Moving to Skype for Business: Know Your In-Place Upgrade Options

Editor’s note: The following post was written by Skype for Business MVP Dino Caputo as part of our Technical Tuesday series.

Skype for Business Server 2015 represents the first time Microsoft has allowed for an “in-place” upgrade of previous versions of its Universal Communications platform.  Since the Live Communication Server 2005 days, moving to the next release required building out a new set of infrastructure, planning, testing and finally moving users over to it.  This latest release introduces the option to do what is referred to as an in-place upgrade, allowing organizations to upgrade existing Lync 2013 Servers to Skype for Business 2015. 
This can be especially relevant and appropriate if
• You have recently migrated to Lync Server 2013 and have new hardware that is capable of running SfB (the hardware specs have not changed from Lync Server 2013) The In-place upgrade seeks to preserve existing hardware investments, reducing the overall cost to deploy Skype for Business Server 2015.
• You have a smaller deployment perhaps running a single Lync Server 2013 Standard Edition
• You are able to tolerate a small amount of downtime (1-2 hours).  Depending on your configuration you may be able to avoid this however. 
A limitation:
• This isn’t possible for organizations still running Lync Server 2010.  Even if you have both Lync 2010 and 2013 Server in your environment you must fully decommission Lync 2010 before you can introduce Skype for business Server.

In Place Upgrade Options
The Offline method (Some Downtime required)
You must use the offline method if you only have a single Lync 2013 Standard or Enterprise Edition Pool.  The offline method as the name implies requires you to take the entire pool down for maintenance while the upgrade is occurring.  During this time all functionality is unavailable until the upgrade process has completed.  I would budget 60-90 minutes per front end server so plan accordingly.

The Move User method (No Downtime)
If you have deployed two pools in your environment then this opens up another option whereby you may move all the users over to another pool prior to commencing the upgrade.  The second pool should have enough capacity to handle the load of any users currently homed on it as well as the ones you are moving over.  Before moving the users over, ensure you have enough capacity to handle the load of these users on the other pool.  If these pools were part of a “Paired” configuration you do not need to break the pair prior to the upgrade process.   The following diagram illustrates this process in detail.  
Expert Note: As part of Move Users you also will need to migrate the global conference directories associated with the primary pool. PSTN dial-in conferencing will still resolve ConferenceID to the pool being upgraded, instead of the paired pool. So you need to move Conference Directories, if you still want PSTN conferences scheduled in the pool to be accessible during upgrade.

Upgrading other Lync Server 2013 Roles
The upgrade to Skype for Business applies to other Lync Server 2013 roles as well.  Upgrade your topology from the inside to the outside. Upgrade all your pools first, then the edge servers, and lastly the pool that owns the Lync Central Management Store (CMS)
Upgrading other roles like the Edge Server role takes less time.  Budget up to 60 minutes per Edge Server. 
Communicate with Users!
Despite minimizing or even avoiding downtime depending on the option you choose, you should always plan and properly communicate with users letting them know what will be happening.  In the best case scenario, they shouldn’t notice anything occurring, however if you don’t plan or communicate properly and you encounter issues there may be user disruption which diminishes their experience.
Take advantage of new features
Once you have fully upgraded your environment you can now take advantage of the some of the new features in Skype for Business 2015, namely:

Enhanced commercial Skype Federation

View commercial Skype contacts and add them to your Contact List so you may see presence, IM, and call them including video!

Call Monitor

I especially like the addition of the signature feature from the consumer version of the Skype Call Monitor which is automatically instantiated when you click on other windows making it easier to collaborate by focusing on working content when in a call. Mid-Call controls are also more easily accessible and redesigned to include the PSTN dialing Pad by default now (hooray!)

Rate the Call Quality

After your call is done you may be asked to rate your call and provide feedback to your administrators.  This may be especially valuable during a new deployment.  You may control the cadence to which this is presented to users.

Call Via Work

Another important addition is “Call via Work” feature which will allow interoperability to existing PBX phones. While this requires a Direct SIP integration between Skype for Business Server and the PBX it will allow SfB users to establish a call between their PBX Deskphone and the called PSTN user. This also has the important benefit of updating users’ presence status, which is something lacking in the Lync Direct SIP interoperability scenario. There are also basic mid-call control capabilities which are preserved on the PBX phone.

New reporting and Admin features
Call quality dashboard – an OLAP cube that allows more customized reports of historical Call Quality and other Metrics
Manageability improvements (Pool shutdown/start up cmdlets - better patching process: Invoke-CsComputerFailOver, Invoke-CsComputerFailback, Start-CsPool)

Make a Plan!
While the addition of an in-place upgrade option is certainly an appealing and welcome one it may not be the appropriate course of action for all deployments so please take the time to properly plan which path you need to take to get to Skype for Business Server 2015.

About the author
As a Senior Architect and Skype for Business MVP, Dino gets to do what he does best – help clients achieve their business goals by providing advanced technical solutions. It’s his ability to develop technical strategies, understand client needs and deliver performance outcomes that have earned him a reputation as a seasoned IT professional and true team player.

Dino holds many certifications including an MCSE, and is a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist in Live Communications Server (LCS) 2005, Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 and a MCTS in Lync Server 2010 and 2013.   He works primarily with Skype for Business and Exchange.

Dino has worked with many large enterprise customers providing UC design, strategy and technical “Coaching” helping them derive the most out of their investment in Microsoft Universal Communications. Follow him on Twitter @dinocaputo.



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