Tag Archives: onpremises

Cisco Webex Edge for Devices links on-prem endpoints to cloud

Businesses using on-premises video gear from Cisco can now get access to cloud services, while keeping their video infrastructure in place.

A new service, called Cisco Webex Edge for Devices, lets businesses connect on-premises video devices to cloud services like Webex Control Hub and the Webex Assistant. Customers get access to some cloud features but continue to host video traffic on their networks.

Many businesses aren’t ready to move their communications to the cloud. Vendors have responded by developing ways to mix on-premises and cloud technologies. Cisco Webex Edge for Devices is the latest offering of that kind.

“It gives users that cloudlike experience without the businesses having to fully migrate everything to the cloud,” said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research.

Cisco wants to get as many businesses as possible to go all-in on the cloud. Webex Edge for Devices, introduced this month, tees up customers to make that switch. Companies will have the option of migrating their media services to the cloud after connecting devices to the service.

Webex Edge for Devices is available for no additional charge to businesses with an enterprise-wide Collaboration Flex Plan, a monthly per-user subscription. Alternatively, companies can purchase cloud licenses for the devices they want to register with the service for roughly $30 per device, per month. The service won’t work with gear that’s so old Cisco no longer supports it.

Video hardware linked to the cloud through the service will show up in the Webex Control Hub, a console for managing cloud devices. For on-premises devices, the control hub will provide diagnostic reports, usage data, and insight into whether the systems are online or offline.

Many businesses are already using a mix of on-premises and cloud video endpoints. Webex Edge for Devices will let those customers manage those devices from a single console. In the future, Cisco plans to add support for on-premises phones.

Businesses will also be able to sync on-premises video devices with cloud-based calendars from Microsoft and Google. That configuration will let the devices display a one-click join button for meetings scheduled on those calendars.

Another cloud feature unlocked by Webex Edge for Devices is the Webex Assistant. The service is an AI voice system that lets users join meetings, place calls and query devices with their voice.

In the future, Cisco plans to bring more cloud features to on-premises devices. Future services include People Insights, a tool that provides background information on meeting participants with information gleaned from the public internet.

Cisco first released a suite of services branded as Webex Edge in September 2018. The suite included Webex Edge Audio, Webex Edge Connect and Webex Video Mesh. The applications provide ways to use on-premises and cloud technologies in combination to improve the quality of audio and video calls.

Cisco’s release of Webex Edge for Devices underscores its strategy of supporting on-premises customers without forcing them to the cloud, said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research.

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US Army HR expects migration to Azure cloud will cut IT costs

The U.S Army is moving its civilian HR services from on-premises data centers to Microsoft’s cloud. The migration to Azure has the makings of a big change. Along with shifting Army HR services to the cloud, it plans to move off some of its legacy applications. 

It’s a move that the Army said will give it more flexibility and reduce its costs.

The Army Civilian Human Resources Agency (CHRA) is responsible for supporting approximately 300,000 Army civilian employees and 33,000 Department of Defense employees. It provides a full-range of HR services.

The migration to Azure was noted in a contract announcement by Accelera Solutions Inc., a  systems integrator based in Fairfax, Va. The $40.4 million Army contract is for three years. The firm is a Microsoft federal cloud partner.

The federal government, including the Department of Defense, is broadly consolidating data centers and shifting some systems to the cloud.

Shift to cloud will improve HR capabilities

The Army said it is moving its civilian HR services to the cloud for three reasons. The Army “has determined that the cloud is the most effective way to host CHRA operated programs,” said Matthew Leonard, an Army spokesperson, in an email. It also needs “a more agile operating environment,” he said.

The third benefit of migrating to Azure “will allow for improved overall capabilities at lower cost,” Leonard said. “We will not need to expend resources to maintain data centers and expensive hardware,” he said.

Some of the Army’s savings will come by turning off resources outside of business hours, such as those used for development.

The Army didn’t provide an estimate of cost savings. But the Defense Department, in budget documents, has estimated cumulative data center consolidation savings of $751 million from 2017 to 2024.

Our goal is to significantly reduce the number of applications through the use of modern, out-of-the-box platforms.
Matthew LeonardSpokesperson, Army

Some existing Army HR applications will undergo a migration to Azure, but new cloud-based HR applications will be also be adopted as part of this shift. 

“Our goal is to significantly reduce the number of applications through the use of modern, out-of-the-box platforms,” Leonard said. Overtime, the Army plans to move other applications to the cloud.

Accelera declined to comment on the award, but in its announcement said its work includes migrating the Army’s HR applications from on-premises data center to the Azure cloud. It will also operate the cloud environment.

Microsoft recently was awarded a broader Defense Department contract to host military services in its Azure cloud. The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract, or JEDI, is estimated at $10 million over 10 years. AWS, a JEDI contract finalist, is challenging the award in court. 

“The CHRA cloud initiative does seem to be driven more by the data center consolidation initiative that’s been around since the Obama administration, and much less by the current flap over JEDI,” said Ray Bjorklund, president of government IT market research firm BirchGrove Consulting LLC in Maryland. Migration to the cloud has been a “recurring method” of IT consolidation, he said. 

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Microsoft offers few upgrades for Skype server in 2019

Microsoft added no significant end-user features to on-premises Skype for Business in 2019, closing out the year with a December update that mostly fixes bugs.

Microsoft’s lack of investment in Skype server underscores how the company views the product as a placeholder for businesses not yet ready to move to the cloud.

In recent updates, Microsoft extended location-based routing to Skype for Business mobile clients. The feature, now a standard component of modern business phone systems, helps companies reduce PSTN costs by keeping audio traffic in-network when possible.

Microsoft also this year began a phased replacement of the Skype server’s IT control panel, which is based on outdated technology. Another update gave IT admins new tools for automating user settings on a large scale.

Otherwise, the vendor’s July and December updates contained mostly bug fixes and security tweaks for the Skype server. In years past, those updates would have included significant features for the Skype product. But more recently, the vendor has focused its research and development efforts on cloud-based Microsoft Teams.

Consequentially, many organizations are not even bothering to purchase the latest iteration of Skype server, version 2019, released last October, said Tom Arbuthnot, principal solutions architect at Modality Systems, a Microsoft-focused systems integrator.

Instead, those customers are sticking with the previous iteration, version 2015. Microsoft has scheduled extended maintenance for the 2015 and 2019 versions of Skype to end simultaneously in 2025, giving businesses little incentive to make the costly switch.

“I don’t see load and loads of people upgrading to 2019. They will string out 2015 until they are ready to go to Teams,” Arbuthnot said. “[Microsoft is] disincentivizing you from going to 2019.”

The 2019 server introduced new ways to integrate the on-premises product with cloud services, such as cloud voicemail and Azure Active Directory. It also uses more recent security protocols. But it offers virtually no new end-user features compared to what was added to the 2015 version.

Microsoft’s decision to stop investing in its on-premises unified communications product stands in contrast to Cisco. The rival vendor has continued to enhance the features of the messaging app Cisco Jabber even while building out a cloud portfolio based on the Webex suite.

Microsoft appears more focused on winning subscribers to Office 365, a cloud-based suite of productivity apps that includes Teams. In particular, the company has taken aim at the collaboration app Slack, a competitor to Teams.

Microsoft announced last month that Teams had gained 20 million daily active users, more than Slack’s 13 million. But those figures still represent only a fraction of Microsoft’s base of customers, which includes 200 million commercial users of Office 365.

Microsoft has not revealed how many organizations are still using Skype, but it likely remains one of the most-installed UC apps in the market. More than 100 million people used Microsoft Lync as of 2015 when the product was rebranded to Skype for Business.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has announced that it will shutter Skype for Business Online, a cloud-based product within Office 365, on July 31, 2021.

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Microsoft acquires Mover.io to ease OneDrive migrations

Microsoft plans to add cloud migration tools to aid SharePoint on-premises migrations to the OneDrive cloud with its Monday acquisition of Mover.io, an eight-year-old Canadian startup specializing in the self-service mass migration of enterprise files.

Mover.io, acquired for an undisclosed sum, also provides cross-cloud migrations from a dozen OneDrive file-sharing cloud competitors, including Box, Dropbox, Egnyte and Google Drive. Microsoft continues to support SharePoint on-premises, but the company has not said how long it will continue to do so, leaving room for speculation among users and experts.

Mover.io, acquired a month after Microsoft bought data-migration vendor Movere, will join several file-migration tools and services already on the Microsoft cloud platform, including FastTrack and the SharePoint Migration Tool. Users also have a choice of several other third-party tools to do the job, including ShareGate and Metalogix, which support file migrations to OneDrive.

Microsoft could, theoretically, poach customers from competing cloud file-management systems such as Box with the Mover.io migration tools. But the real OneDrive migration target customer for the Mover.io tools is Microsoft’s SharePoint on-premises base, said Deep Analysis founder Alan Pelz-Sharpe.

Enterprise-scale file migrations from on-premises servers to the cloud pose challenges of maintaining file directory structure as well as access and security policies, Pelz-Sharpe said. SharePoint enterprise migrations in particular can be even thornier because it was designed for front-line office workers to set up ad-hoc file-sharing sites with little IT assistance.

The fact that SharePoint’s been around for nearly two decades, pre-dating widespread cloud adoption, compounds the issue. Pelz-Sharpe described one of his clients, a utility company, whose SharePoint on-premises footprint has grown over the years to 12,000 SharePoint sites.

“They have no idea what is in them, and no idea what to do with them,” Pelz-Sharpe said. “These things can be complex. It’s a recognized problem, so the more experience, skills and tools Microsoft can bring to help, the better.”

Specifics about Mover.io features integrating with the Microsoft 365 platform will come next month, said Jeff Teper, Microsoft corporate VP for Office, SharePoint and OneDrive, in a blog post announcing the acquisition.

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Icelandair turns to headless CMS to improve CX

Icelandair’s web content repository has taken flight from a traditional, on-premises content management system to a headless CMS in the cloud to improve its online travel booking experience for customers.

The migration started several years ago, and remains ongoing as processes move one at a time into the headless system from Contentstack.

We spoke with Icelandair’s global director of marketing Gísli Brynjólfsson and UX writer Hallur Þór Halldórsson to discuss how they made this IT purchasing decision and what CX improvements the airline stands to gain by going to the cloud.

What was the technology problem that got Icelandair thinking about changing to a headless CMS in the cloud?

Halldórsson: When I came on to the project in 2015 we had a very old-fashioned on-premises CMS with a publishing front-end attached to it, which handled all the content for our booking site. Content managers had to go in and do a lot of cache-flushing and add code here, add code there to the site.

Icelandair jetliner in flight
Icelandair’s headless CMS is making flight reservations more efficient for customers.

Load tests during cloud containerizing experiments on AWS in 2016 made people scared the site would crash a lot; people weren’t sure the CMS could handle what was coming in our digital transformation. We started looking for another CMS, using a different one for a year that wasn’t headless — but had API functionality — but it wasn’t quite doing what we expected. We ended up trying several cloud CMS vendors and Contentstack won the contract.

What about headless CMS made sense in the context of your digital transformation plan?

The ability to adapt quickly and scalability were the primary reasons to go with a headless CMS.
Hallur Þór HalldórssonUX writer, Icelandair

Halldórsson: Headless became a requirement at one point to decouple it from the publishing end of the old CMS. We needed this approach if we wanted to personalize content for customers, which we eventually would like to do. But the ability to adapt quickly and scalability were the primary reasons to go with a headless CMS.

What features or functionality won the bid for Contentstack’s headless CMS?

Halldórsson: The way it handles localized content. We support 11 languages online and 16 locales (four different versions of English, two French), and you have to be able to manage that. Other vendors that impressed us otherwise didn’t have mature localization features. 

What is on your digital transformation roadmap over the next couple years?

Halldórsson: The first thing we did was integrate our translation process into the CMS. Before, we had to paste text into a Microsoft Word document, send it to the translation agency, wait for it to come back and paste it into the CMS. Now it gets sent to the agency via API and is delivered back. Automating that workflow was first. Next is a Salesforce integration to more quickly give salespeople and customer service agents the content we know they’re looking for. Integrating a personalization engine, too, is a dream.

Editor’s note: This Q&A has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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New details emerge about AWS Outposts as launch nears

AWS has provided more details about Outposts, the on-premises version of its IaaS cloud, in advance of its expected release late this year.

While AWS made Outposts a centerpiece of its re:Invent conference in December, and a fair amount of public information has been available, the company has now revealed which aspects and services of its public IaaS will ship in version 1 of Outposts.

AWS Outposts is aimed at customers who want the experience of running workloads on AWS inside their own data centers, for reasons such as latency and regulatory requirements.

It consists of server racks loaded with AWS software and is a fully managed offering, installed, operated and updated by AWS staff. Outpost machines will be continuously connected to a local AWS public cloud region.

Since re:Invent, AWS has worked with customers to figure out what types of services should be delivered in the first version of AWS Outposts. They will include several EC2 instance types — C5, M5, i3en and G4 — as well as Elastic Block Storage, AWS said in a blog post.

The general availability release of AWS Outposts will also support Amazon Elastic Container Service and Elastic Kubernetes Service, Elastic MapReduce and Amazon Relational Database Service, according to the blog. Subsequent additions will include the Amazon SageMaker machine learning platform, AWS said.

I have some clients [from whom] you cannot pry the data center from their cold dead hands.
Ryan MarshDevOps coach, TheStack.io

On paper, AWS Outposts are supposed to tie into any AWS public cloud service without issues. AWS also plans to port new public cloud capabilities to Outposts on a continuous basis, according to the blog.

Initial prospects for Outposts include companies in manufacturing, healthcare, telecom and financial services. A common use case concerns applications that require latency in the signal-digit millisecond range, AWS said.

Outposts follows cloud industry trend

AWS’ upcoming launch of Outposts ties into a trend where, for once, it is a laggard and not a pace-setter. Microsoft has already offered Azure Stack, Oracle has Exadata Cloud at Customer, IBM pushes Cloud Private, and Google moved into hybrid and on-premises scenarios with Anthos.

Holger MuellerHolger Mueller

The crucial element of Outposts is the system’s close similarity to AWS’ public cloud infrastructure, said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research in Cupertino, Calif. IT decision-makers who want to develop on top of an Outpost shouldn’t have to look too closely at the fine print, which would slow them down, Mueller added.

Outposts should appeal to certain customers, said Ryan Marsh, a serverless expert and DevOps coach with TheStack.io in Houston.

Ryan MarshRyan Marsh

“The idea of doing serverless in an AWS Outpost is very enticing to me,” Marsh said. “I have some clients [from whom] you cannot pry the data center from their cold dead hands. There are, as [AWS mentions], some clients with obvious low-latency needs.”

Also, AWS has built and managed so many data centers that it’s likely had the ability to ship something like Outposts for a while, Marsh added. “It just needed to be productized, but not so soon that it would have cannibalized the cloud biz,” he said.

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Oracle cloud ambitions follow decades of transition

Oracle’s roots as an on-premises software company have made for a complicated and at times contradictory relationship with cloud computing over the last decade, and some say the company can’t afford to lose any more ground.

After all, in 2008, the software giant’s outspoken founder Larry Ellison mocked the very notion of the phrase, saying cloud amounted to a rebranding of existing technologies. Two years later, Ellison launched Exalogic, an application server appliance he dubbed “one big, honkin’ cloud.”

Oracle cloud beginnings and missteps

Prominent examples abound of Oracle’s efforts to lead the way in the Internet era, such as Ellison’s network computer offering from the mid- to late 1990s. It failed at the time, but foreshadowed the rise of products such as Chromebooks — stripped-down thin client computing devices that rely heavily on connections to the web.

More recently, Oracle — like IBM, Cisco and HPE — found itself outgunned in the cloud computing platform race by AWS and Microsoft. Oracle offers IaaS to customers, but has positioned it for more specialized tasks.

Last year, Ellison’s longtime head of product development, Thomas Kurian, decamped and turned up as CEO of Google Cloud. Published reports have it that Kurian left in part because Ellison was too reluctant to embrace partnerships with other cloud providers. That changed in June, when Oracle and Microsoft created a cloud interoperability pact.

Oracle struck a partnership deal with Microsoft to improve its footing in the cloud computing market.
Microsoft and Oracle struck a win-win deal to boost each company’s cloud clout.

Ellison has named no replacement for Kurian, and in fact has taken over the job at age 75. While Oracle seems to have settled on a long-term strategy for IaaS, and has had great success selling SaaS applications, Oracle’s challenge centers on PaaS — most specifically Oracle 19c, the latest version of its flagship database product.

The task at hand is to keep Oracle’s customer base wherever they want to be, whether on premises or on Oracle cloud, and to be competitive on price, as IT pros have more database options than ever before — particularly in open source.

Overall, Ellison’s tone and message to the OpenWorld conference attendees later this month will be critical.

“His last act had better be figuring the cloud out,” said John Rymer, an analyst at Forrester Research. “Cloud is that kind of moment for Oracle. If they don’t get this right, they don’t get to continue to play, and they become legacy.”

If they don’t get [cloud] right, they don’t get to continue to play, and they become legacy.
John RymerAnalyst, Forrester

Ellison, as always, is sure to use the company’s annual conference to sling arrows at competitors in an effort to boost Oracle in the cloud. The conference agenda shows that Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), Oracle’s next-generation IaaS, will play a prominent role through sessions, customer presentations and in a keynote showcasing new features.

But the star should be the Oracle database, with more than 200 OpenWorld sessions associated with it. Expect Ellison to have plenty to say about it on his own.

 In part two of this story, we look back at events of the past 20 years that brought Oracle to its present position in the cloud computing market.

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Cisco adds UC headset management to IT console

Cisco has added headset management and analytics tools to the IT dashboard of its flagship on-premises telephony product. The move is part of a campaign to penetrate a corner of the unified communications market Cisco had previously ceded to hardware partners.

Cisco for years relied exclusively on vendors such as Poly (formerly Plantronics) and Jabra to provide customers with headsets for its desk phones and UC apps. In March 2018, Cisco released its headsets in an attempt to capture a slice of a market that Frost & Sullivan expects to exceed $2 billion by 2024.

The new UC headset management tools are a crucial part of Cisco’s sales pitch. Unlike competitors that specialize only in endpoints, Cisco also makes the telecommunications products that its headsets are used with, allowing Cisco to include a more comprehensive set of analytics and management tools in a single dashboard.

A recent update to Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM), an on-premises and hosted IP-based telephony system, added headset management capabilities to the same dashboard that IT administrators already use to troubleshoot call quality issues and other Cisco phones.

IT administrators can use the console to update the firmware of Cisco headsets or alter settings for volume, audio bandwidth and wireless range. Admins can perform the tasks for individuals or groups of employees all at once. The dashboard also provides an inventory of headsets that includes non-Cisco devices.

The tools are not revolutionary. Most major hardware vendors have developed software for managing endpoints that provide a similar level of control. Businesses are coming to expect these types of consoles as they buy headsets in increasing numbers.

The latest tools are available now in CUCM version 12.5(1)SU1. Later this year, businesses still using version 11.5(1)SU7 will be able to access them without updating to the latest edition of CUCM.

Cisco’s new headset management technology is only for CUCM. The company has yet to bring the same features to the IT dashboard of Webex, a cloud-based calling, messaging and meetings app.

Cisco offers four lines of headsets for office and contact center workers, a mix of wired and DECT wireless devices. The vendor is planning to release Bluetooth-enabled headsets in the coming months.

Cisco is not the only new entrant in the headset market. Longtime UC rival Avaya released a line of headsets in early 2019 as part of a broader campaign to boost hardware sales. Around the same time, Avaya launched its first open-SIP phones, which work with the communications platform of any vendor.

Professional headset revenues were projected to increase at an average annual rate of 8% between 2017 and 2024, according to Frost & Sullivan. The increased demand stems in part from the growing popularity of cloud UC and softphones, which let users place and receive calls through their computer.

“Cisco’s newly introduced headset management tools follow the moves of the leading professional headset vendors in the space,” said Alaa Sayeed, analyst at Frost & Sullivan. “It is surely a positive step forward from a company that is visibly investing in the pro headset arena as part of its broad enterprise endpoints portfolio.”

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The new business imperative: A unified cloud security strategy

As more businesses begin to explore the benefits of moving on-premises data and applications to the cloud, they’re having to rethink their traditional approaches to data security. Not only are cybercriminals developing more sophisticated attacks, but the number of employees and users who can access, edit, and share data has increased the risk of breaches. In fact, Gartner indicates* that “through 2022, 95 percent of cloud security incidents failures will be the customer’s fault. CIOs can combat this by implementing and enforcing policies on cloud ownership, responsibility and risk acceptance. They should also be sure to follow a life cycle approach to cloud governance and put in place central management and monitoring planes to cover the inherent complexity of multicloud use.”

Instead of relying on a patchwork of third-party security solutions that don’t always speak to each other, potentially leaving systems vulnerable to attack, companies are now adopting a unified, end-to-end cloud security defense. This typically involves choosing a cloud provider that can integrate security controls right into existing corporate systems and processes. When these controls span the entire IT infrastructure, they make it easier to protect data and maintain user trust by offering increased compatibility, better performance, and more flexibility.

Protection that’s always compatible

A holistic, cloud-supported threat warning and detection system can be designed to work seamlessly across every asset of an IT environment. For instance, built-in security management solutions can give IT teams the ability to constantly monitor the entire system from a centralized location, rather than manually evaluating different machines. This allows them to sense threats early, provide identity monitoring, and more—all without any compatibility issues.

Container shipping company Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has gone this route. As in many businesses, MSC’s IT environment is spread across a variety of locations, networks, and technologies, such as container ships, trucking networks, and offices. Its previous security strategy employed a mixture of third-party solutions that often ran into compatibility issues between different components, giving attackers a large surface area to probe. This made MSC vulnerable to threats such as fileless attacks, phishing, and ransomware. However, after transitioning to a unified cloud security solution, it has been able to guard against attacks using protection that integrates effortlessly into its existing environment.

Reliable performance, more efficiently

The more complex an IT environment gets, the more time employees spend testing, maintaining, and repairing third-party security solutions. A unified cloud security approach improves performance by not only providing a consistent, layered defense strategy, but by also automating it across the entire IT infrastructure. At MSC, software and security updates are now done automatically and deployed without delay across the cloud. Information about possible threats and breaches can quickly be shared across devices and identities, speeding up response and recovery times so that employees can focus on other issues.

Security with flexibility to grow

Scalability is another factor driving adoption. A cloud environment can easily scale to accommodate spikes in traffic, additional users, or data-intensive applications. A patchwork of third-party security solutions tends not to be so nimble. At MSC, security controls are integrated into multiple levels of the existing IT infrastructure—from the operating system to the application layer—and can be dynamically sized to meet new business needs. For example, continuous compliance controls can be established to monitor regulatory activities and detect vulnerabilities as they grow.

A unified security approach: becoming the standard

The best security solutions perform quietly in the background, protecting users without them noticing. Unified cloud security does this while also reducing the resources required to keep things running smoothly. “Once you have true defense in depth, there’s less chance of having to single out a user and impact their productivity because you have to reimage an infected machine,” said Aaron Shvarts, chief security officer at MSC Technology North America.

After moving its workloads to Azure and upgrading its previous third-party security solutions to the native protection of Windows Defender, MSC now has a defense strategy that suits the complexity of its business. Learn more about Azure security solutions and how Microsoft can help you implement unified security across your cloud.

To stay up to date on the latest news about Microsoft’s work in the cloud, bookmark this blog and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

*Gartner, Smarter with Gartner, Is the Cloud Secure?, 27 March 2018, https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/is-the-cloud-secure/

Microsoft Skype for Business update fixes Mac bugs

The latest software patch for on-premises Skype for Business eliminates bugs and adds features for users that run the Microsoft platform on Mac OS, narrowing an already minimal gap between the Mac and Windows clients.

For Mac users, the Skype for Business update lets delegates — users designated to receive someone else’s calls — create and edit a meeting on behalf of a colleague. Also, users can now be made a delegate even if their account isn’t part of an organization’s enterprise voice plan.

Microsoft has enabled video-based screen sharing for Mac users, the result of a next-generation screen-sharing protocol that the vendor added to Skype for Business earlier this year. The new system is faster and more reliable than the traditional method and works better in low-bandwidth conditions.

The Skype for Business update, available for download now, also fixes several bugs on the Mac client, including a flaw that prevented users from joining a meeting hosted by someone outside their organization.

Microsoft seems to announce updates to the Mac client more quickly than it does for other changes to the Skype for Business platform, and describes Mac upgrades in more detail, said Jim Gaynor, a vice president of the consulting group Directions on Microsoft, based in Kirkland, Wash.

“There are still a few gaps between SfB Mac and Windows clients, most around some of the advanced call control features, file upload/sharing, and the ability to upload PowerPoint decks for online presentations,” Gaynor said. “But they’re fairly minimal.”

Skype for Business 2015 server nears its end of life

The improvements to the Mac client were among roughly 40 enhancements released as part of Microsoft’s biannual update to the Skype for Business 2015 server.

This summer’s Skype for Business update introduces location-based routing for Skype for Business mobile clients. The feature gives businesses more control when steering calls between VoIP and PSTN endpoints based on geography.

Microsoft is expected to stop releasing feature updates and bug fixes for the 2015 server in fall 2020, the end of the typical five-year lifespan for the product.

The vendor recently published a preview of the 2019 server, which is due out by year’s end. That server will extend support for on-premises Skype for Business for at least another five years, primarily to serve large organizations that are not ready to migrate to Skype’s cloud-based successor, Microsoft Teams.

The 2019 server will encourage businesses to host some telephony and messaging features in the cloud. Meanwhile, Microsoft Teams, a team collaboration app similar to Slack, will soon replace Skype for Business Online within the cloud-based Office 365 suite.