What Microsoft’s Exchange Unified Messaging Changes Mean for You

Change Ahead
XMedius' Tom Minifie

Tom Minifie

By Tom Minifie, General Manager, XMedius

Microsoft’s recent announcements about how Exchange will handle Unified Messaging moving forward have handed sales channels a golden opportunity to interact with their customers.

Unified Messaging has been a critical component to communications for decades. We’re seeing organizations all over the country pick up the phone and call enterprise communications providers for help as they look to adapt their current systems to accommodate Microsoft’s road map.

Here are the details of the Microsoft announcements to help channel sales representatives make the most of these opportunities.

Change 1: Ending SBC Support

Microsoft has announced it will soon end Session Border Controller (SBC) support to connect third-party PBX systems to Exchange Online Unified Messaging (UM). That means customers relying on an SBC to act as a bridge from an on-premises PBX to Exchange Online UM will need to seek an alternative Unified Messaging solution.

The original deadline was set for July 2018; however, based on market feedback, Microsoft recently extended the deadline to Dec. 1, 2019. Despite the extension, this announcement still looms large for organizations looking to continue using their on-premises PBXes.

Who will this impact? Any customer using a Cisco, Avaya, NEC, Mitel or any other on-premises PBX that connects to Exchange Online UM will be affected.

For organizations that are disrupted by this change, Microsoft has provided three ways channel partners can help keep their UM/voicemail architectures alive past the deadline:

  • Office 365
    Complete migration from third-party on-premises PBX to Office 365 – Skype for Business Online.

    • Given change No. 2 discussed later in this article, Microsoft will soon move the voicemail functionality over to Cloud Voicemail rather than Exchange UM.
  • Skype for Business Server
    Complete migration from third-party on-premises PBX to Skype for Business Server.

    • Same comment as above.
  • Third Party Voicemail System
    For customers with no Skype for Business Server deployment or for whom the solutions above are not appropriate, implement a third-party voicemail system that can replace the Unified Messaging functionality currently provided by Exchange Online.

Each of these options provides different advantages. If an organization is planning on migrating to Office 365 anyway, this may be the impetus they need. If a rip-and-replace of their PBX is too costly and involved, adding a third-party voicemail system is a much simpler, cost-effective option.

Change 2: Exchange Server 2019 Drops UM Entirely

You read that right. Microsoft has announced that Exchange Server 2019 will completely omit UM functionality.

Because Exchange Server 2016 will continue to work, that gives this change a more complicated deadline that is partially based on an organization’s road map. Depending on when customers plan to upgrade to Exchange Server 2019, the deadline is in their hands. If they plan on sticking with Exchange Server 2016, they will have until October 2020, when the 2016 edition reaches end of mainstream support by Microsoft.

Who will this impact? Organizations will need to find a new UM solution if they use …

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