Currently in Office 365 when selecting Enterprise plans, we have the choice of four ranging from E1 up to E4.
At the Worldwide Partner Conference this week, a new SKU was announced called E5 which will be replacing the current E4 SKU. This new E5 SKU takes everything that was offered in E4 (namely E3 plus Enterprise Voice for Skype for Business) and adds even more features to help you adopt Office 365. Although this is not an available SKU right now, it looks set for the features to include the new Skype for Business services that are currently being trialled along with Power BI for Office 365 and potentially more stuff that we just don’t know about right now. Skype for Business currently has three new services in trial although these are limited to customers in the US at the moment.
The Cloud PBX feature will allow you to use Skype for Business Online without the need for a hybrid deployment with a Skype for Business Mediation Server hosted on-premises connected to SIP Trunks or ISDN circuits for
PSTN Conferencing allows you to host normal Lync meetings with the added capability of allowing parties to join the call from a telephone using Dial-In Conferencing. This can already be achieved using either a hybrid solution where PSTN callers join the call via a mediation server hosted on-premise or using a cloud based service such as those from InterCall or BT but the Skype for Business native offering brings it all under one roof with a single vendor to manage your billing and support.
The Meeting Broadcast feature allows you to broadcast your Skype for Business meetings online in instances where you need to have thousands of attendees joining such as a company-wide update meeting or a webinar. Although I confess to not having looked into this in-depth, there is no doubt this is being powered by Azure Media Services behind the scenes.
There are going to be questions that need to be answered for all of these new services such as how the billing model works, what countries it will be available in and will there be limited features in others. There is also the question (for existing Lync on-premise customers) or how the Cloud PBX solution will work with the likes of PSTN devices such as fax machines and whether or not ethernet based Lync clients (Tanjay devices) will work with the new Skype for Business but the promise of being able to have a fully cloud based PBX solution all under one umbrella of Skype for Business is very appealing.