Tag Archives: Skype for Business

Skype for Business – Edge Server


What do we know so far with a Skype for Business in a Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop

  1. The Same Experience: The Citrix RealTime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business provides the same experience in an RDS/VDI implementation as a traditional PC implementation.
  2. Hybrid Deployment: The Citrix RealTime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business provides the same experience regardless if both users are running RDS/VDI or only one user is on RDS/VDI and the other on a traditional PC
  3. Conference Calling: Citrix RealTime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business provides the same experience in a 3-way or multi-party call.

This leads us to the next question I’ve received regarding the optimization pack:

Do we still need an Edge Server with Citrix RealTime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business?

As a consultant, one of the most common answers I hear to a question is “It depends”. I like to be unique, so I try to avoid the answer “It depends”. The answer is Maybe, most likely.

First, let’s look at a native VDI implementation.

Native Edge

In this instance, the Skype for Business Edge server is not used as the Skype client is on the virtual desktop, which is on the internal LAN with the Skype server. The voice/video also goes between the virtual desktops.

But what happens if we implement the Citrix RealTime Optimization Pack?

Optimized Edge

Same situation. The Edge server is not used because the SIP communication happens from the virtual desktop to the Skype server, all located on the internal network. The voice/video happens between the end point devices, again, bypassing the Edge server. In this instance, the Edge server would be used for call setup, but once the call is established, the Edge server is no longer used. This is because the end points are probably in different locations, on different networks, behind firewalls/NAT.  The Edge server provides the link between the two endpoints.

What about situations where only one user is on a virtual desktop and the other on a traditional PC?

hybrid edge

The traditional PC must access the Skype server on the internal network. The Edge server is required to transmit the session initiation protocol (SIP), but once the session starts, the voice/video communication occurs directly between the two end point devices, bypassing the Edge server.

And finally, what about 3-way or multi-party calling?

3way edge

In this scenario, the voice/video will pass through the Edge Server on its way to the Audio and Video Conferencing Server.

To answer the question “do we still need an Edge server with the Citrix RealTime Optimization Pack”

You most likely will.

Daniel (Follow on Twitter @djfeller)
XenApp Best Practices
XenApp Videos

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Skype for Business – Three-way calling


Based on the questions I’ve received, it seems like Skype for Business is a pretty big deal.  So, let’s take a look at another question I recently received with regard to the Citrix RealTime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business:

How does this work with 3-way calling?

With Skype for Business, in order to do a 3-way (or more) conference call, you need to have the Skype for Business Audio-Video Conferencing Server implemented within your Skype deployment. After initiating a call by communicating over SIP to the Skype Server, all parties within the call have their voice/video (SRTP) pass through the Conferencing Server.

In a Native RDS/VDI deployment that does NOT include the Citrix RealTime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business, the media must traverse additional network hops (For simplicity, I removed the Skype for Business server that is still required for initializing the session.)

without

As you can see, for those users accessing the environment with a virtual desktop, the Skype for Business client gets installed within the virtual desktop (VDA).  Although this deployment model works, it does put more strain on your RDS/VDI infrastructure as we explained in the previous blog.

Now, compare the SRTP path when we implement the Citrix RealTime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business.

Opt3way

From the user perspective, the voice and video data follows a much more direct route, mimicking that of the traditional PC experience. And the impact to the RDS/VDI infrastructure is significantly reduced as the media is processed on the end points.

Skype for Business Blogs

Daniel (Follow on Twitter @djfeller)
XenApp Best Practices
XenApp Videos

Skype for Business – VDI to Native


I recently posted a blog and video about the new Citrix Realtime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business. As you could see from the video, Citrix is able to deliver Skype for Business to RDS/VDI users with XenApp and XenDesktop. With the optimization pack, CPU utilization on the processor is negligible while the overall user experience is identical to that of a traditional PC.

Recently, as I was talking about this feature, I was asked the following question:

You show the optimization occurring between two users who are both using VDI. What happens if one user is using VDI and the other is on a traditional PC?

I find a few pictures makes the entire solution easier to understand. First, let’s look at Native VDI

Native Skype

As you can see, the audio & video occurs between the two virtual desktops as the Skype for Business client is installed on the virtual desktops.

Second, we look at the architecture when we use the Citrix Realtime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business

XA Skype

This time, the voice and video occurs between the two end points. Although the Skype for Business client is still on the virtual desktops, we’ve moved the media engine to the local end points for processing, while still making it appear that the video is executing on the virtual desktop.

And finally, we look at the architecture when we have one user running Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop with the Realtime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business and another user is using a traditional PC with the native Skype for Business client.

XA and traditional Skype

Again, look at the voice & video path, it still occurs between the two endpoints. This is because the user who utilizes a virtual desktop still has the media engine on their local endpoint while the traditional PC user has the default Skype for Business client.

So, whether your users all run XenApp/XenDesktop, or only subset uses XenApp/XenDesktop, the Citrix Realtime Optimization Pack will still be an improvement over the default install in the RDS/VDI world.

Daniel (Follow on Twitter @djfeller)
XenApp Best Practices
XenApp Videos

Changing the user experience can be dangerous


As many know, I like to do home improvement projects, so I spend quite some time at the local hardware store purchasing supplies.  I’ve been going to the same store for years. I’ve been using the self-service checkout lanes for years. I’ve been purchasing my items with a credit card for years.

Everything was going great until I personally crashed the credit card payment system for my checkout lane (seriously).

So what changed? The credit card checkout process changed because my credit card now includes the security chip technology.  The instructions on the screen were clear, I was simply on auto-pilot, doing the same process I’ve been doing for decades.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly fine changing my behavior IF (and that is a big IF) there is a valid reason for it.  This process changed because it is supposed to make my credit card more secure.

But changing something just to change it with no added value is a great way to annoy me.

Take a look at the following, recently recorded video discussing Microsoft Skype for Business.  Typically, in these types of videos, you see how much better something is to something else.  This is different.  The goal wasn’t to change the experience, it was to make the experience IDENTICAL to what users are accustomed to experiencing.

So tell me, did we hit the mark?

We accomplished this by going back to one of our XenApp Best Practices: For the best combination of user experience and resource consumption, optimize appropriately

So, how does this work?

Let’s look at it from 2 different perspectives:

  1. Admin Perspective: Skype executes within the virtual desktop but the media executes on the end point.  When I make a call to another Skype user, the voice and video goes from my end point to the other user’s end point.  If we are having a conference call, it’s the same process except with more people.  Although Skype is physically running remotely, within my virtual desktop, the media transcoding occurs on the endpoint. This removes network hops. It removes network latency.  It provides a better experience for the user.
  2. User Perspective: The entire Skype session executes within the virtual desktop. But even though the implementation is different, the user’s experience is identical to the traditional PC.

And finally, I keep talking about Skype in the virtual desktop, but that’s because saying published app, shared desktop, pooled desktop, personal desktop, and on and on and on is too long.  This works for all of these delivery options.

Daniel (Follow @djfeller)
XenApp Best Practices
XenApp Videos