Polycom Group Series with Skype for Business Online

December 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A past article covered several facets of registering and using a Polycom RealPresence Group Series video conferencing system with Skype for Business 2015 Server deployments. In that article it was mentioned that support for Skype for Business Online was imminent.

That support arrived this past summer in the form of official Microsoft qualification of the Group Series platform for Skype for Business Online, as reflected on the Skype for Business Solutions Catalog.

The guidance in the previous on-premises-focused article is basically no different whether the Group Series is registering to Skype for Business Server or Online.  Updating the firmware, enabling the required Options Key, most of the configuration, and validating the overall experience are the same.  That article should continue to be used to gain an in-depth understanding of the scenarios, where this shorter article will focus on the minor differences when registering a Group Series endpoint directly to Skype for Business Online.  It is recommended to read through the previous article first to gain the foundational understanding of using a Group Series with Skype for Business.

Requirements

The prerequisite listed in this section only apply to registration with Skype for Business Online.  Some details are the same when using the Group series with an on-premises Skype for Business 2015 Server deployment while others are different or unique to Office 365 registration (e.g. Microsoft licensing).

Software

When official qualification and support was attained back in June the minimum required firmware version for support was release 6.1.1.  As of the posting of this article the latest Group Series software release is currently up to 6.1.4, although the more recent releases have not gone through the same qualification program.  This does not indicate that the newer releases are not supported, only that not every minor release needs to be requalified.  Requalification will happen with future major updates; for example when 6.2 is eventually released that version will go through the Microsoft qualification process. The most impactful result of becoming an officially qualified release is that Microsoft will then post that specific version in the Skype for Business Online Device Update service, allowing any registered devices to automatically receive and apply the new firmware directly, just as qualified IP phones have supported for some time.  Other manual or programmatic update processes can still be used to apply the desired version of firmware even if that is not what the device update currently has published.

The newer minor releases are typically recommended though as they include additional hotfixes as well as one important change which is explained in the previous article and in the official Polycom Release Notes for the 6.1.2 release.  With the original 6.1.1 release in order to successfully register the Group Series to a Skype for Business Online account there must be a paired RealPresence Touch Panel which is configured with the Skype UI enabled.  The Additional Settings section of the previous article covers this configuration. 

But with 6.1.2 and later releases this is no longer a prerequisite as support was added for using the supplied remote control or when controlling the Group Series through third-party customized devices like Creston or AMX room control panels.  The preferred in-room experience which most closely matches the rest of the Skype for Business meeting room devices out there today though is still provided by using the RealPresence Touch Panel with the Skype UI enabled, so it is still recommended to go this route when possible.

Licensing

As with any device that is registering to Skype for Business Online, be it a phone or video system, a licensed Office 365 account is required.  This can be a standard Skype for Business user or a special Meeting Room account.  Generally it is best practice to use the latter which affords the registered device some unique capabilities and behaviors, but it is not a requirement.  This previous article focusing on Online Meeting Room Accounts covers in detail the different configuration options and guidance around each.

On the Polycom side the only license that is required is the aforementioned Skype for Business Interoperability License Options Key which is covered in the previous Group Series article linked at the beginning of this page.  As explained in that article the license is not required to successfully register to Skype for Business, but without it no other protocol or codec support is enabled, thus there would be no ability for the Group Series to handle video calls, meetings, content sharing, etc.  This is critical information when troubleshooting call failures on a registered system.

On the Microsoft side see this companion article which attempts to explain the nuances of the Office 365 licensing options and which would be ideal or at least sufficient for various use-cases.

This example account has been assigned an Office 365 Enterprise E3 license.

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Expanding that E3 license shows all of the Office 365 services provided within it, including the critical Skype for Business Online plan.

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At this point the desired account is sufficient to attempt registering the Group Series to Office 365.

SIP Registration

The detailed registration configuration steps outlined in the previous article are all applicable here.  The same general concepts are unchanged including best practices on username formats and guidance on using automatic configurations.

The main difference is how to manually configure the target registration servers.  With on-premises deployments these are server names which would need to be known to an administrator or manually discovered.  But with the single world-wide Office 365 offering of Skype for Business Online there is a defined hostnames for the different services which can always be used in the event that autodiscovery is not working for some reason.

Automatic Discovery

The preferred method of SIP registration is to simply leverage autodiscovery as outlined in the previous article.  In most cases this will be sufficient to successfully locate and register to the online services, following the same guidance as provided for use with Skype for Business Server.

Manual Configuration

In the event that the automatic process does not result in a successful registration than the first step is to take the automatic discovery process out of the equation.  This can easily be done by hardcoding the target server in the configuration.  But what is this target’s name?

This Microsoft support article details the various DNS records published for Skype for Business Online which provide registration, federation, and discovery services.  The DNS record information shown in the following table was taken from that article.


Type Service Protocol Host Name Destination
SRV _sip _tls <DomainName> sipdir.online.lync.com
SRV _sipfederationtls _tcp <DomainName> sipfed.online.lync.com
CNAME sip.<DomainName> sipdir.online.lync.com
CNAME lyncdiscover.<DomainName> webdir.online.lync.com


It is also very easy to query for these defined destination hostnames for Skype for Business Online tenants.

  • Using Windows PowerShell or a Command Prompt issue the following nslookup command with the desired domain name of the Office 365 tenant (e.g. jdskype.net) to resolve the published Service Locater (SRV) record.

nslookup -q=srv _sip._tls.jdskype.net

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  • Also issue this nslookup command with the desired domain name of the Office 365 tenant (e.g. jdskype.net) to resolve the published Alias (CNAME) record.

nslookup sip.jdskype.net

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In both instances the same Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) of sipdir.online.lync.com was returned.  It would be a good idea to simply just commit this FQDN to memory at this point as this single hostname can be used to register any SIP client or device directly to Skype for Business Online from anywhere in the world.

Understand that this process should result in the above names for pure online-only tenants, while any hybrid deployments of Skype for Business should have been configured by their administrators to properly point to the on-premises service (e.g. Edge and Reverse Proxy).  In hybrid deployments these on-premises servers will then redirect any client registration attempts for accounts which are actually homed online.  For this reason it becomes important to understand how to manually, and forcefully, point a device directly to Skype for Business Online using the above hardcoded hostnames.  Otherwise when troubleshooting a registration failure it may not be possible to resolve the issue if the device is unable to negotiate the discovery process and/or redirection correctly.  Pointing the device directly to the cloud registration servers, even in a Hybrid deployment, will often result in a successful registration by bypassing any on-premises components.  Obviously this requires that the SfB account that the device is registering as is hosted online, which is the entire point of this article.

Armed with this newly discovered information it is now time to enter the manual configuration and attempt registration.

  • Using the Group Series web management interface navigate to the Admin Settings > Network > IP Network menu, or simply search for “sip” and then select the SIP result.

  • Expand the SIP section click Enable SIP if it is not already enabled.

  • Change the SIP Server Configuration to Specify.

  • Set the Transport Protocol to TLS.

  • In the Sign-In Address field enter the SIP URI of the desired Lync or Skype for Business user account (e.g. gs500@jdskype.net). 

  • In the User Name field enter the User Principal Name (UPN) of the same account (e.g. gs500@jdskype.net).  In online-only tenants the user account’s SIP URI and UPN should be the same, but that may not be the case if the AD accounts where originally migrated .  (The legacy NetBIOS format of “DOMAIN\username” cannot be used with Office 365 accounts.)

  • Click the Password box to expand the Enter Password and Confirm Password fields.  Enter the user account’s password in each field.

    • In the Registrar Server field enter the string "sipdir.online.lync.com:443".  It is important to include the :443 suffix after the hostname as the Group Series will attempt TLS registration by default to port 5061 which would not be correct.  The Skype for Business Online server will only accept registration attempts destined for port 443.

    • In the Proxy Server field enter the same "sipdir.online.lync.com:443" string that was placed into the Registrar Server field above.  Unlike some standard SIP platforms the Microsoft SIP platform contains the proxy and registrar services in the same server roles.  (Note that this field is not used for pointing to a web proxy server.)

  • Select Microsoft from the pull-down menu in the Registrar Server Type menu.

  • Finally click Save to attempt to sign in.

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Address Book Registration

Nothing here is any different than when dealing with Skype for Business Server, so the directions in the previous article are applicable here as well.

  • Set the Server Type to Microsoft.

  • In the Domain Name field enter the SIP domain for the the currently registered user’s environment (e.g. jdskype.net).

The Registration Status will  initially continue to be displayed as “Registration Failed” but within 30 seconds or less the status should update to Registered.

Calendar Registration

In the other article it was stated that the Group Series has supported Exchange Online mailboxes for some time now, so again nothing new to see here.  Same guidance and instructions as was previously covered; default to using the auto discovery process first and if that fails then the following configuration example outlines the manual settings.

This Microsoft support article outlines the various FQDNs for Exchange Online services, with the important hostname being outlook.office365.com which is used to access Exchange Web Services online by the Group Series.

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