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Microsoft Floats Uncertain Plans for Skype for Business Server 'VNext'

Microsoft announced on Monday that it had no details to share about Skype for Business Server "vNext," which is a "subscription-only" version of the product designed for customer premises installations.

The announcement hinted that Microsoft is currently assessing customer demand for the subscription-only server product. Organizations using current Skype for Business Server products should plan to migrate to Skype for Business Server 2019 to be optimally positioned for a vNext upgrade, the announcement suggested.

Here's Microsoft's statement to that effect:

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 statement that Microsoft is "committed to supporting Skype for Business Server beyond October 14, 2025" is a little odd because the most current product, Skype for Business Server 2019, will fall out of support on that same date, according to this Microsoft lifecycle support page. Presumably, Microsoft's statement is just obliquely confirming that a VNext product will actually be released.

Microsoft had truncated the extended support time of Skype for Business Server 2019 by about two years. It will reach its end-of-support product milestone at the same time as Skype for Business Server 2015 -- that is on Oct. 14, 2025.

It's unclear why Microsoft issued such an announcement, although a VNext subscription-only Skype for Business Server product has been expected for arrival sometime this year. Possibly, a VNext subscription-only Skype for Business Server product will slip its presumed 2022 delivery milestone.

Such a schedule slip was already announced for the still-to-come vNext subscription-only Exchange Server product. The vNext Exchange Server product is now expected to arrive sometime in 2025, Microsoft announced back in June.

Other server products, such as SharePoint Server and Project Server, have already transitioned over to Microsoft's subscription-only VNext model. With this model, organizations run the server software on their infrastructures, but pay Microsoft monthly, per user, for the privileges of doing so. Microsoft had announced this general vNext shift for its application server products back in 2020.

The VNext licensing, at least for SharePoint Server, requires also paying for server licensing and Client Access Licensing. The subscriptions get maintained by renewing Software Assurance (also required) each year, per this Microsoft description.

About the Author

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

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