Phone System with Direct Routing is now generally available for Microsoft Teams and it’s generating buzz in the market. It also has IT leaders asking: “What does this mean for my business?”. The objective of this post is to provide answers and insights to help you determine if Microsoft Phone System with Teams is the right solution for enterprise communication at your organization.
What does the Microsoft Teams Direct Routing announcement mean for your organization?
Short answer: It depends on several factors.
Long answer: Every organization is unique and the Direct Routing announcement for Microsoft Teams will impact each organization in different ways.
We analyzed all customer conversations over the last 90 days and here are the common characteristics (of the current environment) for organizations that demonstrated an above-average interest in Teams / Phone System / Direct Routing:
What is Microsoft Phone System for Teams?
It’s important to first establish the baseline for this discussion. Microsoft Teams provides the hub for teamwork within Office 365. A key component of Microsoft Teams is the ability to make/receive phone calls via Microsoft Phone System. For more information on Microsoft Phone System, check out this post.
Microsoft Phone System requires calling plans in order to make/receive calls. There are two options for calling plans with Microsoft Phone System in Teams:
- Microsoft Calling Plans (to learn more, see this post)
- Direct Routing (to learn more: keep reading this post)
When you pair Microsoft Calling Plans and/or Direct Routing with Microsoft Phone System you will have full enterprise calling experience within Office 365 on a global scale.
What is Direct Routing for Microsoft Teams?
Direct Routing is a new capability launched by Microsoft on June 28, 2018, that enables customers to bring their own telecom services into the Microsoft Cloud for Microsoft Phone System (in Teams). Prior to this announcement, the only option for telecom services with Microsoft Teams was Microsoft calling plans. Direct Routing is important because it provides a solution for organizations to leverage preferred telecom rates and take advantage of the many benefits of Microsoft Phone System with Teams.
What components are required for Microsoft Teams Direct Routing?
For an organization to enable Direct Routing, the following components are required:
- Office 365 enterprise subscription (E1, E3 or E5)
- Microsoft Phone System Add-On (with E1, E3)
- Session Border Controllers (SBCs) from AudioCodes or Ribbon
- SIP trunks from your telecom/voice provider
The key piece of the Direct Routing infrastructure is the SBCs. Depending on your on-staff expertise and/or preference on in-house vs. outsourced IT, the SBCs can be deployed in 2 ways.
What are the approved deployment approaches for Microsoft Teams Direct Routing?
There are two approved approaches to Microsoft Teams Direct Routing:
- “Customer-Deployed”: Customer deploys/manages Direct Routing infrastructure in their own data centers
- “Partner Hosted”: Partner hosts infrastructure and delivers as a service
- For organizations that have the in-house expertise and/or prefer/need to manage voice infrastructure internally, the customer-deployed scenario is the correct approach.
- SBC’s are deployed within the customer environment (datacenters) and management/uptime/quality of experience is the responsibility of the internal IT team.
- The certified SBCs for this approach are from AudioCodes and Ribbon. We expect additional SBC providers to be certified in the coming months.
- For organizations that require on-premise SBCs and prefer a partner to manage them, this is something that can be supported by managed services partners (like Arkadin).
- For organizations that have (or want to start) embracing cloud-based services, the partner-hosted scenario is the correct approach
- SBCs are hosted within the partner cloud (by Arkadin) and management/uptime/quality of experience is the responsibility of the partner (e.g. Arkadin).
Partner-hosted offerings include advanced capabilities and managed services.
When does it make sense to use Microsoft Teams Direct Routing (vs. Microsoft Calling Plans)?
- For countries where Microsoft Calling plans are not available
- Customers that want to keep their existing telco contract
- Interoperability with third-party systems (e.g. existing PBXs during the migration)
- Connect analog devices into Microsoft Teams (e.g. fax, paging systems, elevator phones)
Is Direct Routing available with Microsoft Teams only?
As of today (July 17, 2018), Direct Routing is only available with Microsoft Teams. For organizations that are deployed on Skype for Business Online, the Direct Routing equivalent is Cloud Connector Edition (CCE). CCE can be deployed in the customer datacenter or in a partner-hosted model and enables customers to bring their own telecom/voice services to Skype for Business Online.
A common question we’ve been asked is “Will Direct Routing be available with Skype for Business Online any time soon?” The answer (as of today): it’s not on the official roadmap and Microsoft is laser-focused on Teams.
Can organizations deploy both Microsoft Calling Plans & Direct Routing?
Yes, it is possible (and supported) to configure users for both Microsoft Calling Plans and Direct Routing. This approach provides the flexibility to control the path a call takes based on the destination phone number dialed.
In the below example, a user is configured with both Calling Plans and Direct Routing. When the user calls a +49 number, the routing will go through the Calling Plan. When the user calls a +41 number or an analog device, it will route via Direct Routing through the SBCs to either an analog device or an existing PBX.
An advantage of this approach is the SBC can be located locally in-country so the call will be delivered as a local call. For more information, check out the following video.
Is Microsoft Teams ready for prime-time as an enterprise voice platform?
Overwhelmingly yes…and it will continue to get better and better over time. By the end of the calendar year 2018, Microsoft Teams will be at feature parity with Skype for Business Online for enterprise voice features (based on the current Microsoft Roadmap). As we move into CY2019, the next wave of capabilities will be released within Microsoft Cloud Voice Services purpose-built for Microsoft Teams.
In our experience working with organizations making the move to Teams Voice today, IT leaders are surprised and impressed with how many cloud voice capabilities are already available today in Teams.
Here’s a list of the common features that we get asked about and their availability status:
To stay on top of the latest news, check this updated roadmap tracking site from Microsoft which shows all the latest features under development and being rolled out.
So what does this mean for your organization?
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article and now it’s time to figure out what it means for your organization. Of course, this largely depends on your specific situation.
- How many phone systems are you currently managing and how old are those?
- Have you deployed Office 365?
- Is your IT approach more Outsource or DIY?
- Do you have global offices?
- When are your telcom/SIP contracts up for renewal?
- Is there an office move planned in the next 12 months?
- Do you have complex voice requirements? (e.g. analog devices, contact center, fax)
Without an in-depth discussion about these and many other factors, it’s impossible to provide a comprehensive recommendation for your organization. If you’re looking for more advice Arkadin is standing by to discuss your organization’s situation and requirements, and help you take the next steps in your Microsoft Teams / Microsoft Phone System journey.
Arkadin Direct Routing for Microsoft Teams
Arkadin Direct Routing for Microsoft Teams empowers organizations to deploy local calling plans in 90+ countries via Microsoft Calling Plans, Arkadin Calling Plans and via Bring Your Own Carrier. Learn more about our newly launched offer here.