Office 365 Teams Direct Routing Feature Hits Preview

Microsoft Teams users now have the option to test drive the Direct Routing telephony connectivity option within the enterprise collaboration service, the company announced this week.

Direct Routing is one of the many pieces in the Skype-to-Teams transition that Microsoft announced at Ignite 2017 as part of the company's so-called "intelligent communications" makeover of its unified communications products.

Essentially, Microsoft wants to make it easier for organizations to move from its Skype for Business voice-over-IP client to using the Teams client, which provides a workspace for chats and also for phone calls. The idea is that organizations can make their phone calls from Teams instead of using the Skype for Business client, but it's possible for an organization to use both applications concurrently in a transitional phase.

The Direct Routing preview is is part of the Phone System Office 365 add-on and it's now available worldwide. The preview is available "in any country where Microsoft sells Office 365," according to a comment in Microsoft's announcement. It can be used today by Office 365 tenancies, but they will need to have the Phone System add-on installed (formerly known as the "Cloud PBX" add-on). Phone System can be purchased separately. Alternatively, Phone System comes included with Office 365 E5 subscription plans.

When using Direct Routing, organizations will need to have their own session border controller (SBC) device and telco service, while Microsoft provides Phone System and the Teams software.

SBC Partner Support
Microsoft has been working SBC partners and expects to see the completion of certifications for Direct Routing when used with AudioCodes, Ribbon and ThinkTel SBC devices by the time when the Direct Routing software reaches the "general availability" commercial release phase. It's possible to start a pilot of Direct Routing with those SBC partners, Microsoft's announcement indicated.

Direct Routing provides a means of connecting to a SBC device so that organizations can use their own telco provider with Teams to support public switched telephone network (PSTN) phone calls. The alternative is to use Microsoft's Calling Plans Office 365 add-on, formerly known as "PSTN Calling," where Microsoft acts as the telco service provider.

Organizations might use Direct Routing if they don't want to switch from their PSTN contract or if Calling Plans isn't available in their country locations. Also, organizations may have a need to support analog devices, such as elevator phones, and so they might opt to use Direct Routing with Teams instead of Calling Plans in making such a move.

An outline of the possible connection scenarios using either Direct Routing or Calling Plans to enable Teams phone calls was laid out in this April Microsoft video, which featured Delanda Coleman, a senior product marketing manager at Microsoft, and Nikolay Muravlyannikov, a Skype for Business and Teams product manager. An excellent summary of their talk, with illustrations showing the possible connection options, can be found in this blog post by Martin Boam, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional and solutions architect for U.K.-based West Unified Communications.

During the Microsoft video, Muravlyannikov remarked that Microsoft's new intelligent communications lingo arose become Microsoft intends to infuse more artificial intelligence into its next-generation telephony system.

No Sign-Up Required
According to a comment by Muravlyannikov in Microsoft's announcement, there's no sign-up required to use the Direct Routing preview.

"The commands to configure are available in the PowerShell," he wrote. "The documentation is published, with links in the blog. Just read the documentation, watch the training and configure."

It's possible to spin up Direct Routing in an hour's time, according to a comment by Muravlyannikov in the video, provided that an organization has an SBC in place and all of the prerequisites are met.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.