Planning Skype for Business (Part2)

If you would like to be notified when Anderson Patricio releases the next part in this article series please sign up to our Real-Time Article Newsletter.

If you would like to read the first part in this article series please go to Planning Skype for Business (Part 1).

In the previous article, we went over the roles available in Skype for Business Server 2015, as well some Microsoft useful resources to understand how the roles interact with each other and some scenarios to use Skype for Business Server based on the company’s size.

In this article, we are going to go over the Skype for Business Server 2015 Planning Tool which is a tool that allows the administrator do define the sites, size of the sites and features that will be enabled to the end-users, and it will give you a diagram of your environment. After that you can go one step further and configure the IP Addresses and FQDN (Full Qualified Domain Names) of your servers to complete a huge chunk of your design phase.

The first step is to download the tool by clicking here. The installation process is straight forward and does not require any additional settings just the default settings. The system requirements are Windows 7 or later and Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5 or later.

The tool should be installed on a workstation since there is no server requirements for it. The tool has some changes when compared with previous versions, as follows:

  • IPv6 Support
  • Support up to 10 sites
  • Better IP/FQDN/Port editing
  • The tool does not support Virtualized server design
  • The tool does not support exporting the information to Topology Builder

Designing the future Skype for Business Server environment…

The tool is simple and easy to use. In the first page you will have an introduction about the tool capabilities, and we have two options Get Started or Design Sites.

Skype for Business Server 2015 Planning Tool welcome page

If the decision was Get Started which is a good option for those that are not too familiar with Skype for Business Server. This helps because it asks questions which are not based on server roles but features, and based on those answers the site design (which is the second portion) will come with all Skype for Business features/roles filled out automatically. These are the main topics when using the Get Started option.

  • Audio/Video Conferencing
  • Dial-In Conferencing
  • Web Conferencing
  • Enterprise Voice
  • Call Admission Control
  • Monitoring
  • Archiving
  • Persistent Chat
  • Video Interop
  • Mobility
  • Federation
  • High Availability
  • IP Support
  • Disaster Recovery

The site design can be accessed directly from the main page, the only difference is that we need to define the features based on our knowledge of Skype for Business Server 2015. In the example below we run the Get Started option first and all options were already selected when we get to the site definition.

The process of creating a site is straight forward. The administrator defines Site Name, and the number of users for either on-premises and Cloud, and then features/roles that will be used on the site. Based on that selection a series of questions will be asked to size the solution properly. At the end the administrator has the option to add another site (keep in mind that the current limitation is 10 sites)

Defining the features/roles of a new site

For the first site we will define the SIP Domain, and the questions after that will be based on the selections. Here are some items that may be asked by the wizard: Conference Settings, Voice Infrastructure, External User Access, Persistent Chat, Collocation Options, Mobile, High Availability, Branch Sites

The SIP Domain should be the same one used by the corporate e-mail to keep settings simple in your environment.

After adding all sites, a Global Topology will be shown, and on the right side we have a couple of options to manage the site (Add, View, Delete and Edit) and the most important is the Hardware Configuration for our planning, including number of servers for each role.

The diagram generated based on the previous questions

For more information in any given site, double click on it, and the diagram of the environment will be displayed based on the information that we entered during the wizard. On the right side we have information about the utilization of the site itself (Site Information area) and hardware for that site.

The diagram with more details about servers and infrastructure for Toronto’s site

Using the options View Planning Steps and View Deployment Steps the administrator has a list of useful resources to perform the tasks required to complete the Skype for Business Server 2015 deployment.

Checking the Deployment Steps based on your scenario

Checking Hardware Requirements…

After having all Skype for Business Servers laid out in a nice diagram, we can use the same diagram to check the hardware requirements based on our input during the wizard. Just double click on any server from the diagram and a new page containing the Hardware Requirements and Port Requirements will be displayed. Keep in mind that the view is per server, to check other server requirements we must double click on them.

Hardware and Port Requirements for a specific server in the diagram

Adjusting the design to fit your new environment…

In my opinion, the best feature is when the environment requires an Edge Server which, based on our first article allows external communications with our Skype for Business Server through federation, mobile or external users connecting in IM, Web Conferencing and so forth.

The Edge Server is not simple at all. It requires at least two servers (for high availability purposes), a reverse proxy, load balancing (DNS or Hardware), public IPs, DMZ and etc. Basically, if you don’t plan well, our chances of success are drastically reduced.

When we double click on any server from any given site, there is a tab called Edge Network Diagram and it will show a beautiful design of the environment with some names and IPs. The diagram helps to understand the environment, and trust me your network folks will understand the diagram much better than you trying to explain over a Change Management session.

Edge Network Diagram using default values

The diagram is good, but with all those weird names and weird IPs that do not match your existent network is not perfect. The Skype for Business Team thought about that, and we can double click on any object and change its name and IP, and that updates the diagram making it even more useful for documentation and design purposes.

Updating the server object with the proper name and IP address

After updating the diagram with the proper IPs and server names, there is one more tab that helps the administrator to plan the new environment. Click on Edge Admin Report and a new page with four (4) tabs: Summary Report, Certificates Report, Firewall Report and DNS Report will be available.

The most important thing is that all information there is based on the design and using the names that we updated on the diagram. That makes it extremely easy to hand it over to different teams such as Network and/or security to perform configuration changes to support Skype for Business.


After creating the design, editing to match your future environment and getting all information for your design, there is one more feature that is extremely helpful, there is an option to export to VSD (Visio) and Excel the information and edit the diagrams to add to your design documents.

If you would like to be notified when Anderson Patricio releases the next part in this article series please sign up to our Real-Time Article Newsletter.

If you would like to read the first part in this article series please go to Planning Skype for Business (Part 1).

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