My Cloud Network Readiness Notes for Office 365 and Teams

This post is about some basic aspects of networking for the cloud and where to find some viable resources. I focus on Microsoft Cloud connectivity. However, the requirements are similar to any other cloud services. To me, there are two common question which I always ask before any further (technical) Microsoft / Office 365 planning: What’s your network topology and how do your network metrics look like?
“Nice” and “fine” are some times answers I get, of course that’s not what I want to hear. 😉

Source: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/monitor-binary-binary-system-1307227/

What’s your network topology/design?

By asking this question I want to get insights on the network design, e.g. does the company operate a centralized network and internet connectivity approach?

Example answer: A company got 12 physical locations, buildings or offices in different cities, so geographically dispersed. The company’s headquarter (HQ) is in Stuttgart, Germany. All locations are linked together via MPLS-WAN links to the HQ. Let’s say a star topology is operated. All internet traffic is routed via HQ and breaks out centrally.

Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/network-earth-block-chain-globe-3524352/

How do your network metrics look like?

Very often companies do not have network metrics, no long-term metrics (2 weeks+) and no networking reporting to easily visualize and get insights on past and as-is network traffic. Although this might be very helpful also for security reasons to detected uncommon network patterns etc.

Well, by asking, how do your network metrics look like? I’d whish to get some viable metrics, e.g. packet loss, jitter, rtt, bandwidths (of course), … Many times it’s unclear.

These actual trivial questions are essential to know and estimate “Is my company’s network ready for cloud workloads?” or to know what’s to do to get the connectivity ready for (certain) cloud workloads. We also need to differentiate between workloads and their priority, e.g. no real-time vs. real-time workloads, file transfer vs. video calls.

What’s recommended?

A functioning, efficient and reliable network, especially internet connectivity towards the Microsoft Cloud Edge is key. If we talk about client facing applications, for instance Microsoft Teams, it is recommended to get the client app as near as possible to the Microsoft Cloud Edge so that the traffic can enter the highly optimized Microsoft Cloud Data Center Network (backend). Verify that the connectivity metrics towards the Microsoft Cloud Edge are meet.

Conclusion, opinion and summary

To reach the goal that clients’ network traffic can quickly enter Microsoft Cloud Data Center, we need to think about suited network concepts and designs. In my opinion centralized internet breakouts for clients are obsolete. Without a doubt there are advantages in management and routing traffic centrally depending on your point of view. If we “re-calibrate” our point of view and our expectations based on user and business requirements and principles we must re-think and re-assess our network to fulfill these requirements. To succeed we need to focus on the principle of excellent user experience which than will drive your business ahead. And as mentioned above, the network and internet connectivity towards the Cloud Edge are key.

Additional resources

Microsoft Teams Video Interoperability

In this post I give an overview on video interoperability with Microsoft Teams. It highlights options to connect (legacy) video conferencing systems and Microsoft Teams.

erik365 – What’s video interop?

Video interoperability enables different video endpoints and infrastructure to communicate with each other to overcome non-standardized or unequal video and media communication meetings or conferences.

erik365 – Why video interop?

Mostly, companies implement solutions for video interoperability to keep existing investments in dedicated video conferencing infrastructure and connect it to newer communication and collaboration infrastructure. For instance, if you have a dedicated Cisco, Lifesize or Poly video infrastructure you might want to join Teams online meetings with the Cisco/Lifesize/Poly video rooms, too.

erik365 – How does video interop work?

Basically, a video interop solution helps to bring together both, a dedicated video infrastructure or endpoint and Microsoft Teams.

erik365 – What options are there?

Today, there are three certified cloud video interop services for Microsoft Teams available. I.e. BlueJeans Gateway for Microsoft Teams, Poly RealConnect for Microsoft Teams, Pexip Cloud Video Interoperability for Microsoft Teams.

Conclusion, opinion and summary

Video interop services can help you to keep existing video infrastructure investments and connect it with Microsoft’s modern teamwork services, Teams. If you cannot just rip and replace all your video room systems and infrastructure with Surface Hubs or Teams Room Devices, it’s a viable approach and solution to add video interoperability services as needed. Finally, it brings (legacy) video conferencing to Teams online meetings.

Additional Resources

Microsoft Teams Tenant-to-Tenant Migration?

In the past I wrote a post regarding migrating a single capability, Teams telephony workloads, from a source to a target Office 365 tenant. In this post I like to emphasize a new third party service and its capability which can help to accomplish a complete Teams Tenant-to-Tenant migration.

[erik365] Migrate Office 365 Tenant-to-Tenant

BitTitan, a third party service provider for service automation, announced their new service to migrate Teams from a source to a target tenant. It enables companies who need to merge or split Teams into or off another Office 365 tenant.

BitTitan MigrationWiz Teams Tenant-to-Tenant Migration

MigrationWiz enables for migrating the following Team workloads:

  • Teams instance and the individual components
  • Teams
  • Channels
  • Conversations
  • Permissions
  • Files within that instance

On top the service offers a pre-migration assessment

  • to analyze the number of Teams to be migrated
  • to analyze the amount of data to be migrated
  • to analyze the number of users to be migrated

The above described service capabilities are subject to change at anytime. The described capabilities are just a high-level overview. I recommend to read the lastest service provider’s service specification etc. before.

Conclusion, opinion and summary

I dealt with a few Microsoft Office 365 Tenant-to-Tenant migration due to different business requirements. However, it was very much to do and script. Now, MigrationWiz seems to really simplify the complete process for Office 365 Tenant-to-Tenant migrations regarding Microsoft Teams.

As of now [July 2019] there are only a few service providers out there offering a service to smoothly migrate Teams from Tenant-To-Tenant as far as I could see. So, BitTitan MigrationWiz is now an option to speed up, simplify and automate your T2T migration batches for Teams, too.

Additional Resources

Microsoft Inspire 2019 live stream

For market observers, in this post I want to notify about Microsoft Inspire 2019. The event takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada from July 14th – 18th, 2019. It’s for Microsoft partners to meet, connect and of course, get inspired all around Microsoft’s and Partners’ services.

There will be a live stream of some keynotes on the Inspire page:

  • Monday, July 15, 2019 approx. 17:30 – 19:30*
  • Wednesday, July 17, 2019 approx. 17:30 – 19:30*
    * Europe/Berlin time)

As usually, Microsoft plans to make the Inspire sessions available some time (approx. two days later) after the event or session took place. So, stay tuned for more details on the below pages as the event comes closer and after it took place.

Additional Resources

Microsoft Teams Licensing Notes [Update July 2019]

There are many options for licensing Microsoft Teams depending on the capability requirements for users, devices and rooms. In this post I like to point out some “special” licensing options besides the normal ones for Teams in enterprises.

The hereinafter described license options might be subject to change. Moreover not all licenses or subscriptions are available in every country around the globe, especially calling plans and audio conferencing (shortened: Audioconf.).

Teams Licensing Basics

  • Microsoft Teams is just a single service of the massiv Microsoft 365 services stack which it tightly linked and integrated within this service stack.
  • Microsoft Teams is part of a “packaged” Microsoft Office 365 subscriptions by default.
  • Microsoft Teams replaces Skype for Business (Online). The Skype for Business Desktop Client within Office 365 ProPlus is also obsolete, meaning that new (full) Office 365 ProPlus installation will get a Teams instead of a Skype for Business Client.

The following slides and drawing are intended to provide you with an overview on licensing options. I also point out what you should take into account in case of Teams Direct Routing (TDR), in this post and following drawings I call a TDR scenario a “hybrid” scenario.

Telephony with Teams (for users)

Overview (May 2019)

Call Queues (CQ) and Auto Attendants (AA)

Resource accounts for CQ/AA need a license. Till 01.07.2019 you had to license these users with typical user licenses. Now you can buy and assign a free “Phone System Virtual User license”.

UPDATED JULY 2019 Call Queues (CQ) and Auto Attendants (AA)

At the bottom I’ll add a link to a well-written how-to post “Add a free licence to Call Queues and Auto Attendants (Microsoft Teams)” from ucgeek.com which describes how to buy and assign the license.

Teams Common Area Phone (CAP)

Teams Common Area Phone

Teams Meeting Room

Teams Meeting Room

Conclusion, opinion and summary

The above drawings quickly depict how you can license users, common area phones, meeting room devices and even call queues or auto attendants for Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft is working on an enhanced licensing model for applications like cloud CQ/AA [as you can read in “Manage resource accounts”]. Still, at present user licensing applies for cloud CQ/AA. [done]

Additional Resources

AI Builder & Microsoft Power Platform

In this post I like to share exciting news on a low-code AI service for your starting to enable AI for your company using Microsofts Power Platform.

In June 2019 Microsoft launched the AI Builder preview. This AI builder enables your users to build easy Power Platform-based business solutions enriched with artificial intelligence (AI).

What is the Microsoft Power Platform?

The Microsoft Power Platform offers capabilities to build solutions to solve business problems without coding or with little coding skills. It includes mainly the following services:

  • Microsoft Flow –> to automate processes
  • Microsoft Power BI –> to visualize data
  • Microsoft Power Apps –> app platform to build apps for input and output
Source: https://powerplatform.microsoft.com/en-us/

I’ll not dig deeper into a detailed explanation, therefore I add some links at the bottom of this post for your self-study and to get started.

What’s AI builder?

As the name already tells, AI builder offers to a service to build an AI-enriched solution in conjunction with the Power Platform. So? Well, what can I do now? As of now you can use the following AI capabilities:

  • Object detection –> e.g. identify and track your products
  • Prediction –> e.g. predict / forecast business outcomes based on as-is and historical business data
  • Text classification –> e.g. map text input of a customer feedback to a value
  • Form processing –> e.g. extract form-based inputs within a flow an process it
https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/ai-builder/
AI Builder (preview) in Flow –> Prediction
Source: https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/ai-builder/

Conclusion, opinion and summary

In my opinion AI builder is a great option to get started with building AI enriched business processes to increase your business process efficiency. The most meaningful advantages of AI builder are:

  • Easy to use (no or low code, “click it together”)
  • For every skill level
  • Extensible (integrate/use with Microsoft Power Platform & Dynamics 365)

Additional Resources

Microsoft Teams Federated Chat Experience Update 06-2019

In this post I like to highlight news about an long awaited feature for your federated chat experience.

Today (June 2019), if you have federated chat with external Team (only) users (no guest, no Teams Team, other tenant) it’s a limited chat experience because you can have plain chat, video and audio.

The item on the roadmap now tells us that we can expect a richer experience within federate chat between Teams-only users to be released in July 2019. What does this mean? Well, as it reads on the roadmap is seems that Microsoft will provide the same rich chat features as today available for internal Teams chat.

Source: Microsoft 365 Roadmap ID 52394

Conclusion, opinion and summary

Yey, I’m looking forward to this update. I communicate with many different external users (suppliers, customers, partners) via Teams. However, not all the time communication and collaboration is required within online meetings or a dedicated Teams team/O365 group. That’s why I often tend to use the plain 1:1 chat or 1:n chat for a nice and easy communication.

I’m looking forward if the as-is federated chat experience will be enhanced with features and capabilities which are available for non-federated Teams chat today.

Additional Resources