addresses of the other A Records to protect the identities of the Innocent. And I put in fake IPs (non-routable on the internet) for these records. After all, I am just reproducing the problem for demonstration purposes!

In case DNS is not your bread and butter and you are wondering why this is a problem since the CNAMEs did not exist, and Office 365 was trying to create the CNAMEs instead of A Records, you cannot have similarly named records in the same DNS zone, regardless of record type. Therefore, I cannot have a 'SIP' A Record, and a 'SIP' CNAME. A conflict is detected on GoDaddy's end, and that is why the wizard never finishes in Office 365. It knows there is a problem, but has not been coded to properly display the problem to the Office 365 admin user.

The Solution


Now I know what needs to be done. First, as I am no longer using those A Records any longer, I delete both the 'SIP' and 'Lyncdiscover' A Records from my GoDaddy DNS zone file. Don't forget to click on Save Changes!











Perfect, now the A Records section does not reflect the records anymore:







However, going back into Office 365, I see that the grey bar is still present, and it still shows that it is trying to Configure the DNS records. Finally, I decide to try it from scratch. I click on the Fix My Records button again, and I am once again prompted to input my GoDaddy credentials:






















After another successful authentication, click on Accept again, and like before, the GoDaddy window disappears. This time, however, we have much different results! We VERY briefly see the grey 'Configuring' bar, but then it disappears and we see a beautiful green bar showing us that the records have been created successfully! We can even see that the yellow warning icon has disappeared from beside our domain name:








Going over to our GoDaddy portal, we can see that the new CNAME Records are indeed created:












And there you have it, folks! The Domain Management wizard within Office 365 is quite the wonderful tool, making DNS management a walk in the park for admins across the world! However, if you have used your domain in a previous Skype for Business deployment and did not properly clean up your DNS zone file afterwards, the Office 365 wizard will not ever finish, but also won't tell you what the problem is. Now, thanks to my bumbling lab work, you know why!

Stay Techy, my friends!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Conferencing in Skype for Business: Choosing the Proper Infrastructure

Howdy, UC Enthusiasts!

**Queue the cricket noises**

I know, it has been too long, and my blog has been a little too quiet. The new year saw me ending one job, and starting a new one, so things have been a wee bit busy. Now that I am about a month into my new role, and becoming nicely oriented, I figured it was time to start bringing some fresh content with a fresh perspective! Let's talk Conferencing!



Why is Conferencing is a Critical Component of a UC Strategy?


Depending on the politics involved in deploying Lync or Skype for Business in your organization, conferencing may or may not have been one of the main drivers in the technology decision. While it may be primarily known in your organization as the adopted conferencing tool, Skype for Business may also be mostly known to your end users as the IM system, or the phone solution. Regardless of what it is known for in your company, bringing a positive conferencing experience to meeting attendees is critical to the success of your unified communications strategy, and Skype for Business does an incredible job providing that experience - if you plan appropriately!

A consistent, reliable, simple, and intuitive meeting experience will foster greater collaboration internally, and will ensure that precious employee time is not wasted on trying to navigate confusing and stubborn conferencing software. Providing this experience to external customers or clients can also translate into greater confidence in your organization's ability to work efficiently and effectively for them. Conversely, a poor meeting experience only serves to bring confusion, frustration, inefficiency, and in the case of your valued clients, less confidence that your company has the tools and organization to bring solid results.

If I have now done a decent enough job of convincing you that conferencing is worth putting a little bit of extra consideration into, let's dive into how to make sure you are deploying the proper infrastructure for your intended conferencing participants.

Skype for Business Conferencing Infrastructure Choices


Deploying conferencing in Skype for Business is not equal across all deployments. After all, the infrastructure needs of an SMB will likely vary greatly from those of a large global organization of several thousand end users, right? Is it all just about how many end users you have and how big the rest of your Skype for Business environment needs to be, though? If you guessed "No", then you are correct. While the number of users and scale of your environment will come into play for the size of your conferencing deployment, the type is more specific to the number of attendees that you plan for in your meetings. Let's start out with the most common and simple of choices for your conferencing infrastructure.

Collocated Conferencing - 250 Attendees or Less


Technet calls this scenario a "shared pool", and the idea here is that the Conferencing workload is installed on the same servers, in the same pool, with the other workloads (IM & P, Enterprise Voice, etc.). This will be the deployment method that most organizations are familiar with. As a matter of fact, this deployment method is not restricted to only small and medium size business; it can very well apply to very large Enterprise environments with Enterprise Voice and the whole nine yards.

So, if this option can be used for organizations of all sizes, why would you not just use this option for every deployment? Well, simply put, you would just choose this option - unless you need to hold meetings with more than 250 users. And there it is folks. The "shared pool" deployment method is only appropriate if you plan to only have meetings with less than 250 attendees.

Dedicated Conferencing Pool - 250 to 1,000 Attendees


If your organization has a specific requirement to hold Skype for Business meetings of greater than 250 attendees, but less than 1,000 attendees, then you will not be able to take advantage of the simplicity of a shared pool deployment (i.e., your conferencing workload is collocated on the same server(s) as your IM & P and Enterprise Voice workloads). In this particular situation, you will have to deploy a Dedicated Pool for your Conferencing workload.

A pool that is dedicated to Conferencing is not really much different in configuration; the difference lies in the practice of how this pool is utilized. The goal is to reserve the resources (Memory, CPU, etc) of this pool for large meetings of up to 1,000 attendees, and to meet this goal, it is recommended that almost no users are "homed" on this pool, with the exception of a single SIP-enabled account that is used for scheduling these large meetings. In some cases, a small staff of people may be selected to work closely together on organizing and running these meetings in place of a single generic account, and when this is the case, those users should be homed on the Conferencing pool. Outside of these users, though, no other IM&P or Enterprise Voice workloads should be placed on this pool.

There are a few points to keep in mind with this deployment option:
  • Due to the nature of meetings with such a large attendee list, these meetings are usually meant to have one or two main presenters while the rest of the participants are present in an audience-only capacity.
  • These meetings are usually audio only, with PowerPoint being the main content-sharing mechanism, but with the right controls in place (muting all other users, disabling video for all other users, etc), one or two presenters could also use video.
  • Only one (1) very large meeting at a time should be held, and the best way to control this is by having meetings run through a central SIP-enabled account that is homed on the pool.
  • There is no in-band method for scheduling these meetings, so an out-of-band process needs to be implemented for coordinating times for these meetings. This is especially important if more than one SIP-enabled account is homed on the Dedicated Pool and is capable of running these large meetings.

Skype Meeting Broadcast - Up to 10,000 Attendees


So, there are conferencing solutions for up to 1,000 users using an on-premises Skype for Business Server 2015 infrastructure, but what if you have a need to hold a meeting for more than 1,000 users? Well, you are in luck, so long as you don't plan on having more than 10,000 total attendees. Oh, and so long as you are willing to configure a Hybrid deployment with Skype for Business Online in Office 365. Yeah, just a small detail there...

The reason you have to have Hybrid to accomplish meetings on this scale is that Skype Meeting Broadcast is actually a component of Skype for Business Online; it does not exist in Skype for Business Server 2015 in any capacity. Really, the main reason you would want to use this option, aside from achieving audiences greater than 1,000 and up 10,000, is because it provides you that Broadcast-functionality. With one or two presenters, the goal here is to reach a wide audience with a one-way presentation, potentially inside and outside your audience, and to record it for providing the content to others after the broadcast. This is a great option for conducting "Town Hall Discussions" in a large organization that is very geographically dispersed!

Microsoft Mechanics Episode on Skype Meeting Broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLWpAEH2cyI.

If your organization has not even considered "Hybrid" yet, there is no need to get too stressed out about this. Yes, there will be some leg work and planning involved to configure your on-premises infrastructure (and your S4B Online tenant) for Hybrid, but it is nothing overwhelming, or terribly costly. You essentially will just need one or two SIP-enabled accounts to be homed in Skype for Business Online for configuring and organizing the meetings. These accounts will have to have the proper licensing assigned to use the Skype Meeting Broadcast feature, obviously, but once it is all setup, there is a simple dashboard for configuring these meetings, and scheduling them. This streamlines management.

Conclusion


As you can see, depending on your audience requirements, you may have to do a little more planning than the typical Skype for Business Server 2015 install. Luckily, the options are fairly straightforward, and there is not a great deal of technical complexity in the differences between your options. Plan, Plan some more, and then PLAN again. If you do this, you will achieve great Conferencing experience for all your audience members, employees and customers alike!

Stay techy, my friends!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A New Year, and A New Journey

I know this is severely belated, but Happy New Year, all! While this blog post serves as my inaugural 2016 blog post, it is more of a personal announcement post than a technical-awesomeness post.

A new year often brings new beginnings, or at least new sets of goals (that usually fall by the wayside after a week or two). For me, there is a little bit of both. I won't bore you with any goals of achieving washboard abs or learning to speak conversational French (I can just use Skype Translator, after all!), but I will highlight some employment news, and talk about my some Skype for Business community-related topics.

One Chapter Closes...


Tomorrow, Friday, the 22nd of January, is my last day as a "Racker". Yes, after nearly 4 years at Rackspace, I am moving on. As goes the cliche, it is very bittersweet. While I am very excited about the adventure that lies ahead of me in my new position, and the next step in my career, Rackspace has been a phenomenal company to work for. Racker's are truly like an extension of family (the good kind, lol), and the culture is the envy of many companies.

I would like to thank Rackspace, my fellow Rackers, and especially my incredible managers, for all the years of opportunity to be a part of something unique and amazing. Rackspace prides itself on its Fanatical Support, and I truly believe it has built a solid reputation around this principle in the hosting industry. I am proud to have been a part of that!

Another Chapter Begins


So, what's next? This Monday, January 25th, will be my first day as a Unified Communications Architect at Deloitte Services, LP. I could not be more excited and grateful for this opportunity, and am really looking forward to getting oriented, meeting my team, and digging into some awesome UC deployments! I believe this role will bring tremendous opportunity to grow my knowledge and skill sets, and to give me exposure to a plethora of new (to me) configurations that I have been eager to sink my teeth into.

As you can imagine, I have been busy winding things down at Rackspace, and getting all my ducks in a row for starting at Deloitte, and as a result this blog has been a little quiet over the last month (que the cricket noise). While I am sure that I will remain quite busy in the coming months as I get settled into my new role and start taking on various responsibilities and tasks, I will try to do better at keeping up with fresh content and how-to posts here.

What else is new?


So, aside from a new job, what else have I been up to?

#Skype4BRecap Episodes


While the blog has been fairly quiet, I have managed to keep up with my weekly #Skype4BRecap episodes. I have really begun to enjoy doing these episodes, and while viewership is not exactly in the "viral" category, I fully intend to keep these up. However, I may end up shifting recording to Thursday nights. As the show is not being done in a "live broadcast" format yet, this does not really impact much (unless big news gets delivered to the community first thing Friday morning!). If you have not see these, check them out on my YouTube channel, and don't forget to Subscribe: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKUU9Qm3DxJepggtAaO3q3w

My eBook: Skype for Business Hybrid Handbook, Version 1.2




















When I released my FREE eBook on December 1st last year, it was pretty well received, but there was some work to be done. Thanks to some awesome feedback from various individuals in the community, I was able to update a chapter on User Management with accurate information and more detailed procedures, including new screenshots. I also update the few other areas in the book to reflect current information (Office 365 changes A LOT!).

About a week ago I released a newly updated version of the book, Version 1.2. This version replaced the available download on the Technet Gallery. I was quite blown away by the level of support I got from the community on this follow-up release. You all Shared, Re-Tweeted, and "Liked" the heck out the links to the Download page, and as of right now, I am just under 2,000 downloads! THANK YOU ALL! I would like to give a special Thank You to Fabrizio Volpe, Office Servers and Services MVP, for your kind blog review of the book. 

If you are interested in the downloading a copy yourself, you can grab it FREE here: https://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/Skype-for-Business-Hybrid-9218205e.


Something's Cooking in the Kitchen...


I am also working on a little something-something that I will be sharing soon, once I get the details figured out. About this initiative:
  1. It will be video in nature
  2. My hat will likely be present
  3. And there will be relief from concentrated screen time on my ugly mug 
But that's all I'm saying for now! Stay tuned...

Stay techy, my friends!



Friday, December 4, 2015

Configure Hybrid Skype for Business and Move Users (GUI)

In an earlier post, Configure Hybrid In Your Skype  for Business Environment, I discussed the pre-requisites for setting up a Hybrid environment, and then walked through the configuration via PowerShell. In this post I will be demonstrating the Hybrid configuration and moving of users between environments all from the GUI within the Skype for Business Control Panel. To view details about the environment and the needed pre-reqs, please visit the blog post referenced above.

Configure Hybrid


Assuming that you have already satisfied all the pre-requisites per the blog post mentioned above, it is now time to connect your environments using the provided wizard in the Skype for Business Control Panel (on-premises).

From the Skype for Business Control Panel, on the Home tab, click the Set up hybrid with Skype for Business Online link as shown below: 


The Set up Hybrid with Skype for Business Online wizard will open, and the first screen simply presents a list of pre-requisites that must be satisfied. Click Next.


The next screen will likely prompt you to sign in to Office 365. Click the Sign in to Office 365 button.


Enter your credentials, and then click Ok.


You will then see that the wizard is attempting to sign in to Office 365 with the provided credentials.

The next screen will show that you are successfully signed in to Office 365 if your credentials were correct, and you can click Close.

The next wizard screen seems a bit repetitive, but it confirms that you are now signed in to Office 365. Click Next.


Now the wizard will actually perform a check to see if the pre-requisites have been satisfied. 


If any checks come back with an "X" in a red circle, no problem. Just click Next, and the wizard will take care of the needed configuration. As you can see, all pre-requisites were taken care of. The image below reflects that the "Federation with Office 365 is not configured" error in the above image was automatically configured for you. Click Close.


Wasn't that easy? Hybrid is now configured!

Move Users From On-Prem to Online


Now navigate to the Users tab in the Skype for Business Control Panel. Select the user that you want to move to Skype for Business Online, and then click on the Actions drop-down from the top navigation menu. Select the option to Move selected users to Skype for Business Online....


The Move users to Skype for Business Online wizard opens, and you are presented with a warning to make sure that the user has a Skype for Business Online license assigned in Office 365, and with another warning to make sure that you are familiar with the feature differences between environments. (NOTE: if you need to assign a license to the user in Skype for Business Online at this point, stop and do so. Then go grab a coffee from Starbucks; I have seen provisioning take between 30 - 60 minutes for this license assignment to be recognized from the Control Panel.) Click Next.


Again, you may be prompted to sign in to Office 365. If so, enter your credentials, and click Ok. Once you are signed in, click Close.


Repetition. More confirmation that you are signed in to Office 365. Click Next.


You are now presented with another prompt asking if you are sure you want to move this user to Skype for Business Online. Click Next.


Next, a screen appears displaying the progress of the move operation.



Once the move completes successfully, you will see the below screen. This would show if the move was unsuccessful for any reason (like licensing not being recognized yet). This report can be more helpful in cases where you are moving multiple users. Click Close.



Now, if you look at your users in the Control Panel, you can see that Shaggy and Thelma are still homed in the on-prem pool, but Scooby is now in Skype for Business Online.



Again, Provisioning may take its sweet time for your Skype for Business Admin Center to reflect this new user as being homed Online, but once it has finished, you should see this on your Skype for Business Admin Center dashboard:



Clicking on the Users tab in the Skype for Business Admin Center further confirms that Scooby is now indeed Online.



Back in the on-prem Control Panel, if we open the Properties of Scooby, and read the message, it hits the point home just a bit further that he is definitely homed in Office 365.




Move Users from Online to On-Prem


Alright, so you have moved a user to Online. Before they get too comfy, let's move them back to on-prem!

From the on-prem Skype for Business Control Panel, navigate to the Users tab, search for your user, and with the user highlighted, click on the Actions drop-down menu. Select the option to Move selected users from Skype for Business Online...


In the Move users to Skype for Business Server on-premises wizard, you are prompted to select the pool that you want to move the user to. Make your selection from the drop-down box, and then click Next.


This operation requires you to connect to Office 365 once again, so click the Sign in to Office 365 button, enter your credentials, click Ok, and then once you are signed in, click Close


You will receive the expected confirmation window stating that you are now signed into Office 365 as was demonstrated above. Click Next. The next screen is asking you to confirm that you want to move this user to your on-prem pool. Click Next.


Again, you are presented with the progress of the move operation.


Lastly, you will see the results screen. In our case, you can see that Scooby moved back successfully. Click Close.


Now, if we take another look at all of our users, we can see that they are all back nice and snug in our on-prem pool. 


And that's it! Once your pre-reqs are in place and Directory Synchronization is working, configuring Hybrid and moving users between environments is very simple and straightforward from the Skype for Business Control Panel.

Stay techy, my friends!