Configuring Lync and Skype Federation

Lync Skype interoperability didn’t come about in a rush. It was way back in 2011 when Microsoft acquired Skype for that oh so handsome sum of around £5.5 billion. Two years later and we had the ability to place instant messages and voice calls between the two platforms. Another 18 months on from that and video calling between the two was unleashed. At the time of writing this we’re on the precipice of Skype for Business, the product name by which Lync will be known moving forward beyond 2015. The steps currently involved in provisioning your Lync environment for Skype interoperability may become a thing of the past, and we’ll hopefully enjoy native communication between what will be two flavours of Skype as we see the continued fusion of these two giants.

As it stands now however, there’s still a federation provisioning process to complete if you want your Microsoft Lync platform to talk to Skype; allowing Lync and Skype users to communicate with each other in multiple modalities…

Skype Provisioning Process
First we need to complete the Lync-Skype provisioning request and have it processed by Microsoft. This is an online electronic process for which you will need the following.

•  A Microsoft licensing agreement (Volume License Number or Partner Number etc.)
•  Access edge service FQDN
•  SIP domain(s) to be provisioned for Skype federation

1. Access the provisioning portal HERE and sign in with a Windows Live ID to start the process. You will be required to choose one of the four possible licensing agreement options for your organisation; Volume licensing, Partner Network, Service Provider, or High Volume. Check the terms & conditions box and submit your agreement or partner number at the bottom of the page.

Lync Skype

2. The next screen allows you to create, adjust, or cancel a provisioning request. If this is your first time here you will see that there are 0 activated and 0 In progress requests. Use the Initiate Service link in the lower half of the page to start a new request

3. Populate the details of the primary and alternate contacts. Apparently we should receive confirmation of our provisioning request to this email address, however I have never received any communication from Microsoft to the details I enter here, hey-ho.

4. Enter the fully qualified domain name for your access edge service (e.g. sip.gecko-studio.co.uk), followed by all the SIP domains you wish to provision for Skype.

Lync Skype

That’s all there is to the provisioning side of things. The final screen is a Confirmation of Provisioning Request page stating that you will receive a confirmation email shortly (which you typically don’t). Microsoft stipulate that the process can take up to 30 days to complete, but I have rarely seen this take more than 48 hours to go through. You can access the same provisioning portal to check on the status of your request at any time. Once complete you should see the In Progress count change to 0 and the number of Activated domains increase (below I have two provisioned Access edge services).

Lync Skype

Configuring Lync
Provisioning done, we now need to configure the Lync environment for Skype federation. There’s no harm in completing this while you’re waiting for your provisioning process to go through. Complete the below steps to prepare for Skype connectivity.

1. The external access policies in Lync determine which types (if any) of external users you can communicate with. From the Federation and External Access menu in the Lync control panel, enable communication on the External Access Policy tab.

Lync Skype2. As we’re essentially federating with the Skype platform, we also need to ensure that our Access Edge configuration allows federation (next tab along). The Enable federation and public IM connectivity setting is mandatory for Skype integration, with the other settings being optional depending on your external requirements and policies.

Lync Skype3. Finally, we need to add Skype as a new Public Provider, and at the same time remove any legacy MSN provider settings that might still exist. Use the Lync Management shell to execute the below cmdlet’s and complete the configuration process.

Remove-CsPublicProvider -Identity Messenger

New-CsPublicProvider -Identity Skype -ProxyFqdn federation.messenger.msn.com -IconUrl “https://images.edge.messenger.live.com/Messenger_16x16.png” -VerificationLevel 2 -Enabled 1

The Get-CsPublicProvider cmdlet should display the following output.

Lync Skype

Now sit back and wait for your provisioning process to complete, at which point your Lync users will be able to communicate freely with the Skype community. The Add a Contact Not in My Organisation option will now list Skype as a public provider by which you can add a contact. Note that at the time of writing this article it is a requirement that the Skype user you are adding has merged their Skype account with a Microsoft Live ID. It is the email address for this Microsoft Live ID account that you specify when adding a Skype contact, and you cannot add a Skype contact by using their Skype user name. It has already been announced that the ability to add Skype users by their username will be introduced at a later date.

Lync Skype

Also bear the following mind when adding Skype users to your Lync contact list:

If the Skype user has a custom Microsoft account (one that does not end in outlook.com, live.com, hotmail.com, or msn.com) you must format their IM address like this:

  1. name(example.com )@msn.com
  2. For example, if your Skype contact’s Microsoft account is ben@gecko-studio.co.uk, enter it as ben(gecko-studio.co.uk)@msn.com.

The Lync-Skype landscape is changing very quickly at the time of writing this article, so I will refrain from going into the functionality that does and doesn’t exist between the two platforms at this time on the understanding that things are likely to change very soon. However for the time being, the aforementioned steps will grant your Lync users the maximum amount of functionality that exists between the two systems at this time.

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