Exchange Unified Messaging Online PBX integration is gone!

*UPDATE* – Additional information has been added for the AnyNode architecture. 

This blog is to discuss the recent announcement of the depreciation of Exchange Online Unified Messaging sip trunk capabilities found here https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/exchange/2017/07/18/discontinuation-of-support-for-session-border-controllers-in-exchange-online-unified-messaging/.

Who is impacted by this?

  1. If you have deployed Exchange Online UM and are using it with anything but Skype for Business this impacts you.
  2. If you have Exchange UM on-prem and are connecting it to anything but Skype for Business and you want to move to Exchange Online this impacts you.
  3. If you are in the middle of an Exchange migration to the cloud and are using UM, this impacts you,

Basically what it boils down to is you need Skype for Business to interact with Exchange Unified Messaging in Office 365.  I say this because of the four options Microsoft provides:

  • Option 1: Complete migration from 3rd party on-premises PBX to Office 365 Cloud PBX.
  • Option 2: Complete migration from 3rd party on-premises PBX to Skype for Business Server Enterprise Voice on-premises.
  • Option 3: For customers with a mixed deployment of 3rd party PBX and Skype for Business, connect the PBX to Skype for Business Server using a connector from a Microsoft partner, and continue using Exchange Online UM through that connector. For example, TE-SYSTEMS’ AnyNode UM connector can be used for that purpose.
  • Option 4: For customers with no Skype for Business Server deployment or for whom the solutions above are not appropriate, implement a 3rd party voicemail system.

Here is a breakdown what each option means to me.

  • Option 1 – Move your PBX (Nortel, Avaya, Cisco, etc) to Skype for Business Online and use it as your PBX.  At this point, you are using Azure Voicemail and not Exchange UM.
  • Option 2: Again, move to Skype for Business from your current PBX.
  • Option 3: This option is interesting, its basically telling you to take advantage of an existing Skype for Business Server deployment and integrate your PBX.  Again, Skype for Business is connecting to Exchange UM online.
  • Option 4: From what I’ve seen, 3rd party voicemail systems are going to require a server or some on-prem infrastructure and send voicemail to Exchange as an email.  This is not Exchange UM.

A lot of organizations have a heavy investment in an existing PBX so options 1 and 2 are out.  Simply migrating to a different PBX would require a large effort and money, requiring new handsets and other equipment.  Option 4, in my opinion, is moving backward in technology.  Microsoft has done a really good job to build a voicemail solution that tightly integrates into email.  Things like voicemail transcription, personal options, calling in to manage your email and calendar, and others are very powerful and switching to some other voicemail is a step back, plus it’s going to cost money.  This leaves most organizations with Option 3, but the description leaves a lot of detail out.

AnyNode and AudioCodes have a product that can be implemented and they basically do the same thing.  *UPDATE* I had a chance to discuss AnyNode with Microsoft yesterday, 9/19/17.  The AnyNode product is slightly different than the AudioCodes product.  AnyNode can only interface via SIP, so if you already have SBC’s deployed this solution might work.  AnyNode has the ability to interface with CloudPBX users.  This would mean you do not have to move all Skype for Business Online users to the on-prem deployment, however, you are limited to the capabilities of Azure Voicemail and Azure Auto Attendant.  These are not the same as Exchange Online Unified Messaging Voicemail and Auto Attendants.  To name a few shortcomings, Play on Phone is not available in Azure Voicemail and transfer to external number is also not available in Auto Attendants.

I’m going to cover the AudioCodes version as they have the most flexibility when it comes to the PBX integration side.  You can choose to integrate with any of the following technologies to your existing PBX when using AudioCodes.

  1. SIP
  2. E1/T1 with QSIG
  3. E1/T1 with CAS (SMDI/DTMF/etc)
  4. BRI
  5. Analog with SMDI/DTMF

Keep in mind during this explanation and blog that AudioCodes is taking a bad situation and making the best of it.

The X-UM product which is coming to market right around Ignite 2017 covers Option 3 above.  What the X-UM product does is provides a connection from your current PBX to an SBC, and that SBC talks to Skype for Business servers which interface to Exchange UM online.  There is a trusted application that sits between the SFB Server and SBC to capture traffic and manipulate it.  The trusted application provides interop for MWI and other legacy PBX information.  There are some caveats that I will point out that you should be aware of before you choose to go this route.  X-UM comes in three flavors, Standard, HA, and Lite.  These three options will run inside of an appliance.

Here is a breakdown of each offer:

  1. Standard – Runs Skype for Business Front End, Edge, and Mediation.  Everything you’d get in a Standard Edition deployment of Skype for Business.  A domain controller is deployed along with a trusted application server.
  2. HA – is the Standard option deployed twice and configured for resiliency.
  3. Lite – is going to be for organizations that have Skype for Business deployed but need the specific components deployed for voicemail integration.

All of these options are going to require your organization to enable users for Skype for Business Enterprise voice and Exchange Unified Messaging Online.  To put it another way, you have to home users on Skype for Business Servers on-prem and enable them for voice services.  Yes, you will need some sort of Skype for Business licensing, here is a breakdown:

  1. E3 + Skype Plus Cal
  2. E3 + CloudPBX (allows rights to use with on-premises)
  3. E5 (allows rights to use with on-premises

Further explanation:

  • If you are running Skype for Business Server and you have users deployed, they will get enabled for Enterprise Voice services.
  • If you have Skype for Business Online users, those users will need to be moved to the on-prem Skype for Business deployment and enabled for EV and UM.
  • Hybrid can be enabled for those users that do not need voicemail, they can stay in the cloud.
  • If you are thinking about using an X-UM product and you have Skype for Business online, know that the servers are purpose-built to connect your PBX phones to the Exchange Online UM service, not to house active Skype for Business users, using IM/P and Conferencing workloads.   For a case like this, you’ll want to build out Skype for Business Server and user X-UM lite.

Here are PDF’s of the architecture and call flows.

XUM-Architecture

XUM-Call Flows

Feel free to reach out to discuss further.

 

2 thoughts on “Exchange Unified Messaging Online PBX integration is gone!

  1. I wouldn’t mind buying a product like this as a point-solution (though naturally I wish Microsoft would stay in the space and support it natively through an SBC with standardized protocols, etc.)….

    the biggest issue I see with this is the requirement to license ALL users that will be using this as Skype for Business Enterprise Voice licenses. I believe that is the requirement with this situation. Do you see that also as a concern? I mean, hey if you have the licenses maybe one would consider just running that as their native on-prem PBX anyway, right? The challenege is for those of us that have our own PBX already, but relied on Exchange UM.

    Like

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