Part 5: Polycom Endpoints Native Integration with Skype for Business 2015


Overview:

The purpose of this paper is to discuss and show how Polycom RealPresence Group and HDX series of videoconferencing endpoints support Native Integration with Microsoft® Skype® for Business Servers and hence can fully interoperate with Skype for Business 2015 (Lync® 2013) clients. It forms Part 5 of a series that specifically looks at Microsoft Skype for Business 2015 and the challenges and solutions for integrating various H.323 or SIP standards compliant videoconferencing systems with Skype for Business 2015.

Currently, the RealPresence Group series with Skype for Business Integration option and the HDX series with RTV/CCCP option are the only Polycom endpoints that support Native Integration with Skype for Business 2015 or Lync. But the version of Lync, 2010, 2013 (or Skype for Business) and the extent of integration is dependent on which endpoint is deployed and its corresponding software level. We will discuss later in this paper.

We will show the network topology and explain the major functions of the infrastructure so that you can see the interaction between the various Polycom endpoints and the Skype for Business 2015 components. We will then explain how this solution overcomes the challenges and how to make calls.

Within these papers the terms, Lync, Skype, Skype for Business and SfB, unless stated otherwise, all refer to Skype for Business Server 2015. The paper is specifically based on Skype for Business 2015. Whilst Lync 2013 has now been renamed Skype for Business 2015, it is generally backwards compatible with Lync Server 2013.

It is recommended that you look all the papers listed below for a background into Skype for Business and a detailed explanation about the Codecs, Protocols, Procedures and some of the available solutions

History:

Microsoft Lync is an evolutionary product for Unified Communications (UC). The initial product; Live Communications Server 2003, was only an Instant Messaging (IM) server. This then evolved through several interactions of Live Communications Server to Office Communications Server and then to Lync Server 2010; when a PBX replacement function was added. It then evolved even further to Lync Server 2013 which added much more including video conferencing, web and audio conferencing, softphone and PBX replacement and/or integration. Now, Microsoft have renamed Lync to Skype for Business.

Native or Gateway Integration:

There are basically two methods for integrating Skype for Business with other SIP or H.323 standards compliant videoconferencing systems; namely Native or Gateway.

As discussed in other papers, Skype for Business uses Microsofts implementation of SIP that includes a number of unique extensions. Hence, for Native integration, the endpoint must be able to fully understand Microsofts SIP (MS-SIP) and all these unique extensions, plus allow the endpoint to register to the Skype for Business Server.

The endpoint must also support common media codecs that use compatible transport protocols; then the Media streams will be able to go directly between the endpoint and other Skype for Business clients.

This is Native Integration whereby, to the Skype for Business Server, the endpoint looks just like any other Skype for Business 2015 client.

Polycom Endpoints Native Integration:

Polycom are currently the only vendor who makes H.323 and SIP compliant videoconferencing endpoints that also support Native Integration with Skype for Business (Lync) Servers as the diagram below shows.

But crucially, they do this as a SIP endpoint that understands Microsoft SIP and NOT as an H.323 endpoint.

The Polycom RealPresence Group series with the latest v5.1.2 software has a Skype for Business Integration option; RealPresence Group series with older v4.x.x software have a Lync Integration option; whilst the older HDX series has a RTV/CCCP option. These options all support some form of integration, but the extent and limitations varies between the endpoints and is dependent on their corresponding software level as well as the version of Skype for Business or Lync Server they are to be registered.

Polycom HDX series with RTV/CCCP option:

The RTV/CCCP option enables the HDX series to support Microsofts RTV - Real-Time Video codec as well as CCCP - Centralised Conference Control Protocol. As mentioned in other papers, RTV is Microsofts propriety video codec used primarily by Lync 2010, but also supported by Lync 2013 and Skype for Business 2015.

CCCP is the control protocol used by Lync to send commands to conferences and convey information about conferences in SIP messages such as the INVITE and INFO statements. It is used to enable participation in multipoint conferences hosted by the AVMCU

Basically, the older Polycom HDX series with RTV/CCCP option supports integration at the Lync 2010 client level. It supports RTV and H.263 video codecs as well as various compatible audio codecs and understands Microsofts implementation of SIP (MS-SIP).

But Lync 2010 only supported RTV at a maximum resolution of 1280x720 at 30 frames per second, with the fall-back video codec being H.263. Furthermore, RTV is symmetrical in that both endpoints send and receive video at the same resolution and frame rate. Lync 2010 implementation of RTV does NOT support 1080p video. Furthermore, Lync 2010 does NOT support H.264/SVC.

So whilst the HDX series with RTV/CCCP option can register with the Lync infrastructure as a Lync 2010 client, its limitations are that it only supports basic two-way audio and video conferencing along with restricted sharing.

At best, video will use the RTV codec, whilst Data Sharing is limited to only being one-way from the HDX to the Lync 2010 client (or Lync 2013 or Skype for Business 2015).

Like most SIP videoconferencing systems, the HDX uses BFCP - Binary Floor Control Protocol for Data Sharing (what Polycom call Content) that is sent as a second video stream. The Lync client will then either display the Shared Content in a second video window, or in the main video windows in lieu of the 'talking heads video' whilst data is being shared.

But as the Lync 2010 (and Lync 2013 and Skype for Business 2015) client uses Microsofts propriety RDP - Remote Desktop Protocol to share applications, which is NOT supported by the HDX, the Lync client CANNOT share its applications with the HDX as the HDX simply does not understand RDP, so would not know what to do.

In summary, the Polycom HDX system with RTV/CCCP option behaves like a Lync 2010 client, but has the following caveats and limitations:

  • The HDX system can register to a Lync 2010 Server as a Lync 2010 client
  • The HDX system can register to a Lync 2013 Server as a Lync 2010 client
  • The deployment can use either an On-Premise, Hosted or Hybrid Server, but currently not Office 365
  • The HDX system currently CANNOT register to any Skype for Business 2015 Server
  • At best, the HDX system supports 720p30 video using RTV, with the fall-back video codec being H.263
  • You can have a basic point-to-point or multipoint videoconference between the HDX system and Lync 2010, 2013 or Skype for Business 2015 clients hosted by a Lync 2010 or Lync 2013 Server
  • The HDX system DOES NOT support RDP, so it CANNOT receive any shared application from any Microsoft client
  • However, the HDX system using PPCIP can share an application to the Microsoft client

RealPresence Group series with v4.x.x software and Lync Integration option:

Similar to the HDX with the RTV/CCCP option, the Lync Integration option enables the RealPresence Group series that's running v4.x.x software to support Microsofts RTV and CCCP. But it also enables the RealPresence Group series to support Microsofts H.264/SVC video codec that's primarily used by Skype for Business 2015 and Lync 2013 clients. Microsofts H.264/SVC video codec is based on Polycom technology.

Basically, the RealPresence Group series with v4.x.x software and Lync Integration option supports integration at the Lync 2013 client level. It supports Microsofts H.264/SVC and RTV video codecs as well as various compatible audio codecs and understands Microsofts SIP (MS-SIP).

Lync 2013 supported H.264/SVC at a maximum resolution of 1920x1080 at 30 frames per second, (1080p30) with the fall-back video codec being RTV.

At this point, we must stress that Microsofts H.264/SVC is NOT the same as H.264/AVC and the two must not be confused as being so; or even that Microsofts H.264/SVC in UCConfig Mode 0 as being compatible with H.264/AVC. They simply WILL NOT WORK together.

As a fall-back, mainly for compatibility with Lync 2010, Lync 2013 supports RTV. But whilst RTV in a Lync 2013 client supports a maximum 1080p30 video, as previously mentioned, RTV is symetrical in that both endpoints send and receive video at the same resolution and frame rate. Hence, as the Lync 2010 implementation of RTV does NOT support 1080p video, in Lync 2013 <> Lync 2010 calls, the maximum resolution is 1280x720 at 30 frames rates per second (720p30).

The same would happen with RealPresence Group <> HDX or Lync 2013 <> HDX calls.

Furthermore, whilst the RealPresence Group series with v4.x.x software and Lync Integration option can register with the Lync infrastructure as a Lync 2013 client, just as with the HDX with the RTV/CCCP option, the RealPresence Group is still restricted to supporting basic two-way audio and video conferencing along with one-way Data Sharing.

At best, video will use the H.264/SVC codec, whilst Data Sharing is limited to only being one-way from the RealPresence Group to the Skype for Business 2015 client (Lync 2013).

In RealPresence Group <> Skype for Business 2015 calls, on receiving the Content, the Skype for Business 2015 client will then either display the Shared Content in a second video window, or in the main video windows in lieu of the 'talking heads video' whilst data is being shared.

As the RealPresence Group series with v4.x.x software and Lync Integration option does not include support Microsofts propriety RDP, the Skype for Business 2015 client CANNOT share its applications with such RealPresence Group endpoints.

In summary, the Polycom RealPresence Group (RPG) system running v4.x.x software and Lync Integration option behaves like a Lync 2013 client, but has the following caveats and limitations:

  • The RPG system can register to a Lync 2013 Server as a Lync 2013 client
  • The RPG system can register to a Skype for Business 2015 Server as a Lync 2013 client
  • The deployment can use either an On-Premise, Hosted or Hybrid Server, but currently not Office 365
  • At best, the RPG system supports 1080p30 video using H.264/SVC codec, with the fall-back being RTV
  • You can have a basic point-to-point or multipoint videoconference between the RPG system and Lync 2013 or Skype for Business 2015 clients hosted by a Lync 2013 or Skype for Business 2015 Server
  • The RPG system running v4.x.x software DOES NOT support RDP, so it CANNOT receive any shared application from any Microsoft client
  • However, the RPG system running v4.x.x software can share an application to the Microsoft client
  • It is recommended, of possible, to update the RPG system to run the latest v5.x.x software

RealPresence Group series with v5.0.0 or later software and Skype for Business Integration option:

Basically, the RealPresence Group series running v5.0.0 or later software and Skype for Business Integration option supports full native integration at the Skype for Business 2015 client level. This combination enables the RealPresence Group series to support Microsofts H.264/SVC and RTV video codecs, various compatible audio codecs, CCCP, Microsofts SIP and adds support for Microsofts RDP with both Skype for Business 2015 and Lync 2013 client.

Enabling RDP allows both Application and Desktop Sharing with the Microsoft clients without requiring any additional infrastructure. The RealPresence Group can now view content from the Skype for Business 2015 or Lync 2013 client; but the Microsoft client must initiate the sharing.

You can now attach a USB Mouse and USB Keyboard to the RealPresence Group system. Once is a Skype for Business call and the Microsoft client has initiated the content sharing, you can use the USB Mouse to scroll and zoom in order to see all the received shared content.

You can also control the shared content from the RealPresence Group system. The Microsoft client must first select the actual RealPresence Group system it wants to give control to; then when the RealPresence Group system receives content from the Microsoft client, it can open and use shared applications, programs and files on the Microsoft clients system using the RealPresence Groups connected USB Mouse and USB Keyboard.

The are a few caveats and restrictions on what can be shared and how; these are:

  • There RealPresence Group system cannot share content, including content shared through PPCIP (Polycom People+Content IP or using the VisualBoard whilst actively receiving content from Microsoft clients.
  • The RealPresence Group systems do not support viewing PowerPoint (Office Web App), Whiteboard, Poll and Q&A content from Microsoft clients. In a multipoint conference with several Microsoft clients, these clients can select these content sharing options, but any RealPresence Group systems also in the conference would not receive this type of content.
  • Polycom recommend deploying Skype Room System or CsMeetingRoom accounts instead of Standard User accounts for all RealPresence Group systems. Using this approach, the Skype Room System prompts content presenters to mute their microphone and speakers whilst sharing content within the same room, thus avoiding any audio echo.
  • The deployment can use either an On-Premise, Hosted or Hybrid Server, but currently not Office 365

Enabling Skype for Business Integration License:

Before you can configure a RealPresence Group system to register with a Skype for Business Server, you must obtain and install the Options Key that enables the Skype for Business Interoperability License.

  • Browse to your RealPresence Group system and logon.
  • In the web interface, go to Admin Settings > General Settings > Options
  • Enter the Key in the box and Save settings.

You can now configure your RealPresence Group systems SIP Settings for your Skype Room System account.

Configuring RealPresence Group SIP Settings:

  • Browse to your RealPresence Group system and logon.
  • In the web interface, go to Admin Settings > Network > IP Network > SIP
  • Take a close look at the SIP page shown below. You might want to print this page and consult with your Skype for Business System Administrator to ensure you have all the information to complete the settings

  • Once you have gathered all the required information, you can continue and complete the page.
  • Remember to Save the settings before exiting the page.

A full description of each of the above settings can be found in the Polycom RealPresence Group Admin Guide under Networks > Configure IP Settings > SIP Settings

Enabling VisualBoard/RDP Settings:

The last configuration setting is to enable the VisualBoard/RDP feature that allows the RealPresence Group unit to use the USB attached keyboard and mouse.

  • Browse to your RealPresence Group system and logon.
  • In the web interface, go to Admin Settings > General Setting > System Settings
  • Expand the VisualBoard/RDP section and tick the Enable box.

  • Remember to Save the settings before exiting the page.
  • Power-Off the RealPresence Group system.

Attach USB Keyboard and Mouse to the RealPresence Group:

You are now ready to attach a USB Mouse and Keyboard (ideally a wireless combined mouse and keyboard) to your RealPresence Group system and start fully participating in Skype for Business 2015 conferences, including interacting with shared applications from other participating Microsoft clients. 


For a complete picture, please take a closer look at all the other papers in this series about Skype for Business 2015. 


References:
Polycom® RealPresence® Group Series Administrator Guide v5.0.0, September 2015, 3725-63706-007A
Polycom® Unified Communications for Microsoft® Environments - Solutions Deployment Guide, September 2015, 3725-06675-006A