[This is pre-release documentation and subject to change in future releases. This topic's current status is: Milestone-Ready]

Topic Last Modified: 2010-07-18

While planning a unified communications deployment may seem intimidating, Microsoft Communications Server 2010 provides two valuable tools to help you:

Communications Server Planning Tool

The Planning Tool takes your answers to its questions and generates a topology based on Communications Server guidelines and best practices. It also provides several views of a deployment based on your answers. It shows both a global view of all your sites (including both central sites and branch sites), and detailed views showing the servers and other components at each site.

Running the Planning Tool does not commit you to any specific deployment or initiate any processes. In fact, running the Planning Tool even before you have a firm plan in mind can be a good way of seeing the kinds of questions you need to think about in your planning process.

You can run the Planning Tool multiple times, answering questions differently, and compare the outcomes. If you have a design you are mostly satisfied with but need to make changes to, you can return to the Planning Tool, load the design, and make the changes. Completing the Planning Tool once takes about 15 minutes.

Once you are completely satisfied, you can use the Export to Topology Builder option to export your planned topology to an XML file that you can then input to Topology Builder.

The Planning Tool is only for your initial topology design. Once you export the topology to Topology Builder and begin working with it there, you can no longer use the Planning Tool to modify your topology.

Communications Server Topology Builder

Topology Builder takes the XML file provided by the Planning Tool, and displays the topology. You can then use Topology Builder to make final adjustments such as specifying IP addresses and fully qualified domain names (FQDN). After you are satisfied, you have Topology Builder validate the topology, and then, if it passes, you can publish the topology. Publishing the topology puts it into the Central Management database (which is created if it does not already exist). Then, when you go to install Communications Server on each server in your deployment, the server reads the topology from the Central Management database and installs itself to fit into its role in your deployment.

Alternatively, if you are very familiar with Communications Server and need less prescriptive guidance, you can skip the Planning Tool and use the wizards in topology builder for the initial design of your deployment, as well as using Topology Builder for the validation and publishing steps.

Using Topology Builder to plan and publish a topology is a required step; you cannot bypass Topology Builder and install Communications Server individually on the servers in your deployment. Each server must read the topology from a validated, published topology in the Central Management database.

High-Level Planning Process

We recommend the following general process for using both the documentation and the Planning Tool to plan your Communications Server deployment

  1. Run the Planning Tool to get a sense of the kind of questions you need to think about as you begin the planning process.

  2. Read New Server Features to familiarize yourself with the new features and requirements in Communications Server 2010.

  3. Read the other parts of this section: Topology Basics You Must Know Before Planning and Initial Planning Decisions.

  4. Now that you are more familiar with Communications Server features and the kinds of questions that must be answered, run the Planning Tool again and view the resulting topology and its details.

  5. If there are particular workloads or features you are interested in or need to learn about, read the appropriate sections of Planning for Communications Server 2010 (Beta Refresh).

  6. Re-run the Planning Tool. You can start with the deployment you created in step 3 and modify the results, or start over from the beginning.

    If needed, re-run it again until you are satisfied with the output.

  7. When you have finalized the topology plan, use the export feature of the Planning Tool to create an XML file that you can use with Topology Builder. Load that XML into Topology Builder and add final details such as IP addresses.

  8. Before you begin deployment, read Preparing Your Environment and Determining Your Infrastructure Requirements to familiarize yourself with the prerequisites and necessary infrastructure for Communications Server. Additionally, be sure you have read all the sections of Planning for Communications Server 2010 (Beta Refresh) that apply to the workloads and features that you plan to deploy.

Migrating from Previous Versions

If you are migrating to Communications Server from a previous version, see the Migration documentation for specific instructions for your migration and deployment.