About Me

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TsooRad is a blog for John Weber. John is a Skype for Business MVP (2015-2016) - before that, a Lync Server MVP (2010-2014). My day job is titled "Technical Lead, MS UC" - I work with an awesome group of people at CDW, LLC. I’ve been at this gig in one fashion or another since 1988 - starting with desktops (remember Z-248’s?) and now I am in Portland, Oregon. I focus on collaboration and infrastructure. This means Exchange of all flavors, Skype, LCS/OCS/Lync, Windows, business process, and learning new stuff. I have a variety of interests - some of which may rear their ugly head in this forum. I have a variety of certifications dating back to Novell CNE and working up through the Microsoft MCP stack to MCITP multiple times. FWIW, I am on my third career - ex-USMC, retired US Army. I have a fancy MBA. One of these days, I intend to start teaching. The opinions expressed on this blog are mine and mine alone.

2016/11/02

Microsoft Teams goes Preview

For the past few months, I have had the privilege of participating in the testing of the Microsoft Teams offering that went public preview today.

I am not Mr. Persistent Chat. If nothing else, Persistent Chat was not going to make the jump to Office 365 – too many hurdles there.  Most of my projects have deployed Persistent Chat, and customers that need the feature set really get into it.  With that said, *I* don’t use it to any great extent – but I can see where the history of the conversation between many users can be very helpful – see IT projects, financial folks, etc.

So into the Office 365 breach steps the intrepid group responsible for Microsoft Teams.  IMHO, they have created a very nice application – one that I will use, if for nothing else, for each and every project I am on.  The meeting space alone is worth whatever the price of admission is.  I have tried the web app from IE, FireFox, and Chrome, and it works so well, it is almost scary.  Excellent work.  The desktop app is slick, and all content is homed in the cloud – so swapping between web-based and desktop is, as far as I can tell, seamless.

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For those interested in some technical detail, here are the primary features:

  • Threaded, persistent chat organized by teams and channels (topics)
  • A team work space organized around tabs including conversation, files (integrated with SharePoint) and notes (integrated with OneNote), Office files, Power BI reports, and web sites
  • Private 1:1 and group messaging
  • Built-in voice, video and MeetUp capabilities
  • Emoji, stickers, giphys and custom memes
  • @mentions
  • Native integration to SharePoint, OneNote, and Office apps 
  • Over 65 out-of-the box 3rd party Connectors

Note the fourth item down.  Ooooh.  Aaaaah.  Nice beyond further comment.

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Interested?  Here are some links to get you going.

Introduction to Microsoft Teams:  This session will explain why Microsoft Teams is the chat-based workspace in Office 365.  With Microsoft Teams, all your team conversations and context - all the related files, notes and content - are kept together in one place and easily accessible by everyone on the team, with everything tightly integrated with the other Office 365 apps you use.  Learn how Microsoft Teams will help your team to communicate more effectively http://aka.ms/microsoft-teams-introduction

Deploy and manage Microsoft Teams:  This session will go into detail what IT Pros need to consider when enabling Microsoft Teams for their users. We will go walk through the process for rolling out Microsoft Teams and configuring the infrastructure, as well as taking a closer look at the supporting technologies for Microsoft Teams. http://aka.ms/microsoft-teams-deployment

https://products.office.com/en-US/microsoft-teams/group-chat-software

https://mva.microsoft.com/en-US/training-courses/introducing-microsoft-teams-in-preview-16877?l=1VQruH2AD_4001937548

How do I get this in my tenant?

Well, as you might expect, login to your tenant portal… and then go to Settings | Services & add-ins.  Scroll down a bit to “Microsoft Teams”  click.

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Turn Teams on!

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Select the features you want.  You want all of them.

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All set!  Watch the vids!

Usually, I end with YMMV… but seriously, you are going to love this.

2016/10/19

Call Flow Manager

I think that RGS is a wonderful thing, and something that every SfB deployment should evaluate for applicability.  Do you detest the SfB Response Group Service?  Then you might not want to read any further.  However, should you recognize the utility of said service, then this review might be just the thing you need to read.

SfB Response Groups allow the creation of simple hunt group or IVR-type grouping of agents to handle calls to a common DID.  They can work to the outside world, or be simply internal; but either way, the RGS is a great tool for those situations to which the RGS talents are applied.  I won’t go into what those talents are, or how to put the entire thing together in this article; rather this is a review of a spiffy tool from New Zealand Skype (well, Office Server and Services) MVP Andrew Morpeth.  What he and his team have done is create a nice GUI interface to the entire RGS management problem.  Let’s take a look at Call Flow Manager (CFM), shall we?

Before we start, you may wish to review the official documentation for RGS.

Install

If you have issues un-zipping a distribution and placing it a server that has met the prerequisites then you have larger issues than I can help with.  Dirt simple.  Just leave things in one folder, and put that folder on the drive.  Execute CallFlowManager.UI.exe and away you go.  You might want to make sure you know the license information before you start, as that will be the first question asked when the tool starts up. And oh yes, run this tool as administrator.

What are those prerequisites you might ask?  Simple: 

  • Supported for Lync 2013 or Skype for Business 2015
  • Microsoft .Net Framework 4.5
  • Lync/SfB Administrative Tools
  • Install the “Local Configuration Store” – this is step 1 of the Lync/SfB deployment wizard. Querying Response Group information requires this component to be installed
  • Outbound internet access on port 443 to https://theucguys.com
  • Minimum screen resolution of 1024×768
  • You may need to Run as administrator to ensure all feature work as expected

As you might ascertain, you will have best results doing CFM on an SfB Front End server.  I put mine on the Tsoorad.Net Test Lab SE.  Truly an awesome piece of gear; used and abused on a regular basis.

Integration

OOBE RGS requires three separate interfaces – an admin headache at the very least.  CFM puts all of that into one GUI.  I had a little challenge getting my head around the interface, but that was me – in the end, I like it quite a bit.  Especially the creation and assignment of business and holiday hours – a PowerShell goat rope for OOBE RGS management.

CFM also offers 10 IVR options rather than four.  And you can flip an RGS workflow between hunt and IVR.   Phone number visibility rounds out the technical offering. 

Functionality

I had zero issues using CFM on my SfB SE.  In fact, one of the nicer things that I always forget is to run things as admin.  C’mon Microsoft.  I am logged in as an administrator, why make me right-click and runas?  CFM checks for you, and rather than barfing in your face, flips up this nice little notice and offers to fix it for you.

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If like me, you forget your brain at times, CFM has a nice search feature.  Here I have searched for RGS1 and discovered those elements that pertain to anything in my SfB that hints at RGS1…

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Very nice.  You might also notice that I carefully name my RGS components to include the workflow name…makes things stick out later when you discover that your documentation is not as up-to-date as you claim in your work reviews. You can search on almost anything.  You have no idea how stupid I can get while creating RGS workflows – I forget what I called what, and who belongs to what all the time. This feature alone is worth giving CFM a test drive.  Here I have quick search for TWO letters…

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Interface Walkthrough

Let’s take a look at the overall GUI. CFM opens to this screen.  I have exercised the upper-left pull down to select an RGS workflow.  Here you can see pretty much the basics of the workflow.  You can change/edit anything on the display, and then save it before moving to something else.  I like this much better than the native tool.

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Across the top, Call Flow Designer, Queues, Groups, Business Hours (oh yes), Holidays (oh yes #2), Numbers (oh yes #3, and Logs.

Queues allows you to create and manage RGS Queues.  About the same as the CSCP, but with CFM, you get everything you need in one interface.  IMHO, clearly much better.

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Groups does the same as Queues, and my comment above holds true here also.

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And now to the “good stuff” – Business Hours (and Holidays).  In the CSCP, webpage, PowerShell combination of native tools, business hours and holidays are, again IMHO, a royal PITA.  El Yucko to paraphrase my second child.  In CFM, you are given a nice GUI to create, edit, and play with both of these options that allow the final customization of the RGS in terms of open hours and closed hours.  The business hours selection comes with pre-worked up day selections, so that you don’t even have to think too much.  Pretty nice for those of use with both brain cells that are already full.

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The Holiday hours works pretty much the same.

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The Numbers page will show you all the DIDs that available so that you don’t do the John thing and try to assign a number to an RGS that is already assigned.

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…and finally, Logs.  This little nifty detail will show you all the PowerShell that is going on under the hood as you create or modify various elements of the RGS structure.  I think it would be even nicer if the entire PowerShell command string was shown rather than a brief “hey, we did this general command.”

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Nit Picks

I have always disliked the CSCP view of the RGS with the workflow, queue, and group arrangement.  My brain operates on the group, then queue, then create workflow concept, and the tool could be rearranged to reflect that.  However, having observed that, there is nothing WRONG with what is here.  I will reiterate my comment about the logs, and then that is that.  For something like this to have only TWO nitpicks is remarkable all by itself.

Praises

Without reworking all the screen caps already shown, here is the same workflow as above, but seen from the native web tool.

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Note that the queues and groups are not here, and to put together the business and holiday sets, you will need PowerShell. Clearly, CFM does a much better job of presenting options, creating answers, working up the solution, etc. 

And the final Bit of Goodness

CFM can take a workflow that is “hunt group” and transform it to an “IVR” – something that the native tools cannot do (to the best of my knowledge).  If you choose to take this action, be warned that it appears to be a one-way street.  Once an IVR, always an IVR.

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And when you get to the IVR slice of life, the native tools only gives you four levels, CFM blows past that as mentioned above.  So nice.

Where to get this piece of greatness

Simple.  Just go to TheUCGuys.com

Conclusion

I like it. A lot. I won’t say more.

YMMV

2016/10/15

SfB & Jabber via XMPP & Cisco Express

Much thanks and deep appreciation to Justin O’Sullivan, Cisco dood extraordinaire. (http://www.syferstrategies.com/blog)

Background

Microsoft Skype for Business and Cisco Jabber are, by far, the two most popular IM/P applications for the general business community.  Yes, there are some fringe applications that offer some really good features, and they work well, but for the mainstream business community, it really boils down to either Microsoft SfB or Cisco Jabber.

This is empirically proved by my blog tracking. Since its’ original posting in May of 2013, my #2 most viewed article, month after month, has been http://tsoorad.blogspot.com/2013/05/connecting-lync-2013-and-cisco-jabber.html.

Seeing as how both applications have had several years to mature and evolve, I thought this would be a good time to revisit the entire scenario of connecting the two most popular suites so your business can connect to another to streamline process and communication.

To achieve this lofty goal, I leveraged my SfB lab, which is currently running SfB update to the June 2016 Cumulative Update.  I also leveraged one of my awesome Cisco-centric co-workers, Justin O’Sullivan.  Justin runs a full Cisco lab in the course of his job, and he graciously agreed to burn up his off hours helping create the SfB <-> Jabber federation.

Initial Environment Layout

As stated, my lab is SfB, running a full edge on three IP’s. All SfB components are updated to 6.0.9319.259. (and yes, I know that not all components update to that version, but they are all 6.0.9319, and Microsoft does not update components that have no need to update).

Justin’s Cisco lab is an alphanumeric soup of Expressway C/E Version: 8.8.0, Cisco IM & Presence Version: 10.5.2.22900-2, Cisco UCM Version: 10.5.2.12901-1, & Cisco Jabber Version: 11.7.1.  Whew!

As in the previous Lync-Jabber article, the SfB side is extremely simple, but we’ll step through all the necessary configurations and considerations (with pictures so that Amanda sitting in the back of the class will understand), and then we’ll do the same with the Jabber side.

Skype for Business XMPP setup.

First, make sure that XMPP is enabled in your environment. At the site level and at the Edge Pool level:

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Personally, I always light up every possible configuration on initial install, so I don’t have to go back and do it again later.  You can just turn things off later, but if you waited until now, you will need to publish the topology when you get done with this step, and then either run step 2 of the deployment wizard on the appropriate servers, or bootstrap the appropriate servers so that the necessary bits are turned on to make this work.

Next, you need to head off for your Control Panel.  I suppose you could also do this next piece from PowerShell, but I like GUI when I can GUI.

Inside CSCP (yes, still called that) go to your Federation and External Access tab on the left, and check your External Access Policy.  Make sure the “Enable communications with XMPP federated users is checked.

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Now go to the XMPP Federated Partners and setup a partner as shown.

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Get yourself an admin PowerShell window open on your server and do get-csxmppallowedpartner so you can double-check your work (read your spelling).

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You might also want to have your dialbackpassphrase set.  Just set it to something easy-peasy.  If I am not too mistaken, I set this example to “xmppdialback” – if you need a primer on just what this part does, see this.

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Now, go to your external DNS provider, and get yourself a squeaky clean SRV record:

_xmpp-server._tcp.domain.com or in my case, _xmpp-server._tcp.tsoorad.net.  Port 5269.  In DNS parlance, you want to submit, if you need to, _xmpp-server._tcp.domain.com 0 0 300 5269 sip.domain.com, where the numbers mean 0 weight, 0 priority, TTL 300, port 5269, and a target of sip.domain.com.  An NSLOOKUP from the world should reveal something that looks a lot like this:

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Set your firewall to allow port 5269 inbound and outbound from your Edge server (or servers).  At this point, I can expect things to work from the SfB side of life.

And now the fun (?) begins

As a preface, Justin worked through this one time, but it took a few server restarts before he could convince his system to operate as expected.  Neither of us could figure that out but, what the heck, eh?

Reference Material Used:

http://www.cisco.com/c/dam/en/us/td/docs/voice_ip_comm/expressway/config_guide/X8-5/XMPP-Federation-with-Cisco-Expressway-and-IM-and-Presence-Service.pdf

Expressway C/E Version: 8.8.0

Cisco IM & Presence Version: 10.5.2.22900-2

Cisco UCM Version: 10.5.2.12901-1

Cisco Jabber Version: 11.7.1

JabberID = sAMAccountName@domain.com

In this example, we will be configuring external XMPP federation using the Cisco Expressway solution as opposed to the IM&P based XMPP federation option. When deploying external XMPP federation, you must choose one or the other and not both. Verify the service is correctly enabled on the selected option (Expressway) and disabled on the other (IM&P).

Service disabled on CUPS/IM&P

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Follow the certificate requirements as per Cisco documentation.

Add the local domains to the Expressway-C server and verify XMPP Federation is set to “On”:

Navigate to Configuration > Domains

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On the Expressway-E, further enable the XMPP federation settings as below:

Navigate to Configuration > Unified Communications > Configuration

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Notes:

1. In our example, we are not using TLS as depicted above

2. If in use, the Dialback Secret must be the same on other Expressways in the domain

XMPP DNS Records

For foreign systems to resolve/authenticate your domain correctly, set up the below SRV record for XMPP services:

_xmpp-server._tcp.{domain} (priority) (weight) (port 5269) (Target Host)

(e.g. _xmpp-server._tcp.syferstrategies.com 0 0 5269 expe.syferstrategies.com)

Group Chat Records

For group chat node DNS resolution to work properly with federated domains, configure the below external SRV records:

_xmpp-server._tcp.{chatnode}.{domain} (priority) (weight) (port 5269) (Target Host)

(e.g. _xmpp-server._tcp.chatnode1.syferstrategies.com 0 0 5269 expe.syferstrategies.com)

Notes:

1. Alternatively, static routes can be used on the local Expressway if the remote system does not have these DNS records enabled

a. This can be added under Configuration > Unified Communications > Federated Static Routes

Checking XMPP Federation status

Navigate to Status > Unified Communications > XMPP Federation Connections

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Jabber Experience

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Add the external contact

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Enter the IM address of the external contact

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New federated contact seen below

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Back to SfB to see how that looks!

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Summary

We have demonstrated a SfB XMPP configuration then the Cisco Expressway/Jabber configuration. Works great, less filling.  Let the commo begin!

YMMV

2016/10/14

SfB Call Drops–Actiance Vantage

If you are running Actiance Vantage on Lync 2013 and have it working just fine, and are planning on upgrading your environment to SfB…

The Issue

Lync 2013 environment totally replaced by SfB.  Everything works great. So we then installed Actiance Vantage for compliance requirements.

SfB calls work pretty well for the most part; but there are random drops, disconnects, and other flaky problems.  SfB, PBX (Avaya 6.x in our case) and network troubleshooting showed nothing.  Digging deeper, there were trace logs that showed the SfB FE dropping calls for no apparent reason.  Digging deeper with Microsoft CSS revealed that the call disconnects were coming from the Vantage agent.

It turns out that the Vantage agent installer for the SfB servers uses Lync 2013 SDK components (installed onto the SfB server by the Vantage agent install process). Apparently there is some incompatibilities with SfB and the Lync 2013 SDK components as installed by the Vantage installer.

Resolution

There is a fix that involves new Vantage agent installs.  I will assume that you must contact Actiance to help resolve this issue.

YMMV.

2016/09/28

SBA and RGS Central Site Down

This is an old fix to an old issue.  But, I ran into it again, and was obliged to explain to my customer the what and why of SBA and RGS in a central site and how to get around the RGS going unanswered if the central site is down. So, in the midst of doing that, I also created some documentation which I thought I would share.  

Issue:

SBA can terminate a local call, but if the call is destined for an RGS workflow, and the central site is not available for any reason, then the call will fail.  

Why:

The SBA can answer the call at the gateway routing level and at the mediation server level, but when the incoming DID is resolved, the system needs to send the call up to the central site to the RGS workflow because the RGS SIP address matches the incoming DID.

SBA does not handle RGS, so therefore the call needs to route up to the central site FE pool for handling; but the central site is not-available; the call fails.  

Fix:

There are two possible fixes for this:

First, SLA can be used, or delegates. However, if there are more than a few account involved, this becomes somewhat onerous. It is also possible to use an ExUM AA, but usually the SBA site will not have an Exchange services, so while this might answer the call, in the end the caller will not reach the proper resource because of the central site outage.

Second, creating a dummy account with simulring for all hours. The call will come into the SBA, and then user is local, then the user connection is initiated. If the simulring is enabled for all hours, the call will simulring up to the RGS workflow. The RGS workflow will answer and route the call according to the workflow setup.

I guess there is a third option – put a full user pool in the site instead of the SBA – but this then becomes a cost/benefit ratio analysis that I am not prepared to go into here.  Suffice it to say that when faced with an SBA request, I can honestly say that 100% of the time I bring up installing an SE for the site.  Just sayin’  

Scenario:

Customer has existing RGS, which has an e.164 DID, which is routed inbound on a PRI that is handled by the SBA. During central site outages, the RGS inbound call fails. Customer wants the RGS call to be handled by an SBA local user until the central site becomes active. Customer is OK with notifying a user at the SBA site to login to a second account to answer the calls during the outage.  

Process to follow:

  • Identify the dummy account e.164 number then create dummy account in AD.

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  • Create SIP account for dummy, registrar is SBA (not the SE as shown). Enable for Enterprise Voice.
  • Identify RGS workflow e.164 and assign to RGS workflow

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  •   Open dummy account and setup for simulring to the RGS workflow. You can also accomplish this sub-task with sefautil.
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Follow-up tasks:

1. Identify personnel at each SBA site to be prepared to login as the dummy acount from a full SfB client to handle calls in outage.

2. Possible alternative is to put a phone device on the network somewhere in the SBA site and have the *operator account login and stay logged in – and the training would be to answer that phone if needed.

An alternative to #2 is to just have the phone device available and login as needed (my personal choice).

If #2 is the route chosen, then you would be advised to set a ext= format and PIN on the account so that login process would be ext and then PIN.

Summary

I have show the what and why and how of SBA/RGS/Central site outage and suggested a way around your RGS not working in that scenario.

YMMV

2016/08/15

AudioCodes SBC 7.2 firmware

Most of my customers use AudioCodes appliances in their Skype deployments in one form or another; SBC, analog gateways, recording, management, phone devices.  So, when AudioCodes announced that SBC 7.2 firmware is now GA, I had to go get it.  I won’t bore my gentle readers with the exhaustive listing of the 30+ enhancement and session capacity updates – the document that outlines that stuff is 70 some pages – and I had to buckle down to get the entire thing digested.  Suffice it to say that this is a big update.  What I am really interested in is the promised GUI changes and the “click the GUI to configure” claims.

Having downloaded it the other day, I  upgraded the firmware on my Mediant 800 SBC and started kicking the new tires a bit.

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OK, file loaded.  28.8MB of spotless CMP file.  I guess I will click on the “reset” button and hope I don’t have to figure out the “reset to factory” option I think might exist.  Well, I clicked the “reset” at 1309 PST…and waited.

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The Results are In

After picking my teeth and looking at some Olympic Games results, at 1317 PST I am able to login to the upgraded SBC.  I think the watchword here is PATIENCE.  This is a total update for your firmware.  8 minutes of patience is not too much to ask for, right?  And, we have the new goodness that was advertised:

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Let’s open a few pages to see if the advertised goodness actually is goodness and not pure market-speak.

A few minutes pass – did you sit here reading this same sentence in a loop or did you check those Olympic results for yourself?  Alright, I have poked around a little.  Things in general are the same…but some things have moved.  Not a huge issue, but it will take a bit of adjustment/learning.  The overall look and feel is certainly AudioCodes, yet refreshingly updated.  Like the header CSS?? layout…

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And the promised GUI view of the relationships is certainly there also – very helpful for those of us with limited brain capacity.

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And as further advertised, clicking an element in the Topology GUI view as shown, does indeed dump you into the tree to configure the element you selected.  Maybe now even *I* can figure this thing out, eh?  And while I am saying nice things, the linking between configuration elements along with “EDIT” right next to the element you want to change is….very welcome.

1.5 “not so nices”

While I am at it, there is a sorta not so great thing.  The old GUI used to have the type of device shown at the top of the page – that seems to have gone away.  I forget what I am doing very easily, and it was nice to have the reminder of what device I was accessing.  And no analog gateway version (boo hiss).

Two more “nices”

One nice thing, well, actually two – is that when you change something, the “SAVE” selection on the top row gets a red box around it.  And (genuflecting towards Tel Aviv) when you resize your browser window, the contents shuffle and resize.  Finally.

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Conclusion

A big update for the AudioCodes SBC – it took a bit of time for the “burn and reset” but my SBC came back to life without losing a single iota of configuration.  The topology click to configure part is really nice.  I sure wish they had a version for my MP118FXS gateway.  Overall, I think this update is a winner.  Login to your AudioCodes account and get it today!

YMMV

2016/08/02

Logitech h650e v h570e

In my goody box that arrived about a month ago were two Logitech headsets.  Wired, stereo – well-built pieces of kit that work with SfB/Lync right out of the box.

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Don’t they look just about the same in these high-quality graphics?  Maybe some color differences…and the mic booms look a little off.

What does Logitech Say?

Here is the official market-speak for each:

H650e Stylish and Sophisticated Headset with Pro-Quality Audio and H570e Comfortable, Resilient Headset in Stereo or Mono.

Other than price, what is the difference between these two headsets?  After an examination of the datasheets for each unit, it appears that the differences are:

  • In-call LED indicator light (h650e)
  • Flat no-tangle cable (H650e)
  • Dynamic equalizer (H650e)
  • Premium velvet bag (H650e) – oooh aaaah  
  • The headphone speakers are different – the H570 actually has (IMHO) better specs in terms of frequency response – and the THD is listed as only 1% difference – which you and I cannot differentiate.  The H570e specs are listed on the right side.

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How do they feel clamped to my gourd?

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The H650 feels better on my hat-rack.  But this is totally subjective (I put them on the cat too; that did not work well).

Which plays better Musack?

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H570e, hands down.  To my ears at least.  This is somewhat indicated by the frequency response numbers as the bass/mid-range is much fuller on the 570 than the 650.  But why check this?  Because I do listen to music during the day, and if, gawd forbid, that I am in an office setting, I don’t want my choice of tunes to intrude on my co-workers.

SfB Connection

Hey, you knew I would get to this.  After all, we are in business and what better tool to use for your business communications than Skype for Business.  And to get the most out of that experience, you are going to need a high-quality headset.  Sure, you could run down to the local bodega and pick up some POS for $19.99, but you will not be getting DSP, wideband, noise/echo cancelling pieces of wonderfulness to match up with the goodness that is SfB.  OK, </rant off>

Bottom line, both of these headsets, like everything else that Logitech makes in this category, plugs in and starts working.  SfB did not even blink the screen.  It just used them like they were built-in.  The inline controls worked as expected.  I had three plugged in at one time and could flop my audio around amongst them no problem.  Simply put, these headsets work with SfB as expected with ZERO hassles.  Perfect.

Conclusion

If you are purchasing for a number of users, I would get one or three of each, and let the users pick for themselves.  I would think that your system provider can probably get you some demos to try out.  Or you could just blanket buy.  Either way, you cannot lose picking one of these two headsets.  As a side note, Logitech also makes these units in single ear, but who wants that?

You can get your H650e here

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or H570e here

YMMV