Using Skype for Business in a VDI environment
This topic discusses deployment procedures for using Skype for Business while connecting to a remote virtual desktop. Please note that this solution is not optimal and it is recommended to run Skype for Business on a local PC instead of a virtual desktop. For a list of known limitations, click here.
A Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environment is used in some organizations where security and compliance issues are especially sensitive. Their users do their work on a virtual desktop with all their desktop applications and files using Remote Desktop Services or a similar remote connection. Using Skype for Business with full audio and video on a connection like that requires heavy loads of audio and video processing on the client homed on a virtual desktop. Additional VDI plug-in software is available that offloads that processing to the end user’s local machine, and reduces the load on the virtual desktop.
There are three solutions available for the VDI plug-in component, offered by Microsoft, Citrix, or VMWare. For new deployments, Microsoft recommends using either the Citrix HDX RealTime Optimization Pack solution or the VMWare Horizon Virtualization Pack. The original Lync VDI Plug-in is still supported for the remainder of its lifecycle.
Once you've determined one of these options is a viable solution for your user(s), contact support or your implementation project manager and ask that they enable the "VDI Support" client policy for your user(s).
Note: Support is not provided for installing or setting up any of the plug-in solutions provided below. Support will only be provided for enabling the Skype for Business user(s) with the necessary policies on the server.
The Lync VDI plug-in
The Lync VDI plug-in was developed for Lync 2013 and is compatible with either the Lync 2013 or Skype for Business 2015 client running on a virtual desktop. It's a stand-alone application that installs on the local computer and allows the use of local audio and video devices with a client on a virtual desktop. The plug-in does not require a Skype for Business client to be installed on the local computer or thin client, which must run Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows Server 2008 operating systems. (Thin client devices using these operating systems and supported by Microsoft include: Dell Wyse Z90D7, Dell Wyse R90L7, Dell Wyse X90m7, HP t610 and HP t5740e.) This plug-in is still supported, but no future updates are planned. For Citrix-based virtual environments, the Citrix RealTime Optimization Pack is recommended.
Full list of prerequisites for this plug-in are found here
With the Microsoft Lync VDI plug-in solution, the user has to be on a Windows computer or thin client and have Microsoft's Lync VDI plugin installed to handle audio/video streams from the client on the virtual desktop. A user will:
- Connect an audio/video device (like a headset or camera) to a local computer.
- Connect to a remote virtual desktop with a Lync 2013 or Skype for Business 2015 client.
- Enter credentials for Skype for Business on the virtual desktop.
- Re-enter user credentials to establish a connection with the Lync VDI plug-in on the local Windows computer or thin client.
After a connection is established, the user is ready to make and receive audio and video calls. Traffic on the network and the load on the virtual desktop are minimized, since the local computer handles the audio/video processing.
Microsoft's Lync VDI plug-in is only supported on certain Windows operating systems and only supports Lync 2013 or Skype for Business 2015 clients. See Supported virtualization technologies and known limitations for more details on supported technologies and limitations.
The Microsoft VDI plugin is available at Microsoft Lync VDI 2013 plugin (32 bit) or Microsoft Lync VDI 2013 plugin (64 bit). This plugin is supported with the Skype for Business 2015 client, despite the name.
Citrix HDX RealTime Optimization Pack
The Citrix RealTime Optimization Pack builds on the Lync VDI plug-in and works with Lync 2013 or Skype for Business 2016 clients on a virtual desktop. It was co-developed by Citrix and Microsoft to improve upon the original VDI Plug-in. It can be installed on clients with Windows and non-Windows operating systems (including Windows 10, Mac and Linux). It consists of two components: the RealTime Connector (which is installed on the virtual desktop) and the RealTime Media Engine (which is installed on the end user’s local machine). These two components allow the user’s local computer to use the Skype for Business client running on the virtual desktop with the A/V processing moved to the local computer. For Citrix-based virtual desktop environments, the Citrix RealTime Optimization Pack is recommended, and further support is planned.
Citrix's VDI environment plugin (a feature of XenApp and XenDesktop) is compatible with Lync 2013 and Skype for Business 2015 and 2016 (Full clients using any click to run installer, or MSI installers released after January 2017 PU) clients installed on a virtual desktop. Its overall functioning is based on the Microsoft Lync VDI plug-in, but works on a wider variety of client operating systems, including Windows 10, Macintosh, and Linux.
Review the following links for more information:
VMWare Horizon Virtualization Pack
The VMWare Horizon Virtualization Pack for Skype for Business, developed in collaboration with VMWare, allows you to deliver Skype for Business in a virtual desktop while delivering a great user experience. The solution works by leveraging a media engine at the client to create an optimized solution, with the client endpoint providing media offload capabilities for audio and video calls. This solution that can deliver audio and video either directly between endpoints for one-on-one collaboration, or offload it to a central Multipoint Control Unit (MCU) for multiparty conference calls or meetings.
VMWare's VDI environment solution is compatible with Skype for Business 2015 and 2016 Full clients installed on a virtual desktop. Its overall functioning is based on the Microsoft Lync VDI plug-in, but works on a wider variety of client operating systems, including Windows 10, Macintosh, and Linux.
A full discussion of features and supported technologies can be found on the VMWare website at the following links:
Known Feature Limitations
The following are known limitations when you use the Skype for Business 2015 client in a VDI environment:
There is limited support for Call Delegation and Response Group Agent Anonymization features.
There is no support for the following features:
Integrated Audio Device and Video Device tuning pages.
Recording of conversations.
Joining meetings anonymously (that is, joining Skype for Business meetings hosted by an organization that does not federate with your organization).
Using the Lync VDI plug-in along with a Lync Phone Edition device or BTOE enabled device.
Call continuity in case of a network outage.
Customized ringtones and music-on-hold features.