RealConnect Service for Skype and Teams

October 31, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

This article is one in a series of articles which covers Polycom’s Microsoft Azure-based video interoperability service for Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams meetings.  This Microsoft partner-provided service, commonly referred to as Cloud Video Interop (CVI), allows various standards-based Video Teleconferencing (VTC) endpoints to join scheduled Skype for Business and Teams meetings. While an earlier article outlined all of the different RealConnect models available this series will focus solely on the cloud-based service model of RealConnect. 

Existing and future articles in this series will be organized into three different topics:

RealConnect Service for Skype and Teams – an introductory article explaining the overall solution and the steps to activate the service for use with Skype for Business Online meetings and/or Teams meetings.  Another article covers the additional configuration required to support Skype for Business Server or Hybrid deployments with the service.

Polycom One Touch Dial Service – separate articles which explain this supplementary service for easily joining meetings on supported Polycom and Cisco VTCs.  This service enables the ability to simply select a ‘Join’ button on the endpoint to connect directly to a scheduled Skype for Business or Teams meeting.

Polycom Cloud Relay – a separate article that walks through the steps to install the Cloud Relay virtual server.  This on-premises server is only needed when configuring the One Touch Dial service to support Cisco standards-based video conferencing systems or when using the RealConnect service with Skype for Business Server deployments.


The original service offering is referred to as RealConnect for Office 365, but supports Skype for Business Online, Skype for Business Server, and Skype for Business Hybrid environments.  The recently released offering entitled RealConnect for Microsoft Teams added support for Microsoft Teams meetings.  Access to both services are provided together using the same consumption license, meaning that RealConnect can be used with any Skype and Teams meeting scheduled by any user in the organization.  A free 60-day trial license is available today for most Microsoft Office 365 tenants worldwide.  Availability can depend on the tenant type (public multitenancy versus various government clouds) and the region (some countries are not currently able to leverage this service).

The licensing consumption model is simply based on concurrent usage.  While the trial comes with 5 concurrent licenses nearly any number of licenses can be purchased as needed.  Regardless of the number of Skype and/or Teams meetings occurring at the same time, and regardless of the number of Skype or Teams participants, guests, or PSTN callers, only a VTC connecting into any of these meetings would consume a license and only while the call is active.  So, with a trial license as many as five different VTCs can use the service at one given time to join any number of scheduled Skype or Teams meetings.

Background

The heart of a Cloud Video Interop meeting that allows RealConnect to function is a scheduled Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams invitation.  In an organization which has enrolled and provisioned the service an enabled user’s scheduled meetings will natively include additional instructions (seen in the image below) for joining the meeting from any standards-based endpoint.  At minimum the provided calling option can be manually dialed from a VTC, but additional configuration like local speed dials, infrastructure dialing rules, or ideally the Polycom One Touch Dial service can be leveraged to provide a single ‘Join’ button on supported endpoints to place the call.

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The RealConnect service is comprised of a number of Polycom-managed, Microsoft Azure-hosted virtual servers.  These globally deployed services can receive video calls over standards-based SIP or H.323 protocols and the connect that call into a Skype for Business or Teams meeting.  (This service does not connect Skype for Business meetings to Teams meetings.  Those are two completely separate Microsoft meeting platforms.)

This basic diagram shows two VTCs joining the same scheduled Microsoft Teams meeting.  (RealConnect for Skype for Business functions in the exact same manner.)

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  • Each VTC which calls into the service will be routed to the logically closest Azure datacenter where Polycom services are deployed and the call will land on a dedicated transcoding MCU (B). 

  • The RealConnect service will then locate the target meeting, as identified by the Tenant ID, Conference ID and Domain provided in the call string (e.g. 123456.987654321@t.plcm.vc).

The Tenant ID is a globally unique string assigned to the tenant during service enrollment and is the same on every meeting scheduled by any user in the tenant; it never changes.  The Conference ID is dynamically created by the Microsoft scheduling services and is different for every scheduled meeting.  The Domain name in the call string will be one of three options denoting which of the three flavors of the service the call will be directed to: t.plcm.vc for Microsoft Teams meetings, v.plcm.vc for Skype for Business Online meetings, and h.plcm.vc for Skype for Business Server meetings.  (The original instance of the service was launched for Skype for Business and ‘v’ was used to denote ‘video’.  When support for Skype for Business Server/Hybrid deployments was later added then ‘h’ was used for ‘hybrid’.  As one can guess the ‘t’ refers to Teams in the latest iteration of the service.)

  • Now that the service has located the Microsoft meeting then the Polycom MCU (B) will connect to the Microsoft MCU (A), transcoding all video, audio, and content sharing sessions between standards-based codecs (e.g. H.264 AVC, H.239, BFCP, etc.) into Microsoft codecs (e.g. SVC, RDP, VBSS, etc).

  • When another VTC joins the same call, using the same call string, it will land on a different, dedicated Polycom MCU (C).  That MCU may reside in the same Azure datacenter or a completely different datacenter, depending on the geographical location of that VTC.  Either way, all the cascaded traffic will be routed within Microsoft’s global network to locate the same Teams (or Skype for Business) meeting.

The remainder of this article details the steps required to enable the service after purchase or enrollment in a trial, and should only be performed once calls into the service have been successfully tested and any optional components like the Cloud Relay have been deployed, or additional configuration like One Touch Dial has been completed.  This is especially important when working with a trial license as the 60-day period can disappear rather quickly when potentially dealing with firewall configuration changes or anything else which may take time to address in a production network.

So while this is the first article in the series it may very well be the last article used in the actual configuration, depending the timing of events and desired capabilities.  For example, supporting Polycom VTCs can be 100% cloud-based and thus the recommended route is to simply activate the service and then setup the endpoints for One Touch Dial, after validating connectivity to the services.

But if there are Cisco VTCs which need to leverage One Touch Dial then that service and the Cloud Relay should be dealt with first, before activating the service.  The same guidance goes for supporting Skype fir Business Server or Hybrid deployments. Essentially, any feature or topology which requires the Cloud Relay server means that one should always get that deployed and functioning before activating the service.  Understand that there is no requirement to activate the service first or last, this guidance is simply related to maximizing usability during the trial period.  If this is not a concern then performing the steps in this article to activate and configure the service is typically done first.


Activate Service

When service licenses are purchased (or a trial is issued) an automated email will be sent to the primary contact email address provided during the original order.  This email is sent from "licenseadmin@polycom.com" with the title "Polycom License notification email for Polycom for Order No. 0000000/domain.com" and includes a pair of attachments.  Both the .PDF and .TXT attachments include the 16 character license activation key which is tied specifically to the tenant domain for which it was ordered. (Meaning, for example, that if the exact license key shown in this article were to be used by another Office 365 tenant it would fail to apply.)

  • Open the mailbox for the account provided as part of the service order (e.g. jeff@msteams.net) and look for the email described above.  (If this email is not found than the order may not have been processed yet, which could takes 1-2 days.)

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  • Download the attached text file (e.g.  1607678.txt) file or simply open the attachment and copy the license key to the clipboard. (The numeric order number is the name of the attachment.)

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  • Enter the credentials of a Global Administrator account and then click Yes on the the Stay Signed in prompt which will simplify the configuration as different portals are accessed. (Any account with Global Administrator permissions in the Office 365 tenant can access this portal for service activation.)

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  • Click each down arrow to expand the individual permission requests to review the additional details. Leave the Consent on behalf of your organization setting unchecked and then click Accept.

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    This step is simply allowing the RealConnect service the rights required to insert service-related information into the tenant during the configuration process managed by the portal.

    Also Microsoft has recently changed these permissions request prompts to include a new option to accept the change on behalf of the entire organization, meaning that other users accessing the portal not receive this prompt.  As only the Global Administrator can access this portal than there is typically no added value in preemptively accepting these permissions for all other Global Administrators accounts which may potentially also decide to sign in to this portal for some reason.  And if another authorized account did sign in it would still be presented with this same prompt.)

    • Once successfully signed in to the portal then the current status should indicate that the account is inactive and no licenses are applied.  Click the Activate New License link.

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    • Enter the License Activation Key (e.g. C1937-5846-9980-3352) from the previously downloaded file (or paste it from the clipboard), accept the terms of service request, and then click Submit.

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    • If the license key is successfully applied then the page will refresh to display a host of new information.

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    As seen above this is a 60-day trial license of which the timer has now started, indicated by the End date.  Also the trial includes a limit of 5 concurrent VTC Call Licenses for use with any number of Skype for Business or Teams meetings at one time.  The remainder of the information above will be broken down in the remaining configuration steps.

    Now that the service has been activated for the tenant it would be a good time sign up for status alerts related to the service availability.

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    Enable RealConnect for Microsoft Teams

    Now that the license has been applied and the service is activated for this Office 365 tenant there are a few required one-time configuration steps to be performed.  The Teams Configuration section on the portal includes links to either perform or explain how to perform each of the required sections.  (If RealConnect will not be used with Microsoft Teams meetings then skip this section and advance to the Skype for Business configuration in the next section.)

    First, consent must be granted to Polycom to operate as a Cloud Video Interop service provider and allow Polycom’s bots used in the solution to join any Teams meetings scheduled by users in this tenant.  Secondly, in order to use the RealConnect service a user’s scheduled Teams meeting invitation must include additional instructions in the invitation for the VTCs to use.  Inclusion of these additional instructions are controlled by a set of PowerShell cmdlets which can be used to enable the functionality on either all users globally or on an individual  user-by-user basis.

    Grant Consent

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    • Click the "here" link at the bottom of the page and sign into Office 365 using the same Global Administrator account, if prompted.

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    • Click each down arrow to expand the individual permission requests to review the additional details.  Click Accept when ready.

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    If successful, then the consent page will refresh to report the results.

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    At this point a RealConnect for Microsoft Teams app has been added to the Office 365 tenant, which can be confirmed on the Microsoft Apps page at https://myapps.microsoft.com. Look for the Polycom RealConnect for Microsoft Teams app in the list.

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    Prepare PowerShell

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    The PowerShell Commands documentation page that opens will include each of the supported cmdlets.  These are not just examples as they include the exact parameters specific to this tenant so they can literally by copied and pasted directly into PowerShell to execute them.  Among the instructions is guidance for connecting to PowerShell Online Modules, enabling the service, enabling users, and controlling specific behaviors of the service.

    As explained in this recent article the Microsoft Teams cmdlets are included in the Skype for Business Online PowerShell Module, so that is the only module required to complete the following configuration steps.

    • Download and install the Skype for Business Online Windows PowerShell Module on the desired Windows workstation.

    • Open a new Windows PowerShell window and then enter the following commands.  These can all be copied and pasted in one single action.  Enter an administrator account’s User Principal Name when prompted in the PowerShell window, and then the password when  prompted in a separate pop-up window.

    Import-Module SkypeOnlineConnector
    $skype = New-CsOnlineSession
    Import-PSSession $skype

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    Enable Video Interop Service

    • Copy the command string under the "Configure Your Video Interop Service Policy" section which should match the example below everywhere except for the unique numeric string in the -TenantKey parameter.  Paste the text into PowerShell and execute.

    New-CsVideoInteropServiceProvider -Identity Polycom -AadApplicationIds a39192d4-7b9b-4c07-87d7-cbcd3fd97af7 -TenantKey "680450644@t.plcm.vc" -InstructionUri "https://dialin.plcm.vc/teams/?key=680450644&conf={ConfId}"

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    What this command has done is enabled Polycom as the Cloud Video Interop Service provider of choice for this tenant, defined the tenant’s unique numeric ID (TenantKey), defined the globally unique AzureAD application ID for the Polycom service bot (AadApplicationIds), and finally set the help URI which will appear on the Teams meeting invite of any enabled users (InstructionUri).

    Note that the -InstructionUri parameter can point to any URL, so if desired a custom-branded webpage can be created and hosted on any publicly available web server.  Simply replace the default URL with the URL of the custom website if this customization is desired, otherwise leave the default entry which points to a dynamic page specific to the tenant.

    Enable Users

    Unlike the Skype for Business configuration which will require an add-on license to be assigned to each user in the environment the Teams solution simply leverages a policy which can be enabled or disabled per user or for the entire tenant.

    The preferred method when testing or rolling out the service is to enable individual users instead of enabling every user at one time.

    • To enable individual user accounts simply use the Grant-CsTeamsVideo cmdlet as shown below, entering the User Principal Name for the desired user account as the target -Identity.  Standard PowerShell scripting can be used to run this command against specific lists of users in bulk in desired.

    Grant-CsTeamsVideoInteropServicePolicy -PolicyName PolycomServiceProviderEnabled -Identity jeff@msteams.net

    • Alternatively, to enable the service for every scheduled Teams meeting created by every user in the organization then simply execute the same cmdlet, but without specifying an identity.

    Grant-CsTeamsVideoInteropServicePolicy -PolicyName PolycomServiceProviderEnabled

      For verification purposes the following cmdlet can be used to list all users in the organization which have the service enabled for their Teams meeting invitations.

      Get-CsOnlineUser -Filter {TeamsVideoInteropServicePolicy -eq "Tag:PolycomServiceProviderEnabled"} | fl UserPrincipalName

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      Enable Lobby Bypass

      By default any VTCs joining a Teams meeting by way of RealConnect will automatically be placed directly into the meeting lobby, requiring another Teams attendee to manually admit them.  If this behavior is not desired then all VTCs can be allowed to automatically bypass the lobby and join the meeting directly.  Note that this change has no impact on other guests joining a Teams meeting, it only applies to VTCs joining via the RealConnect service.  Changing this setting will impact the behavior for all VTCs joining all Teams meetings as this is essentially a global on/off switch.

      • Enter the following cmdlet to enable the lobby bypass behavior.

      Set-CsVideoInteropServiceProvider -Identity Polycom -AllowAppGuestJoinsAsAuthenticated $true

      Note that in order for this feature to function the service provider configuration defined in an earlier step must have the correct service bot ID defined (-AadApplicationIds a39192d4-7b9b-4c07-87d7-cbcd3fd97af7).  If the provider was initially created without setting this parameter then it can be added to the same cmdlet as shown in the following example.

      Set-CsVideoInteropServiceProvider -Identity Polycom -AllowAppGuestJoinsAsAuthenticated $true -AadApplicationIds a39192d4-7b9b-4c07-87d7-cbcd3fd97af7

      Validate Configuration

      To confirm that the configuration was successfully completed sign in to Microsoft Teams using one of the accounts which was assigned to the service policy in the previous steps (e.g. jeff@msteams.net).

      • Create a new Teams Meeting using any supported method (Outlook, the Teams desktop application, a Teams mobile app, or even from Teams running in a web browser).  Confirm that the resulting meeting invitation now displays an additional section of instructions in the message body pertaining to the video interop service.

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      At this point the configuration for Microsoft Teams is complete and the service is ready to be used with the Office 365 tenant.


      Enable RealConnect for Skype for Business Online

      Configuring RealConnect for Skype for Business addresses the same concepts as covered above in the Teams configuration, yet with a completely different methodology for enabling the service and users.  The steps in this section are only applicable to supporting Skype Meetings scheduled by Skype for Business Online users.  (Supporting RealConnect for Skype Meetings scheduled by Skype for Business Server users require a different configuration which is not in the scope of this article.)

      While the required permissions to utilize the service were already granted when first connecting into the portal, Polycom needs to also be established as a Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) via a partner relationship with the Office 365 tenant.  By default Microsoft grants all CSPs full delegated administrative rights to the tenant, which is in no way required (or even desired) for this service.  Thus those rights should be promptly removed, leaving only the Cloud Solutions Provider relationship.

      1. The Partner Relationship is required to insert the needed user licenses into the tenant.
      2. Delegated administrative permissions are not required and should be removed.

      While the Teams functionality leverages a basic policy setting to enable the service per user, the Skype for Business functionality uses the older Office 365 Add-On license model.  The Skype Configuration details below include an additional user license count which is completely separate from the base Call Licenses which are actually measured for concurrent usage of the service.  These additional Skype Outlook Licenses are simply entitlements which can be given to all users so that their Skype Meeting can be populated with the needed VTC details.  These are essentially included free with the service.

      Authorize Cloud Solutions Provider

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      • Click Sign In on the Cloud Solution Provider invitation.

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      • Select Yes to agree to the terms of delegated administration (this level of permissions is unneeded by the service and will be promptly removed) and then click Authorize CSP.

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      If completed successfully the following message will be displayed.

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      Otherwise the main page will be displayed with the updated Skype Configuration status now reflecting that the partner relationship has been established.  Note that it should also report "Delegated Admin Permission detected".

      • Click the View Microsoft Partner Relationship link which will open the Microsoft 365 admin center in a new tab and should go directly to the Settings > Partner Relationship menu.

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      • Click on the Polycom, Inc. entry to open that partner relationship.  (Note that the Relationship is described as "Cloud Solution Provider and Admin".)

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      • Click the Remove delegate admin button and then click Remove when prompted to confirm.

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      • Click Close to return to the Partner relationships page.  (Note that the "and Admin" portion is no longer shown in the description.)

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      Verify User Licenses

        

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      As soon as the licenses are applied to the tenant they will be listed here as "Skype Meeting Video Interop for Skype for Business".  It can take a little as a few minutes to as long as several hours before the licenses are applied to the tenant, so check back later if they do not yet appear.

      Enable Users

      Once the licenses have been assigned to the tenant and appear in the previous step then it is now possible to assign the service capability to specific user’s meetings.

      Note that the amount of Skype Meeting Video Interop licenses which appear in the tenant will exactly match the total number of core Office 365 user licenses currently in the tenant that include Skype for Business Online Plan 2 capabilities.  This essentially means that all Standalone, Business, and/or Enterprise licenses which include to ability for that user to schedule a Skype for Business Online Meeting are added together and an equal amount of video interop licenses are added to the tenant.  For example, a tenant with 25 E3 licenses, 100 E5 licenses, and 10 standalone SfB Online Plan 2 licenses would be be given 135 video interop user licenses.  This ensures that every user in the tenant is allowed to create meetings capable of using RealConnect.

      If additional Office 365 user licenses are added to the tenant in the future then simply sign-in to the Polycom RealConnect for Office 365 and Microsoft Teams portal which will trigger the service to recalculate the current user licenses and update the available amount to match.

      Assigning a license to a user can be performed using either the Microsoft 365 Admin Center or PowerShell, no differently than any other Office 365 license.

      • In the Microsoft 365 admin center browse to Users > Active Users and then select the desired user or users, and the click Edit for Product Licenses.  (If editing multiple users then select Add to existing product license assignments.)

      • Click on the slider next to Skype Meeting Video Interop for Skype for Business and then click Save.

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      Validate Configuration

      To confirm that the configuration was successfully completed sign in to Skype for Business using one of the accounts which was assigned to the service policy in the previous steps (e.g. jeff@msteams.net).

      • Create a new Skype Meeting using Outlook 2016 (Click-to-Run installations only) on a Windows or Mac workstation.  Confirm that the resulting meeting invitation now displays an additional section of instructions in the message body pertaining to the video interop service.

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      At this point the configuration for Skype for Business Online is complete and the service is ready to be used with the Office 365 tenant.

      Next Steps

      As outlined earlier depending on the existing topology, desired workflow, and available VTCs there may be a need to perform additional configuration steps.  The additional articles in this series are outlined in the beginning of this article.

      About Jeff Schertz
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