Is Microsoft Lync ready for the enterprise? It’s a question that just won’t die. Certainly it seems to be selling well, and it represents a fairly unique solution. But Lync is so different that many just don’t know what to make of it.
On one hand, Lync offers smooth integration with a Microsoft infrastructure – Windows, Active Directory, Office, Exchange, and SharePoint. It has rich APIs and a high profile developer network. On the other hand, its voice features are somewhat limited, it requires partners to complete its solution (endpoints and applications such as contact center), has a very complex architecture, and it is the only enterprise telephony solution that does not support standard SIP endpoints.
So what did Joe say? I have the entire post below (it’s long). Certainly he raises some valid points, but the tone is emotional and some of his points are pretty weak. For example, he boldly announces that “Microsoft Lync is actually a hardware-centric solution.” Yes, it is a sad fact that all premise based solutions – even virtual ones – still require hardware. It’s also true that softphones require hardware too. It’s a conspiracy I tell you.
Joe points out correctly that Lync uses multiple servers in separate roles. He lists 14 servers, but mistakenly states each requires its own separate physical server. That is simply untrue. Lync requires a minimum of 4 server roles, but all can be on a single physical server. It is these types of issues that cause his post to lose some credibility, however, many of his facts are correct.
I get his basic point though. I too have been critical of Microsoft in the past because they often imply they are unique in UC as a provider of a “software based” solution. I do consider them a provider of a “software based” solution, but I don’t think that is unique. Avaya often gets stereotyped as a hardware company, but they run on Dell or HP industry standard servers (as does Microsoft), have their phones produced by third parties (as does Microsoft), and seem mostly focused on their software experience and capabilities (as does Microsoft).
So is Joe correct? That’s for you to decide. However, while some of his points are valid, I might offer that those that live in an Avaya house should be cautious about throwing stones.
The original article is posted below courtesy of Google Cache.
Disclaimer: The postings and/or views expressed on this social media site, forum, blog or wiki are mine alone and do not necessarily represent the position or opinions of Avaya Inc. or any of its affiliates.
Doing, more importantly than knowing, what is right for the customer has seemed to be lost amidst some of the most trusted software and telecommunications vendors in the industry today. A gross injustice is being performed right in front of our very eyes by new and existing UC (Unified Communications) vendors in an effort to protect legacy technology investments, leveraging existing customer relationships based on positioning with non-UC related products and services installed in the enterprise, and by spreading false statements and contradicting past claims against their competitors by implementing services and solutions that were once mocked as unnecessary, confusing enterprise customers by misconstruing information only to force the customer to realize their mistakes post pilot or implementation phase of a Unified Communications platform.
This vague statement is directed at Microsoft and this post, being the first derogatory comment I have ever publically made against them, may come as a shock to my colleagues and friends after being such a key evangelist of the Microsoft Unified Communications vision for the past 9 must nonetheless be expressed as it is vital to the importance of this message as I continue to visit with major enterprise customers and see what is happening first-hand within enterprise accounts as they plan for the future of their communications platform architecture to support today’s UC demands and tomorrow’s future of communication and collaboration technologies.
Let me start by stating that I believed in the Microsoft Unified Communication vision and having been a 6-Time Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, Microsoft UC Global Speaker and Trainer, a 2-Time Published Author on Microsoft UC server and strategic vision by Wrox Books and Pearson/Addison-Wesley, and most importantly a Microsoft evangelist and former CEO of one of Microsoft’s leading CEBP providers, Evangelyze Communications. After realizing major enterprise limitations of the platform and the Microsoft-only vision forcing enterprise organizations to choose Microsoft or die trying provided me with a new passion, a new vision and a new goal, positioning the “Customer First”, not the vendor. In a very detailed background story of how I came to this realization and current focus, which might be in another blob, I decided it was time to make a difference and help enterprise organizations realize what they were getting into and how to assist leadership teams and executives in making the best overall decisions for the organization and the bottom line having experience as a business owner myself.
Now, as a Director of Avaya’s Unified Communications program focused on competitive technologies, my responsibility has been to assist Avaya engineers and sales representatives reach our mutual goal of advancing Unified Communications technology from a customer’s perspective and to work with enterprise organizations worldwide to believe in our roadmap and vision, trusting our consultation and advice with a “Customer First” Unified Communications design. This journey is definitely not an easy one as customers must trust in this roadmap. The key word to focus on is “trust” and the reason being is that Microsoft’s key mission in its media campaign against its former partner who they now deem as “The Dark Side” was to destroy its reputation by labeling Avaya as a “hardware provider”. Adding to that, Microsoft has equipped its massive sales force, even outside of the Unified Communications Group, with an amazing Microsoft Lync customer immersion demo experience selling customers on Microsoft’s “software-based” Unified Communications technology and vision.
Throwing “free” licensing in addition to pilot services incentives, and other giveaways, the customer feels idiotic for not moving forward with at least a trial and they have allegiance with existing corporate IT representatives and business users who have been steadfast in their Microsoft relationship on previous and other ongoing non-UC related Microsoft projects for many, many years almost acting as inside sales team members for Microsoft inside the organization. Often times, these individuals come to work for Microsoft in the field or in Redmond mind you. All the while, existing vendors such as Avaya are warning the customer of the situation they are about to embark on and urging them to trust in their roadmap and vision instead so that the customer does not reach the inevitable situation that will ensue in a Microsoft Unified Communications production deployment. This struggle is amplified by the outside influence of analysts and evangelists who have also been wined, dined, and duped into believing that the Microsoft Unified Communications platform is “Enterprise Ready” thus reporting so in key industry reports and publications. In most cases, this is accidental because even some Microsoft field and sales reps worldwide have no idea what is going on behind the scenes related to the technical infancy of the Microsoft Lync platform. What should be an innovative, forward-thinking platform is actually a re-invention of the hardware-based PBX in a software application that only when dropped into an enterprise customer production environment spotlights the deficiencies and lack of customer focus, care, and support for the future.
So what are these deficiencies you may ask? What is so revealing in this blog post and the long, drawn-out story you told us about your experience? What is the wizard behind the green curtain? More importantly, how is this information not widely known and why do Microsoft supporters including some of the leading industry analysts not know this information or if they do, why are they hiding it?
Herein lies what a magician calls “the reveal”. I’m no magician and I’m not here to bash Microsoft. My goal is to outline the truth as it was my mission and passion to build upon this technology through the power of CEBP software and only having been cut short of this dream after massive investment on my behalf, my team’s behalf, and my family and friend’s behalf.
The issues and concerns that enterprise customers must understand before engaging with Microsoft include the following factual statements:
v Microsoft Lync is actually a hardware-centric solution.
§ Hype: Microsoft loves to state that their UC platform competitive differentiation is based on a software approach and that legacy telecommunication vendors such as Avaya, Cisco, Siemens, NEC, and others lack the UC software vision.
§ Reality: Microsoft requires a multitude of hardware to deploy its Lync platform and presence of the end-user is based on the device they are on, not the actual person. First off, in order to run any version of Microsoft Lync at a server level or client level, you need a device whether it’s a physical server or a laptop/desktop PC. Lync is also deployed per use of role through either the Standard Edition or Enterprise Edition. Lync Server is broken out into separate roles to support separate functions, each requiring a separate physical server to support. These are defined as follows:
§ Lync Front-End Server Role for Enterprise Instant Messaging, Audio/Video, Web Conferencing, and Enterprise Voice.
Note: If you are an enterprise organization, you will be recommended to separate out your services meaning you will need to deploy:
1. Front-End Server(s) for Enterprise IM
2. Front-End Server(s) for Audio/Video (VoIP)
3. Front-End Server(s) for Enterprise Voice
4. Front-End Server(s) for Web Conferencing
§ Lync Audio/Video Conferencing Server Role for A/V conferencing services.
§ Lync Director Server Role for Multiple SIP Domain support or general protection from direct access to the Lync Front-End Servers.
§ Lync Back-End Server Role for data, configuration and settings.
§ Lync Mediation Server Role to enable integration of Enterprise Voice services provided by an ITSP (Internet Telephony Service Provider) via SIP Trunks or by a PBX.
§ Lync Archiving Server Role for CDR (Call Detail Records) and IM Archiving.
§ Lync Edge Server to enable Federation, Public IM Connectivity (AOL, Yahoo, Windows Live, etc.), or Remote/External Access.
§ Lync XMPP Gateway to enable Public IM Connectivity to Google, Jabber, and others not supported by the Lync Edge Server Role.
§ Reverse Proxy Server to route users to Lync environment from Lync Edge Server.
§ Lync Monitoring Server Role to monitor the Lync Server environment and provide reports and alerts for administrators.
§ Lync Group Chat Server Role for Group Chat services.
§ Exchange Server for E-Mail, Distribution Groups, and Enterprise as well as External Contacts.
§ Exchange Server Unified Messaging Server Role for Unified Messaging services (Required for Lync Enterprise Voice/Voicemail services).
§ Exchange Edge Server Role for remote/external connectivity outside the firewall.
§ Lync and Exchange Forefront Servers to provide anti-virus/anti-SPIM/SPAM services.
If you’re not worried about redundancy or fail-over, then you can deploy the Lync Standard Edition server, but you still have to deploy a Mediation Server, Edge Server, Survivable Branch Appliance, Monitoring Server, and Archiving Server to experience all the features provided for the enterprise thus loading a multi-server architecture regardless of the initial sales pitch of a simplified, low-cost UC platform solution. Otherwise, and because the Microsoft Lync Enterprise Edition server software is the only edition that supports fail-over, customers must deploy multiple Lync Front-end servers for redundancy running on separate servers so you can take the sub-bulleted list above and multiply it by two. Virtual Server implementations are not recommended if deploying Enterprise Voice or Video. To enable redundancy/fail-over, Microsoft recommends leveraging a hardware-based Load Balancers. To leverage Lync Enterprise Voice or VoIP end-user features, customers must use a Lync “Optimized Device” either through a Lync phone device or headset leveraging the Lync client application. To enable multi-party Enterprise Video or Telepresence, customers must use a hardware-based Room System solution. To enable branch or additional site access, customers are recommended to deploy the Lync Survivable Branch Appliance (SBA). To enable remote access, federation, or Public Instant Messaging Communication (PIC), customers are required to deploy not only a Lync Edge Server but also a Reverse Proxy in the DMZ. Btw, none of these hardware devices (Physical Servers, SBAs, room systems, phones, headsets, load balancers, and servers) are installed, provided or serviced by Microsoft.
v Microsoft Lync licensing is not free.
§ Hype: Microsoft often touts that customers are already licensed for Microsoft Lync server and client licenses as part of their Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA).
§ Reality: Microsoft only provides the fully licensed server and client software at no additional cost if the customer purchased the Microsoft Office Communications Server Enterprise CAL (Client Access License) or ECAL Suite (which includes SharePoint, etc.) before or on the day that Microsoft Lync was generally available to the public, which was December 1st, 2010. The customer also has to have maintained their SA (Software Assurance) by this time as well. Customers must realize what is required to deploy certain features of the Microsoft Unified Communications platform which include the following license requirements to provide specific UC features and functionality:
§ Lync Server Licenses
1. Lync Server Standard Edition = Single Server only, no High Availability or Failover.
2. Lync Server Enterprise Edition = Multi-Server Role, High Availability*, Fail-Over.
§ Lync Client Access Licenses (CALs)
1. Lync Standard CAL = Instant Messaging, Presence, and PC-to-PC Audio/Video. Allows internal conferencing only.
2. Lync Enterprise CAL = Adds Audio, Video, and Web Conferencing features for collaboration with internal and external users.
3. Lync Plus CAL = Adds Enterprise Voice features only.
§ Lync Server External Connector Licenses
1. Standard = Allows external authenticated (Has a Windows Active Directory Account) users to leverage Standard CAL features.
2. Enterprise = Allows external authenticated users to leverage Enterprise CAL features.
3. Plus = Allows external authenticated users to leverage Plus CAL features.
§ Lync Public IM Connectivity Licenses
1. Windows Live & AOL = If the customer has active Software Assurance (SA) with Microsoft, there is no additional subscription or monthly fee per user to connect to either service but customers will still have to deploy a Lync Edge Server running in the DMZ of your network (multiple for scalability) along with a Reverse Proxy Server to enable connectivity.
2. Yahoo = Monthly subscription cost per user. For pricing, visit
3. Google, Jabber, others = Requires a Lync Server XMPP Gateway solution recommended to be provided by a 3rd party device manufacturer. No license cost for the XMPP Gateway software provided by Microsoft, but definitely cost to deploy it and purchase physical device from 3rd Party.
§ Lync Back-End Server (SQL Server)
1. Most customers don’t realize that Lync uses Microsoft SQL Server for the Lync Back-End Server Role which requires a license per processor, yes, per processor, that is completely separate from Lync product licensing and recommends a highly available back-end service to support the environment which means multiple SQL Servers with a recommended minimum multi-Quad Core physical machine!
§ Exchange Server Front-End Mail Servers
1. Required for Microsoft UC Enterprise Email
§ Exchange Server Back-End Servers
1. Same situation as with Lync, requires SQL Server.
§ Exchange Unified Messaging Servers
1. Separate Exchange Server Role that provides the Voicemail capabilities enabled through the Microsoft UC platform.
§ Exchange Edge Servers
1. Required for external user access. Server(s) sit in the DMZ usually in the same location as the Lync Edge Server(s).
§ Lync and Exchange Forefront Servers
1. Recommended to maintain security/anti-virus/anti-SPAM/SPIM services for Exchange and Lync Servers.
§ Windows Server
1. Don’t forget that all of these Lync and SQL Server machines (physical or virtual) require Windows Server licenses.
§ Windows 7
1. Although Microsoft thinks that all enterprise organizations have upgraded to Windows 7, they face reality when noticing that enterprise customers don’t upgrade that quickly, especially when Operating Systems like Windows Vista scare the hell out of them.
2. Know this though; in order to benefit from the full Microsoft Lync Client customer immersion experience, enterprise end-users will need Windows 7.
Based on experience and from a fellow ex-Microsoft UC colleague who has joined Avaya as well, I highly recommend that customers engage OnX to clear the licensing mess that Microsoft has created and intended to create based on known meetings discussing the need to confuse customers with Microsoft licensing. OnX is only paid based upon the money they save the customer too! For more information, visithttp://www.onx.com/. OnX has a ton of experience saving enterprise customers millions of dollars in overpaid and unnecessary license fees.
v Microsoft only provides Instant Messaging & Presence APIs.
§ Hype: Microsoft claims to have the most strategic CEBP (Communications Enabled Business Processes) extensibility story through the Microsoft Unified Communications Managed API (UCMA API) and Microsoft Lync Client and Server SDKs (Software Development Kits), leveraging the massive and global Microsoft Solutions Developer Network (MSDN).
§ Reality: What should be Microsoft’s greatest strength placed me in the situation that started this entire story. The reality of this is that Microsoft’s UCMA API, now in its 3rd version mind you only allows developers to modify and control IM and Presence features and functions. The Microsoft UCMA API is the only way a developer can create an integrated Lync solution that enables end-users or applications to run on any device or operating system. If you want full control of all / most of the Microsoft Lync Client features and functionality, you have to use the Lync Client SDK which allows a ton of customization available through Microsoft Visual Studio along with templates to help developers on-ramp quickly, but requires the Lync Client to be running on the end-user’s desktop either in regular mode or UI (User Interface) Suppression Mode. Also, any development requires Microsoft Silverlight to be running as well. So, the reality is that yes, Microsoft provides CEBP capability, but within a Windows-centric environment requiring Lync to be running on a Windows machine as the SDKs can only be developed for the Windows OS and require Silverlight.
v Microsoft Lync does not provide High Availability.
§ Hype: Based on my experience, when the phrase “Enterprise Ready” is stated, one would assume this means that the said solution would include enterprise support for HA (High Availability), resiliency, site fail-over, and bandwidth optimization.
§ Reality: High Availability would normally entail that an enterprise deployment of Microsoft Lync, especially leveraging the Enterprise Edition of the Lync environment, would be online 99.99% of the time, even in the case of a site failure. However, this is not the case at all. Although within a Lync Enterprise Edition Pool of Front-End Servers, the servers support each other as they are sitting behind a 3rd Party Hardware Load Balancer from the perspective of local availability or basic fail-over, but with regards to actual HA and Site Fail-Over, this is non-existent in supporting the Microsoft UC full feature stack. Using Microsoft’s own diagrams, accessible viahttp://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff799213.aspx, you will clearly see that if users in one Lync Pool lose site connectivity, all IM and Presence as well as Configuration data and the Contact List/Address Book Service is lost, yes lost.
This is especially poor for Branch Office or Remote Site users completely destroying Microsoft’s HA/Resiliency strategy that they say is “Enterprise Ready”.
v Microsoft Lync does not provide an “enterprise class” UC architecture with upgrade and migration capability.
§ Hype: In concert with the previous bullet stating Microsoft’s claims to having an enterprise-class UC platform with Microsoft Lync, Microsoft is quite proud of their new Audio Conferencing Server with new Dial-in and enterprise conferencing capabilities.
§ Reality: Although several of these new upgrades are very nice including the integration with Microsoft Office PowerPoint and related presentation features and full conferencing participant control, due to Microsoft’s 2-Tier UC architecture, keeping in mind that all modalities are provided from within the Lync Front-End Server (Standard or Enterprise), not only do any Windows or Lync Product updates cause disruption of service that affect all users, if one service fails and needs to be remedied, for example audio conferencing services timing out for whatever reason, users leveraging IM, Presence, Enterprise Voice, and any CEBP applications tied to the Lync environment are affected.
What an amazing concept it would have been to develop the Lync system architecture in a 3-tier or multi-tier architecture. In addition to HA, resiliency, and fail-over, what also concerns enterprise organizations is bandwidth optimization. Also due to the same 2-tier architecture approach, Lync Front-End Servers home all Lync Client end-users within a Pool. When a user from one Lync Enterprise Edition Pool or Lync Standard Edition Server, or Branch Office site communicates with a user homed in another Pool, Server, or Branch, all media streams move across the WAN. Yes, the WAN. Instead of leveraging new technology utilizing a cascading media architecture where Media Servers communicate with one another managing bandwidth optimization as to not congest the network.
In addition to this concern, upgrading to a new Lync environment is impossible as there is no migration capability to migrate users or services from OCS 2007 R2 to the new platform similar to how there was no upgrade process from LCS 2005 to OCS 2007 and more than likely will be the same case with the next major release. While enterprise organizations with cash on hand to spare do not see this as an issue, for organizations that are cost conscious, it’s a definite concern. The only migration strategy, which is not really a strategy, is to run both systems in parallel and move users or groups of users off of one platform to another in a controlled time-based migration. With Enterprise IM services now having become business critical, this is a major concern to organizations facing downtime of services. If Microsoft continues this pattern of a “rip and replace” migration focus, enterprise organizations will be faced with downtime for voice services inclusive of inter-company and outbound callas as well as any inbound lines providing outside callers (customers and partners) with either a busy signal or flat out no ability to dial-in. Not a great enterprise class solution in my opinion.
v Lync Direct SIP integration with existing IP-PBXs requires the management of 2 separate Unified Communications environments.
§ Hype: Microsoft claims Direct SIP to be an option for enterprise organizations looking to leverage their existing IP-PBX systems and phone devices outside of recommending SmartSIP, now offered by NET, by enabling the Lync Client as the single UC user interface on the desktop leveraging enterprise voice features through the PBX environment.
§ Reality: Managing Direct SIP for enterprise organizations means a complete duplication of Unified Communications systems completely negating the TCO benefits of a UC system. The outcome, if deployed, is an administrative nightmare due to the fact that administrators must manage dual UC systems for both Microsoft and the existing PBX provider. While it may seem as a solution at the surface with weaknesses downplayed by even Microsoft field engineers onsite with customers, it’s definitely not. Because Microsoft has contradicted themselves in previous conversations stating that services like Caller Admission Control (CAC), Physical IP-Phone handset device support, and Branch Office resiliency were not important, they have now implemented all of these features using proprietary codecs and system architecture prohibiting integration with existing CAC, Phone device, and Branch Office services already existing within the customer’s enterprise and thus requiring the duplication of implementation to add Microsoft Lync to the system through Direct SIP. In every way possible, Direct SIP must be avoided to reduce administrative chaos and an investment sinkhole.
v Microsoft depends on 3rd Party Providers to provide a Unified Communications platform.
§ Hype: Microsoft provides the appearance of a full Unified Communications suite through an excellent customer immersion demonstration.
§ Reality: Unified Communications means different things to different people. In my opinion, Unified Communications comprises of a platform and set of solutions that enable communication and collaboration regardless of the location, device, or operating system. Traditionally, a UC platform would consist of Messaging (Email, Voicemail, Unified Messaging, SMS, MMS), Audio & Video communication leveraging VoIP devices, Telepresence capability, and applications, Conferencing with or without a dial-in service, Enterprise Voice provided by an ITSP (Internet Telephony Service Provider) or PBX, Mobile capabilities provided across mobile phones and tablet devices, Live Chat and Contact Center capabilities, Contextual Collaboration and Content Sharing, Social Networking and Portal integration, and most importantly to me extensibility through applications and whatever future of communication comes along. Microsoft provides the software platform that enables Enterprise IM, Email, Unified Messaging, Audio/Video PC-to-PC communication, Audio Conferencing with Dial-in, Enterprise Voice, integration with SharePoint Portal Server for somewhat of a Social Networking integration story, and a limited CEBP/extensibility solution through the UCMA API, and yes, mobile, Mac, and browser (Silverlight Only) access to the environment, but these features are not complete, they are based on proprietary Microsoft codecs, and to deploy and support additional UC solutions inclusive of Contact Center, Live Chat, E911, Branch Office support, Endpoint Phone Devices, and Enterprise Voice and Video including Telepresence, as well as even to support the environment for limited High Availability, Microsoft requires 3rd party vendors.
This dependency adds major complexity to the overall environment as well as increases initial and long-term cost of the environment. Enforcing an enterprise customer to manage all of these relationships, separate licensing, support, and even implementation services provided by 3rd party Systems Integrators (SIs) does not provide a low TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) and will never provide a ROI (Return on Investment) for the customer. In addition to the issues noted previously related to the Lync 2-Tier architecture approach, any update that occurs to the Lync environment not only causes downtime for end-users, but also provides delays with 3rd party vendors in order to ensure that their devices and services are updated as well to match the compatibility of the newly updated Lync code.
v Microsoft does not provide a mobile or tablet strategy for the enterprise.
§ Hype: Microsoft claims to provide a full Lync experience across the desktop and extended to mobile devices.
§ Reality: Mobile access does not mean a mobile experience or strategy for the enterprise or any organization leveraging the Lync environment. Providing the ability to login to a Lync service from a mobile device is a limiting feature especially when the industry has been leveraging Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) solutions for the past several years. What is interesting is that FMC is not even available with Microsoft’s own mobile operating system, Windows Phone. In addition to this, Microsoft forces users to choose devices that Microsoft approves of or are “Lync Optimized” which only includes device vendors that support Microsoft’s proprietary RTA (Real-Time Audio) and RTV (Real-Time Video) codecs. Currently there are only 3 vendors that support this at the time of this publication.
The real world end-user should have a choice of their device. In this day and age, an individual’s mobile device is more important than their desktop or tablet device. What is interesting is that I have read several blogs about Windows 8 marking the end of the PC era while Apple already declared and has proven this with the iPad, again, years ahead of Microsoft. What’s even more interesting is the recall on investments made by HP with their new TouchPad which would have been the only Microsoft answer to Apple’s iPad dominance. Unfortunately for Microsoft zealots, Microsoft continues to enter the market late with mobile and tablet capability trying to re-invent the wheel and force users to leverage a certain “Microsoft Approved or Optimized” device in order to sign-in to Microsoft applications. This monopolistic attitude does not jive with today’s end-users. The mobile device almost defines the productivity and even style of the end-user. Forcing a user to a specific device is not efficient especially when those devices do not even have the ability to detect that they are extending an Enterprise Voice Call or Enterprise IM Session as an end-user walks out of the office or away from their desk.
v Microsoft does not provide enterprise video conferencing or Telepresence.
§ Hype: Microsoft would like you to believe that the advancements in HD ad-hoc video conferencing provide an enterprise video conferencing solution.
§ Reality: As with almost every other UC feature, Microsoft depends on 3rd party vendors, namely Polycom, to provide Telepresence and Multi-Party enterprise video conferencing. In addition to requiring yet another 3rd Party Vendor, the implementation of this service is architecturally archaic having continued the requirement of on-premise Video MCUs (Multipoint Control Units) to support Room System service. To add, Microsoft requires the proprietary RTV (Real-Time Video) codec to leverage Lync video service while the rest of the industry uses standard SIP-based codecs and protocols.
Today, enterprise video conferencing providers have already implemented video solutions that do not require an on-premise MCU in the room and have focused more on cascading video architecture that provides better bandwidth to all users participating in a video conference despite any other user’s device, location, or bandwidth constrictions. Simply take a look at vendors such as BroadSoft and Vidyo who provide video conferencing services for the SMB (BroadSoft) and Medium to Enterprise (Vidyo). These providers are already way ahead of Microsoft who has now released its 3rd version of UC software with video capability and can’t even support Telepresence for the enterprise. Providers such as Avaya are taking this beyond the scale of anyone else in this market with a new release coming this year for Avaya Aura Conferencing services that not only provides a solution without the need for on-premise MCUs, but provides actual enterprise-grade cascading architecture and support for devices that end-users enjoy, like the iPad.
So the above highlights several concerns that can be discussed in even more deeper terms with actual proof points provided by existing telecommunications and UC vendors/providers as well as Microsoft themselves. What is common throughout every concern is the theme of 3rdparty dependency and Microsoft “re-inventing the wheel” from a software perspective. Instead of learning from telecommunication provider mistakes of the past, Microsoft is continuing down a narrow-minded path enforcing its customers to believe hype verses reality of the risks and concerns surrounding what is actually under the hood of a Microsoft enterprise Unified Communications platform.
Truly enterprise-focused voice and Unified Communications providers in the market today including Avaya have learned from previous mistakes and have actually launched software-based UC platforms years before Microsoft has. Through actual production scenarios and integration with enterprise voice and collaborative systems and applications, providers like Avaya are launching products that are not only innovative and provide the ultimate end-user experience, but provide actual enterprise support, not depending on 3rd party providers, enabling true professional services implementation and post-implementation support, as well as a roadmap to support future communication and collaboration features and services that are entering the market as we speak, not requiring the enterprise to “Rip & Replace” their UC platform foundation to enjoy them.
My advice for all customers is to ensure that they seek beyond the hype, beyond the demo, and beyond the pilot before embarking on a journey that will forever affect the way the organization communicates and collaborates between users and systems to avoid an EPIC FAIL that will result in high TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) and 3rd Party complexity. What should be “Top of Mind” is implementing a UC environment that existing and new users enjoy while increasing productivity. This way of thinking and development focuses on a “Customer First” design instead of enforcing conformity to the UC provider. We want end-users to continue to love what they do on a daily basis and only implement solutions that make that experience even more enjoyable and productive now and into the future.
Personally, I do not regret the decisions I have made as my goal has always been to think less of myself and what is easy for the vendor and instead place emphasis on the customer, the end-user. I am now focused in areas that will forever define the future of communications technology and am currently providing speeches at national events to help partners, providers, and customers focus on a “Customer First” approach so that we do not lose touch with what’s important when creating software, devices, and solutions that affect the most primordial event, human communication.
Reference: Microsoft UC Contradictions
Microsoft’s Original Position
Microsoft’s Current Position
IP-PBX Integration & Support
The “VoIP as You Are” campaign was launched in 2008 to encourage enterprise organizations to leverage their existing voice infrastructure as to not require a “Rip & Replace” situation.
With the 2010 Microsoft Lync launch, Microsoft requires organizations to not only “Rip & Replace” their existing voice service to implement Microsoft Lync for full UC features, but also their existing Microsoft OCS or LCS environment as they do not provide an upgrade or migration option.
Microsoft initially stated that IP Phone handsets were not needed due to the features packed into the OCS 2007 R2 Client application and did not recommend the use of solutions like “SmartSIP, now provided by NET” to enable the use of existing IP Phone handsets to be leveraged as OCS endpoint devices.
Microsoft now requires that enterprise organizations can only use IP Phones “Optimized” by Microsoft which at the moment only includes 3 providers due to the restriction of using proprietary Microsoft codecs for voice services leveraging RTA (Real-Time Audio) not standard SIP.
To avoid any loss of enterprise business knowing that enterprise organizations are not going to simply throw away their existing IP Phones or PBX systems, Microsoft recommended and still recommends Direct SIP integration between legacy or new IP-PBX systems.
Direct SIP causes organizations to manage duplicate Unified Communications systems including dual CAC, End-user DIDs/Phone Numbers, Monitoring, Fail-over, and end-point voice clients (Lync client and phone device) dramatically increasing TCO and management complexity.
Open Interoperability & Certification
Microsoft claims to only support certified systems and devices for integration through Direct SIP, ITSP SIP Trunks, and Gateways as well as end-point devices such as IP-Phone Handsets and Headsets.
|The Microsoft OIP (Open Interoperability Program –http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/lync/gg131938) and Lync “Optimized Device” program is monitored and managed by Microsoft. Many previous vendors that were certified or supported on previous platforms have now been removed due to political or competitive reasons having nothing to do with actual integration support or capability. In most cases, Microsoft passes support of deployment or production issues over to the 3rdparty vendor anyway.
Enterprise Ready UC
Microsoft has claimed that enterprise telecommunication providers have bombarded enterprise customers with an abundance of unnecessary services such as CAC (Caller Admission Control), Enterprise Voice Gateways and Routers for Fail-over, integration, and redundancy support, as well as Survivable Branch Appliances for Branch Office use.
Microsoft has now implemented these services as required elements into the Microsoft Lync Server 2010 platform using proprietary codecs (RTV, RTA, etc.) and if an enterprise organization wants to leverage their existing voice services and use the Microsoft-recommended Direct SIP “solution”, they must manage dual environments dramatically increasing TCO and management / administrative complexity.
Lync as a Software-centric Platform
Microsoft has continuously stated that Lync is a software-centric solution and that all existing IP-PBX vendors are focused only on hardware.
Microsoft is a software manufacturer, but requires that all of their software supporting Lync must run on 3rd Party Hardware and Devices to enable service. Microsoft also depends on 3rd party providers for all UC capabilities as discussed in this article. After reviewing a complete enterprise deployment of a Microsoft UC platform, enterprise organizations are faced with deploying more hardware and dealing with multiple 3rdparty vendors to support devices and systems to support a Microsoft UC environment with absolutely no upgrade or migration strategy.
Microsoft claims that the Microsoft UC platform is focused on remote and mobile workers as a competitive advantage over existing telecommunication vendors.
Microsoft does not provide mobile solutions for their UC platform even through Windows Phone as the only service provided is access from the device, not Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) which has been around for years. Remote Worker capability requires multiple new servers placed in an enterprise organization’s DMZ to support new ports and protocols as Microsoft does not use standards-based SIP protocol with a minimum of 3 servers to support remote access, security, and reverse proxy. This does not even include fail-over/backup concern or implementation.
UC Strategy and Roadmap
Microsoft continues to claim an evolution of UC features and capabilities within their own platforms beginning with LCS to today’s Lync platform.
As with LCS, OCS, and Lync, enterprise organizations are forced to utilize 3rd party vendors to complete the Microsoft UC platform experience without any support for future services or technology trends such as integration with social networking, Telepresence and multi-party HD video conferencing, etc. Even with an acquisition of new software providers, Microsoft will force enterprise organizations to continue to completely “Rip & Replace” their Microsoft UC environments to support future releases as they have with all previous releases.