Lync: Great Potential, but Not an Easy Implementation

Carl Weinschenk

The full promise of unified communications is enormous: The ability to connect to any number of people seamlessly — for instance, from within applications that currently are being used — via any number of communications channels, such as voice, text or IM and from any device is compelling.

As usual, something that seems so easy is monstrously complex to put into effect. A great example of this can be seen in this eWeek piece in which a system integrator discusses the difficulties of deploying Microsoft’s Lync platform. (A refresher on Lync is available in a Microsoft video at YouTube.)

The essence of the piece is that Lync is a challenge in the tricky area of integrating the internal corporate network to the public telecommunications networks outside. The main voice in the story is an executive from West IP Communications, which offers to handle that issue as well as help in pushing corporate use beyond the rudiments. In other words, the difficulties of implementing Lync has sapped momentum and led to organizations using only a fraction of Lync’s potential. Writes Robert Mullins:

Many Lync deployments are “stuck in the pilot phase” with deployments of only instant messaging (IM), presence and some audio conferencing, said Jeff Wellemeyer, West IP Communications’ executive vice president.  Left unexplored are the features of Lync that use the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and IP networks, such as the Internet, Wellemeyer said.

The implication in the story is that Microsoft works in this way: It introduces core technology and encourages the creation of third-party ecosystems to add features and drive deployments. The technology certainly is as complex with other vendors, though the business and operational models differ in how the challenges are confronted.

Obviously, anything that Microsoft does — especially in the enterprise — is important to watch. Computer Reseller News reports that the next version of the platform will feature integration with Skype, the VoIP service that Microsoft acquired a year ago. The story says that Redmond also will introduce an app that integrates Lync with Windows 8 and Windows RT. The app, which will be available in the Windows Store, will “enable customers to unify voice and video calls, Lync Meetings and other Lync functions using their Windows devices,” according to the story.

Last month, InfoWorld’s J. Peter Bruzzese outlined the changes to Lync 2013. He first highlighted some changes to the internal plumbing (he actually refers to it as topology) of the platform. Feature changes, he wrote, include persistent chat; a Lync Web app; additions to role-based access control (RBAC); changes to the disaster recovery/high-availability functions and new conferencing features. A thumbnail description of each of the changes is included in the story.

Unified communications in general and Lync in particular are potentially business-altering platforms. They are complicated, however. Smart organizations don’t shy away from the complexity. Instead, they recognize that the complexity will arrive before the benefits — and plan accordingly.



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