How to Make Conference Room System Users First-class Citizens in Skype for Business Environments

Nov 16, 2015

Microsoft has inarguably upended the competitive unified communications and collaboration (UCC) market. It has quickly established itself as the leader or among the leaders in many layers of the UCC stack, including: enterprise IM, business telephony, web conferencing, desktop video conferencing, email, directory, enterprise social, and more. Specifically, Microsoft owns a dominant revenue share of the on-premises web conferencing platforms market, and has jumped to third-place in revenue share of on-premises IP PBX line license revenues. The company’s success owes to a strong portfolio, diverse technology ecosystem and broad channel network. Microsoft is also experiencing accelerated adoption of its compelling cloud-based Office 365 subscription services.

Although Microsoft offers a broad portfolio, many organizations still prefer best-of-breed UCC solutions for performance, budget, existing investment protection, ease of use, and other reasons. As part of this preference, room systems continue to dominate the video conferencing endpoints market with approximately 90% of revenues each year, and Microsoft’s share of that revenue is inconsequential. Because they demand high-quality, professional video conferencing experiences in their meeting rooms many organizations have invested in, or plan to invest in, both Skype for Business and room video conferencing systems from other developers. 

It’s also apparent that customers increasingly expect tightly integrated multi-vendor solutions more-so than single-source solutions, per 501 enterprise decision makers that participated in Frost & Sullivan surveys last year.

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Multi-vendor environments potentially create serious dilemmas for many organizations. Both H.323 and SIP video conferencing assets often require professional expertise to integrate into Microsoft environments. The right choice of integration approach can make all the difference for the users and the business, therefore careful evaluation is critical. An integrated solution must truly address the interoperability gaps in order to make room system users full participants in Skype for Business (S4B) environments.

One option is to purchase on-premises infrastructure to facilitate Skype for Business integration with video conferencing assets. While certain types of resourceful organizations may prefer it, the challenges with this approach are upfront CAPEX requirements and continued burden on in-house staff to maintain two parallel infrastructures (S4B and video conferencing) that both have reputations for complexity. 

An increasingly popular approach is to leverage cloud services to facilitate the integration, which eliminate CAPEX requirements and outsource operations ownership complexities to an expert partner. Here’s a summary of the pros and cons for this option:

MCU / cloud service integration

The value of   existing video infrastructure is extended but it must be maintained in   parallel with the cloud service. MCU ownership cost and complexity persist.   However, MCU integration with cloud services allows a company to quickly   scale its deployment, while supporting calls between room systems on the MCU   and room systems calls with S4B participants on the cloud infrastructure.

Room system registration with cloud services

Existing H.323   and SIP endpoint investments are preserved. Cloud services provide calling   between S4B and room endpoints. However there is usually no P2P calling   between the two; instead all calls leverage cloud MCU services for meet-me   sessions. Room features are often limited. For example, rooms cannot accept   content from S4B users nor share content with S4B participants.

Cloud services with unregistered room systems

Choosing not to   register endpoints used with cloud services can eliminate endpoint   registration license fees. However, this compromises functionality. Often the   cloud-service MCU is required for all calls, P2P and ad-hoc calls are not   offered, and room systems users cannot share content with nor accept it from   S4B users.

Research shows there are significant differences among the options to integrate room systems into Skype for Business deployments. Most are more akin to basic interoperability than integration. Effective integration requires that room system users are not treated as second-class citizens; they are instead empowered as full participants in Skype for Business environments. Of the many options available today, StarLeaf stands out as being further ahead and more flexible than a majority of alternatives. The functionality StarLeaf enables is either unavailable or inconsistently supported with alternatives. Justifications for the high marks I give StarLeaf are as follows:

  • StarLeaf cloud supports all integration options listed above: MCU integration, registered and unregistered H.323 and SIP room systems.
  • Scheduled calls and ad-hoc sessions are both supported.
  • P2P calling between S4B and room systems, as well as multi-party calls with any endpoint mix are supported.
  • StarLeaf’s new GTm 5220 room system endpoint enables single-touch entry into scheduled calls.
  • URI and extension dialing, as well as call log access are available to GTm users.
  • Seamless P2P call escalation into multi-party meetings is available.
  • GTm endpoint users can accept content from and share content with S4B users.
  • GTm operates identically with Skype for Business Server, Office 365 and partner-hosted Skype for Business services.

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                                                          StarLeaf GTm 5220 endpoint. 

If you have existing room systems or want to add more, or have video conferencing infrastructure that still has value, it’s important to consider the users’ expectations and business objectives for integrating these with your Skype for Business deployment. In most cases, the expectations are only met by enabling room systems to be first-class participants in Skype for Business meetings.   

Category : Enterprise

Robert Arnold


Sixteen + years of experience in enterprise communications markets. Particular expertise in: Competitive and market intelligence, Market trend analysis and forecasting, Solutions development, marketing, sales and service support strategies.

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