Skype for Business server 2015 (S4BS) planning tool Skype for Business Planning Tool is a tool that allows administrators to more or less get a look at what their potential S4BS deployment could look like without being an experienced consultant or having walked through many deployments on their own. I will cover a few of the reports that are available; also what I plan to do is break out the planning tool into separate articles to bring deeper attention to areas that normally go unnoticed and what will be good to know when you are considering deploying S4BS.
Planning Tool Reports
First things first, let us talk about the reports that are available in the S4BS Planning Tool.
Firewall Report – Provides a view of the Firewall rules in relation to IP addresses that are needed for the server roles in a S4B environment.
Summary Report – Provides an overall view of the servers, FQDNs and IP addresses.
DNS Report – Provides a view of the DNS entries that are used for internal and external usage in the S4B environment.
Certificate Report – Provides the certificate name and the Subject Alternative Name (SANs) of the certificates that are used for deployment.
Let us take a look are the reports that are available for us in the S4BS Planning Tool. The Firewall report has been one of my favorite reports that the S4BS planning tool provides due to the fact that just about everything you are going to need concerning “What ports do I open?” and “In what direction should they be open?” will be answered with this report. One of the nice things about the report is the ability to give to your network engineer the “source” and “destination” port information that is going to be needed for your firewall rule configuration for the traffic that Skype is going to leverage for communications through the firewall. The application column of the report proves to be useful as well to for knowing what protocol is useful, but also knowing what service that protocol is leveraging is key as well.
The Summary Report gives you all the general information to setup your edge environment for the S4BS deployment. Besides getting the FQDN and IP addresses of the servers that are going to be needed we get to see what type of server that we are working with. In this case, most of the types are going to be “perimeter network” servers since we are dealing mostly with the edge environment. Towards the bottom of the report there will be a section called “Next Hop Report” which details some internal server information such as the pool name(s) and Virtual IP information.
Keep in mind what the DNS report is providing for you. Nearly all the DNS records that are going to be needed for your environment for internal and external A and SRV records are provided for you. I say nearly all because there are a few that are glaringly missing such as the autodiscover records of Lyncdiscoverinternal and Lyncdiscover. The A records for the external DNS entries for the access, web conferencing and video that belong to the edge server are provided in this report. The sometimes overlooked Reverse Proxy A record for Meet, Dial-in, Front End pool external web interface and the external A record entry for the Office Web Application (WAC) server; which is to allow external users to upload PowerPoint content for document sharing is also provided.
Probably one area of the planning tool that does not get used as much as it should would have to be the Certificates Report. The “Certificate Report” gives a representation of what needs to be in the common name of the certificates. The Subject Name (SN) and Subject Alternative Names (SANS) of the certificate has given implementers the biggest challenges for years, even with the previous versions of S4BS, which were known as Lync and OCS. The “Certificate Report” proceeds to not only give you what the SN should be but also the SANs that are needed for that particular cert and where to assign it to; whether it’s the internal or external interface. Once again, the Reverse Proxy role is a location where you see a lot of confusion of what the SN should be and what SANs are needed on it. For environments that consist of multiple pools and numerous front end servers or N+1 servers for each of the additional roles such as Edge, directors, Mediation servers, etc. The certificate portion of the deployment can be overwhelming for anyone. The S4BS planning tool will ease the uncertainness of finding out what certificates are needed and what are the SN and SANs needed.
Skype Planning Tool, More Powerful Than Expected
What can appear at first as a remedial tool for many experts on how to spec out their Skype environment can prove to be a valuable tool that will assist more than just figuring out how many servers to have at a certain location or not. The reporting output of the tool will inevitably save time for those that are doing the planning and deploying of the Skype environment. With or without the S4BS planning tool, Certificates, DNS records, and Firewall rules are going to be needed and eventually created for the deployment; so why not leverage the S4BS planning tool?