This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Microsoft Ignite 2018 conference coverage

Partner gateways connect endpoints to Microsoft Teams video conferencing

Businesses can now use third-party endpoints for Microsoft Teams video conferencing through cloud services from BlueJeans, Pexip and Polycom.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Microsoft has taken the first step toward making Microsoft Teams video conferencing equal to Skype for Business in third-party interoperability.

The company introduced three vendors -- BlueJeans, Pexip and Polycom -- that have developed gateways between standards-based video endpoints and the Teams. The gateways make it possible for meeting room devices from vendors like Cisco and Logitech to participate in meetings through the Teams client.

The services work with Session Initiation Protocol and H.323 endpoints. Beyond letting those devices join a meeting in the Teams client, the offerings connect the devices to Microsoft Exchange, so they become a bookable resource when scheduling meetings. Microsoft announced the news at its Ignite conference last week.

But some customers are frustrated, because the only way to connect third-party video endpoints to Teams -- at least for now -- is by working with one of Microsoft's three partners.

"It's not a really good, open integration," said Dominik Poetzsch, lead engineer for unified communications and global video conferencing at Linde AG, a multinational German chemical company that uses 600 Cisco video endpoints. "Here, there are only three products. It's very, very closed."

Polycom RealConnect Service is available today, while Pexip Infinity for Microsoft Teams will launch Oct. 19, and BlueJeans Gateway for Microsoft Teams will start on Oct. 31. The Microsoft Teams video conferencing gateways are hosted in the Microsoft Azure cloud.

Also at Ignite, Microsoft expanded the ecosystem of devices that natively connect to Teams. Microsoft's partners for meeting room systems now include Crestron, Yealink, HP Inc. and Logitech.

More endpoint interoperability needed for Microsoft Teams video conferencing

Many Microsoft customers have significant investments in third-party video systems. Therefore, the interoperability services unveiled last week are must-have offerings if Microsoft wants to help those businesses switch from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams. 

While last week's announcement was a positive and necessary advancement, the video interoperability services for Teams are still immature, said Rob Arnold, analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

It will take time for there to be as many ways to connect endpoints to Teams as there are ways to connect endpoints to Skype for Business, Arnold said. Eventually, Microsoft will partner with more vendors, while other vendors will start offering interoperability services for Teams on their own.

"These things take time. Microsoft is still building it out," Arnold said. "Other companies in the Microsoft ecosystem have had more time with [Skype for Business] to work on their integrations. So, they are more robust, and there are more of them."

Microsoft announced last year that Teams would replace Skype for Business Online as the unified communications and collaboration tool within Office 365. The vendor is also urging on-premises Skype for Business customers to adopt the new platform, although it acknowledged those transitions may take years.

Earlier this month, Microsoft blocked cloud Skype sign-ups for new customers with fewer than 500 employees. It has also begun proactively reaching out to existing Office 365 customers to initiate automatic upgrades -- unless they opt out -- from Skype to Teams.

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