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My Weekend at Communications vNext

Today’s guest blogger is Sagar Modi, Microsoft Unified Communications Architect

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending Communications vNext in Denver, a conference focused solely on Microsoft Unified Communications technologies. What follows are my experiences and hopefully something everyone can learn from!  

How did I Discover This Conference?

This conference was in its “Beta” year and did not come with the hype of other conferences (Ignite, Enterprise Connect). I am an active participant in a few Skype and Teams groups on LinkedIn and saw that a few key community members had shared details to an event that looked promising. As soon as I heard that they would be focusing solely on Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams, I knew I had to attend. It also did not hurt that they decided to make the “Beta” free!

My Experience

After the schedule was released with the speakers, I knew that this event was going to be the real deal. The legendary Jamie Stark (Senior Program Manager, Microsoft) gave an introductory keynote on Microsoft’s Intelligent Communication vision. He discussed at a high level the iterations of Office Communications Server, Lync, and Skype for Business. Jamie went on to describe the journey into Microsoft Teams and the excitement about how it is truly a whole new product and not just an “upgrade” of Skype for Business. After the keynote, we had the opportunity to attend the sessions that most interested us.

My first session I chose to attend was titled “Cradle to Grave” of a Microsoft Team. The session was presented by Heidi Gloudemans (Director – Teams Strategic Customer Engagement, Microsoft). This turned out to be one of the most structured sessions. Heidi presented a demo Teams environment and walked us through the “Teams Lifecycle”. She showcased the different functionalities that may not be that evident on the surface. Some of these may surprise you and should prove to be incredibly useful, such as:

  • 200 Channels per Team limit
  • Naming Convention Templates
    • Custom Blocked Words
    • Prefix / Suffix Naming Requirements
  • Expiration Policies (Azure P1)

The next session I attended was “Get the Latest on Skype to Teams Journey Strategies and Experiences” presented by Nick Smith (Principal Program Manager, Microsoft). This session provided tons of information on the Journey to Microsoft Teams. Nick drilled down the different coexistence modes:

  • Skype with Teams collaboration-only mode
    • Great way to introduce Teams in your environment while continuing to leverage your existing Skype for Business
  • Skype with Teams collaboration and meetings mode
    • Option to utilize Teams for meetings, but provide the business Skype Enterprise Voice capabilities
  • Islands mode (Default)
    • Teams users can utilize Teams with full capabilities with other Teams users
    • Other users can continue to utilize Skype for Business with no business impact
  • Teams-only mode
    • Teams client becomes the primary communication and collaboration tool
    • Skype for Business client can be used to join existing Skype meetings (Internal and External)
  • Skype-only mode

These coexistence modes enable you to manage which modalities in Skype and Teams are available to your users. Each coexistence mode may be an option, depending upon the customer and their needs.

He detailed the current interop features not available and ended his session with a very busy Q&A.

The third session I attended was “Voice Routing in Microsoft Teams” by Doug Lawty (Voice Technology Solutions Profession, Microsoft). Doug constructed his presentation by going through the “Call Lifecycle” which consisted of: Get Service, Provision Routing, Pre-Call, Sign-In, Call, and Post-Call. He dove into each category. He also explained at a high level the capabilities of routing select calls to Session Border Controller (SBC).

The final session of the day I attended was “Bring Your Own Trunk and the SBC’s role” by Jens Madsen. Jens went through the evolution of Bring Your Own Trunk (Hybrid, CCE, Teams Direct Routing). Jens covered many “gotchas” and best-practices when Direct Routing SBC’s with 3rd Parties. Some of the topics covered were:

  • SILK and OPUS Audio Codec
  • Direct Routing SBCs
    • 3rd Party
    • Legacy Devices
  • Opening SBC to the internet (Teams)
    • Bidirectional connectivity to communicate with the cloud services for signaling and media
    • Connection Points for Direct Routing

Final Takeaway

First of all, hats off to the Communications vNext organizers (Pat Richard, Jonathan McKinney, Adam Bell, and Josh Blalock) for putting together a conference for our Unified Communications community that zeroed in on all things Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams.

For being in its “Beta” the Comms vNext conference was great. It featured Microsoft speakers, thought leaders, Microsoft UC partners, and community. The conference provided ample networking opportunities with customers and partners. I definitely plan on attending Comms vNext in 2019!

If you or your organization is looking for help with your Unified Communications strategy, feel free to contact us at

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