A Microsoft IT case study
When Microsoft IT began its transition to Office
365, the team responsible for Lync and Skype for Business services was already
involved with a major performance improvement effort as part of the transition
from Lync to Skype for Business. This work included categorizing service
challenges and large-scale, long-term planning for improved performance and
availability both on-premises and in the cloud. This improvement project
expanded to include an intense evaluation of the cloud management service and
strategic work to prepare the network environment and optimize for the cloud,
as well as a cloud migration plan that took advantage of flexible hybrid
Preparing the network environment
Knowing that a Skype for Business cloud migration
would require changes to the network environment for optimal performance,
Microsoft IT took advantage of the Microsoft Click-to-Run technology to reduce
complexity and IT overhead, allowing Office 365 to manage Office and Skype for
Business client updates. By moving to the cloud, Microsoft IT was able to
manage updates and ensure the most current versions of the client at all times,
guaranteeing availability of the newest features and the greatest reliability.
Because real-time communication is extremely
sensitive to network conditions, Microsoft IT also prioritized a deep
understanding of three key elements of capacity and traffic planning before
they began cloud migrations. To understand capacity and traffic planning:
- They analyzed federated traffic with external organizations in a
hybrid environment to prevent potential bottlenecks at the network edge.
- They developed a deep understanding of the traffic flows within the
network to optimize routes for voice traffic.
- They ensured that their private connectivity, which reduced
complexity in the network integration for Skype for Business in Office
365, had the appropriate markings for quality of service and guaranteed
prioritization to the Office 365 network.
Historically, major IT investments have included
tools, systems, and personnel for managing infrastructure and applications;
moving to the cloud shifted some of those burdens to Office 365 and enabled
Microsoft IT to focus more resources on adoption and improving control over the
Skype for Business user experience. Microsoft IT has seen fewer incidents
caused by network changes, because dedicated network links now connect users
directly to server farms in the cloud. In Office 365, the risk of user or
service impact caused by internal network changes or configuration drift is
- Migrating Skype for Business Server to Skype for Business Online in
Office 365 may allow IT departments to shift resources from internal IT
infrastructure and applications to adoption efforts and a more managed
Optimization for transition to the cloud
Because of the real-time nature of the Skype for
Business service, optimizing performance is even more critical than with other
Office 365 services; even a few seconds of lost voice, video, or data affect
user productivity. Therefore, before Microsoft IT could migrate Skype for
Business to the cloud, it was crucial to evaluate change and develop new
strategies for availability, reliability, and performance.
When Microsoft IT began to transition Skype for
Business to the cloud, the existing wireless networks were optimized for data,
but not for real-time communications such as voice. With the increase in the
number and variety of mobile devices in the workplace, use of wireless
connections more than doubled during meetings in less than a year.
Additionally, transitioning to open floor plans to reduce physical footprints
and accommodate new working models resulted in increased user density and
additional meeting spaces. To accommodate channel overlap and improve signal
optimization in this changing wireless environment, Microsoft IT re-tuned their
wireless access point placements and deployment configurations based on
analysis of changing user behaviors, varied user density, and new floor plan
At the same time, Microsoft IT was seeing
widespread increase in Windows 8 machines that were optimized for Wireless N
network hardware rather than wired connections. Microsoft IT standardized the
environment for wireless N, ensuring clear communications by proactively making
sure that its wireless network drivers were as current as possible and
continuing to actively push driver updates.
- The increasing popularity of mobile devices and open floorplans in
the workplace requires analysis and potential redesign of network
configurations, as well as increased focus on driver updates.
Using hybrid deployments for flexibility
The Microsoft IT Skype for Business migration to
the cloud is occurring in phases. Even more complex than the SharePoint
migration, the Skype for Business migration to Office 365 is part of a much
larger deployment that also includes the launch of Skype for Business Server
2015 and the new Skype for Business client software. The Microsoft IT ecosystem
for Skype for Business involves 218,000 users in both on-premises and Office
365 environments; of these, 30,000 are currently in the cloud, producing 3.5
million streams per month. This hybrid environment allows Microsoft IT to
provide global public switched telephone network (PSTN) connectivity for both
Skype for Business Server and Skype for Business Online while optimizing
performance and the user experience. Processes and applications are moved into
the public cloud environment as quickly as possible.
Microsoft IT currently provides global enterprise
voice in the cloud and will remain in a hybrid configuration until global
services are available online. There is high user satisfaction with the current
hybrid environment; a cloud user and an on-premises user can have a seamless
conference in a shared environment without any awareness of its hybrid nature.
Office 365 implementations will vary greatly by
organization, with some small organizations moving easily to a total cloud
environment and larger organizations using longer-term hybrid scenarios. Like
Microsoft IT, other large IT departments may experience challenges that will
influence performance planning for Skype for Business migration, such as
application requirements, telecommunications investments, carrier limitations,
partner dependencies, and number of users. Fortunately, the flexibility of
gradual hybrid deployments can mitigate many of these challenges.
- A gradual hybrid transition to Office 365 allows companies to
migrate to the cloud while continuing to maximize their investment in
their existing on-premises telephony equipment.