Skype for Business Operations Framework and UC SDN

11 Jul 2016

Last week I wrote an article on UC SDN and Reactive Networking, and was ready to write the article on a new use case emerging from IMTC called UC SDN for UCaaS when I attended the Microsoft World Wide Partner (WPC) conference this week and witnessed the launch of Skype for Business' new program called Skype Operations Framework (SOF).

Source: Skype for Business

I think this framework sets the industry standard for a comprehensive guide on how to implement and manage a reliable UC deployment. An intriguing part of this framework is the Skype for Business position on mandating network assessment as part of the SOF which is further broken down into Essentials and Advanced (see SOF Determine Network Readiness section). I think this practice is extremely important, and even more critical is that network assessment should be thought of as a continuous assessment rather than a one-time deal.

Many folks who deploy UC are unaware of all the network impairments that can affect real time media and was one of the reasons I have been so passionate about UC SDN. As an industry we have to move to more automation in which the applications and networks continuously communicate with each other using a machine-to-machine interface so that we can remove people from this practice. The IMTC UC SDN AG has taken the painstaking process to document some of these use cases for both quality of experience and diagnostics which when implemented will naturally yield a continuous assessment of not only the network but also the end-points and service itself.

Allow me to explain this better with some actual gotchas that will burn most UC real time deployments, based on my many years of experience driving real time media over networks. Below are just a few of the "off-the-top-of-my-head" issues that are real and happen regularly when deploying UC with real time media:

  • QoS marking are stripped and/or wrongly marked per modality. This is very common due to ACLs in networks and Wi-Fi drivers that place voice traffic into the video queue in the upstream direction.
  • QoS queues on routers and switches misconfigured. EF queues are policed at the ingress of the networks that are normally static in nature and don't track voice demands.
  • Branch WAN networks that incorrectly configure their MPLS bandwidth for each modality (ie: voice, video, data) especially for EF voice traffic that is dynamic in nature but which the bandwidth is statically defined.
  • Wi-Fi APs improperly deployed
    • Management frames intervals set wrong for real time media
    • APs placed in environments which are prone to interference or attenuation
    • Interference due to band mismanagement of channel and power
  • Wi-Fi device drivers that behave improperly
    • Sticks to APs improperly when roaming
    • Rate adoption algorithms when using voice and/or video
    • Off-channel scanning algorithms when using voice and/or video
    • Power management that reduces Wi-Fi power when on batteries

My point is that networks and applications are dynamic and fluid. Like life, change is natural and only thru awareness can one understand the complexities involved. UC SDN was designed for the automaton of network/application complexity so that a business can focus on other pressing issues rather than the plumbing of networking to make their applications work correctly.

As stated before in my previous article, UC SDN does not mean you need to forklift your networks to SDN, but is more of a catch-all phrase which means machine automation. While the mandating of network assessment with Skype for Business SOF is an important step forward for UC deployments, I still see UC SDN as the way forward towards machine automation. While Skype for Business was one of the first UC vendors to deliver on a UC SDN Interface for an on-premise deployment (with a large ecosystem of UC SDN vendors like Aruba, Nectar, Unify Square, Integrated Research, etc.) I am hopeful that most UCaaS offerings will also deliver a cloud version of a UC SDN Interface. In my opinion only UC SDN provides the visibility and automation for all the gotchas I mentioned above that enable the process of understanding the complex ecosystem of networks, devices and services E2E.


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