Where is Skype for Business Server vNext?
Since announcing plans in 2020 for a new Skype for Business Server release Microsoft officials have said very little about its whereabouts. While Microsoft's push to get all Skype for Business Server users onto Teams has been the priority, the company still has not closed the door, at least officially, on another new on-premises Skype for Business Server release. In fact, Microsoft officials went public this week with a recruitment campaign for new customers to join the Skype for Business Server Technology Adoption Program (TAP).
Does that mean the promised Skype for Business Server vNext is imminent? It's hard to get a clear statement from Microsoft about what's going on, but best I can tell, the answer is no.
In 2020, Microsoft announced new on-premises versions of Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, Skype for Business Server and Project Server would be available in the second half of 2021. The company delivered new SharePoint and Project Server releases during that timeframe. In 2022, Microsoft officials went public with what was happening with the promised Exchange Server vNext. Officials said due to ongoing security issues, the company had changed plans, with officials saying they expected to deliver Exchange vNext in 2025. The new guidance for on-premises Exchange customers was to move to Exchange Server 2019 in the interim.
When I asked Microsoft for an update on Skype for Business Server at the end of last year, a spokesperson said: "Microsoft has not promised any future release for SfB server. The plan is to sustain the product by addressing major security issues. "
Not so fast, company spokesperson. As Microsoft's own blog post from 2020 noted, the company actually did promise a new Skype for Business Server release in the second half of 2021. Like the newest SharePoint Server release, known as SharePoint Server Subscription Edition, the coming Skype for Business Server would be available only with the purchase of a subscription license officials said in the initial announcement.
In August 2022, Microsoft posted again about the future of Skype for Business support but didn't provide much of an update, other than adding new vaguely worded verbiage about vNext being a subscription added to some (new? existing? who knows?) on-premises version of Skype for Business server. From that post:
"At Ignite 2020, we announced plans for a version-less subscription for an on-premises solution we have been calling “vNext”. We continue to evaluate customer needs for this opportunity and remain committed to supporting Skype for Business Server beyond October 14, 2025, but do not have additional details to share currently. Customers who wish to remain on-premises should plan to upgrade to Skype for Business Server 2019 as this version provides the furthest window for Mainstream Service, the smoothest upgrade to the “vNext” and the easiest path to migrate users to Teams in the future."
The takeaway? "Skype for Business Server 2019 may be the last version of Skype for Business Server," said Directions on Microsoft analyst Jim Gaynor in his recent roadmap entry on Skype for Business Server. Gaynor also noted that Microsoft has not provided any test builds or further information about the promised vNext Skype for Business Server product.
Gaynor's guidance for customers:
"Customers who intend to remain on Skype for Business Server for regulatory or compliance purposes, or for technical reasons such as integration with on-premises phone systems, should make plans to adopt Skype for Business Server 2019 as that version is most likely to receive security updates beyond Oct. 2025 and includes features intended to ease an eventual migration to Teams."
So what about the expansion of the Skype for Business Server TAP program? Gaynor said he believes these TAP customers could help with testing of update rollups and maybe any additional feature tweaks, such as adding Windows Server 2022 support to Skype for Business 2019.