Microsoft touts next-generation VOIP as its unified-communications secret sauce

Microsoft touts next-generation VOIP as its unified-communications secret sauce

Summary: Microsoft launched the latest version of its unified-communications server, now known as Lync Server, on November 17. The Lync Server and client aren't available for purchase until December 1, but a 180-day trial version is available to those interested in kicking the tires starting today.

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Microsoft launched the latest version of its unified-communications server, now known as Lync Server, on November 17.

(The Lync Server and client aren't available for purchase until December 1, but a 180-day trial version is available to those interested in kicking the tires starting today.)

Lync is the successor to Microsoft's Office Communications Server product. It provides corporate instant-messaging, audio/video conferencing and voice-over-IP telephony all in a single product. It integrates with Exchange Server and SharePoint Server. The Microsoft-hosted version of Lync, Lync Online, is due out next year, simultaneous with the delivery of Office 365, the successor to Microsoft's hosted Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

One of the biggest selling points of Lync is its ability to either supplement or replace traditional PBX systems. Microsoft itself has implemented Lync inside most of Microsoft's offices and has replaced many of the company's PBXes and conferencing systems, saving the company more than $200 million annually, Redmond officials said.

The fact that Lync can replace PBXes isn't new to Lync; Microsoft also said the same of Office Communications Server. But Microsoft officials are saying that the Lync release is the first allowing Microsoft to deliver true "enterprise voice" capabilities to customers.

Enterprise voice, by Microsoft's definition, is "the software-based Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) component of Office Communications Server 2007 R2 (and Lync)... (that) integrates voice communications with e-mail, calendaring, instant messaging, and conferencing to provide a unified experience for users and unified management for administrators."

Lync adds some new enterprise voice functionality that was missing from OCS 2007 and OCS 2007 R2. Specifically, voice features like the ability to manage bandwith utilization and increase quality with Call Admission Control; QoS markings, and a new enhanced 911 feature are all part of the latest release of Microsoft's unified communications offering.

One Microsoft partner, Prometheus Networks (which, by the way, is my hosting provider), has been on the enterprise voice bandwagon for the past couple of years.

"Enterprise voice is the only truly unified communications platform on the market today," said Prometheus Chief Technoloogy Officer Matthew Freestone. "By providing seamless integration between all your productivity applications (such as Outlook, Office, Sharepoint, CRM and more) and the old-school telephony world -- while not being limited by either -- it truly enables users to communicate with fourth-generation capabilities in a very intuitive way."

Freestone noted that Prometheus "saw the vision very early for what enterprise voice could be, and we’ve been hard at work providing a 100% fully-hosted version (of OCS) delivered to the small business without contracts to allow them the same power and capabilities of any Fortune 500. Microsoft’s platforms have allowed us to do that. Now with Lync, Enterprise Voice truly is the death of the PBX and brings us into a 4th generation world of simple yet powerful unified communications."

Freestone was upbeat about another new Lync capability in the pipeline. Microsoft announced at the launch today that the company is going to bring Lync support to Windows Phone and the iPhone in 2011. He said many of Prometheus' customers have been asking for iPhone support for hosted OCS.

Verizon is one of a number of partners supporting Lync. Verizon Business announced today that it will be offering SMB customers Microsoft's BPOS (with Communications Online supplanted by Lync Online next year). Verizon Business also said it will be providing new consulting services around Lync 2010. Logitec released new business HD webcams and headsets optimized for Microsoft Lync 2010, along with new enterprise video conferencing products from its LifeSize division.

Topics: Networking, Collaboration, Microsoft, Telcos, Unified Comms

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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15 comments
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  • RE: Microsoft touts next-generation VOIP as its unified-communications secret sauce

    Anyone know if the RoundTable video camera, now Polycom CX5000, will still work correctly with Lync?
    GollyJer
    • RE: Microsoft touts next-generation VOIP as its unified-communications secret sauce

      @GollyJer Answer is Yes. CX5000 is Lync certified.
      mike.n.parmar@...
      • RE: Microsoft touts next-generation VOIP as its unified-communications secret sauce

        @mike.n.parmar@... Is there an updated version of Live Meeting coming with Lync? The one problem I have getting current employees to use the CX5000's is that Live Meeting doesn't have the most intuitive interface. Is there a demo anywhere of what the new version will be like?
        GollyJer
  • RE: Microsoft touts next-generation VOIP as its unified-communications secret sauce

    Logitech also needs to provide with a microphone attachable to your shirt -- it's tough and tiring in RoundTable conferences for remote users to hear.
    Mantvis
  • RE: Microsoft touts next-generation VOIP as its unified-communications secret sauce

    Oh really? NOT!
    james347
  • RE: Microsoft touts next-generation VOIP as its unified-communications secret sauce

    So how does this compare with Asterisk 1.8? Asterisk 1.8 features calendaring integration and support for XMPP/Jabber. Oh, and I also setup so-called "Unified Messaging" by sending voicemail messages via SMTP via Comcast's SMTP relay. :)

    But the only thing that I have to ask myself is how to add a new user to jabberd2 in Ubuntu 10.04 since I want to setup my own private server and not use GoogleTalk account for notification of incoming call. Plus, I'm gonna need to figure out how I am going to connect to Hosted Exchange calendaring server using Asterisk (I have Sherweb as my Hosted Exchange provider). Maybe it'd be cool if someone, like from the Division of Blind services, calls me and dials a 2 to create an appointment in my calendar with a recorded voice message. If it's not possible, the only thing that's very useful is if I'm setting up my event that I'll be in class at a specific time, Asterisk can direct the call to voicemail so that I won't be disturbed. Of course, I could deregister my remote phone from Asterisk before I head over to class. :)
    Grayson Peddie
  • Lync support for Windows Phone will make for good enterprise adoption

    There was a disconnect between mobile workers and enterprise voice service - until now. This is good news.

    The next missing feature is supporting Lync VoIP-to-POTS (and the reverse), ala SkypeIn and SkypeOut on a hosted option, so SMB's can use a service like Office 365 and ditch their legacy phone system altogether. This is what Response Point tried to be, but the hardware was too costly for SMB's. Ease of setup and operation was brilliant though, but a lot of SMB's were looking for unified communications the way that OCS and Communicator worked together. Response Point didn't have the deep Exchange, IM, and presence-awareness integration that OCS had.
    Joe_Raby
  • RE: Microsoft touts next-generation VOIP as its unified-communications secret sauce

    What I'd really like to know is if Lync Online will have enterprise voice as an option and if so what kind of equipment / $$$ will be involved. Will it be affordable/feasible for small businesses that don't want to spend thousands of dollars buying/supporting the latest on-premises Cisco/Broadcom/etc. VoIP PBX's. We currently have a hosted voip pbx, and it would be really cool if Microsoft could replace them or work with hosted PBX providers, so that Lync Online could truly replace our phone system. Does anyone know what microsoft's plans are here?
    astegmaier
    • RE: Microsoft touts next-generation VOIP as its unified-communications secret sauce

      @astegmaier
      My understanding is that Lync Online will not support Enterprise Voice, but pc to pc calling. My answer may seem biased though since I am the only Microsoft hoster that actually does run hosted Enterprise Voice for SMB, but last I heard that was the case.

      To answer your question with out product offering it is very cheap. The only equipment involved is the handsets (which we sell for $150, and they aren't even a requirement per se) and that's it. No VPN, no QoS, no hardware on site at all. No contracts, etc, it's just $50 per user per month that includes everything. Full Enterprise Voice with Communicator, full MS Exchange with Outlook, Sharepoint, etc, and we're already working on upgrading from R2 to Lync.

      http://gopronetworks.com
      mefree
  • RE: Microsoft touts next-generation VOIP as its unified-communications secret sauce

    Have Microsoft indicated if they are going to re-write the Lync Web App in HTML5 at some point or will it stay on Silverlight?
    spc1972
    • RE: Microsoft touts next-generation VOIP as its unified-communications secret sauce

      @spc1972 - Does it matter to you if they do or don't?
      bitcrazed
      • RE: Microsoft touts next-generation VOIP as its unified-communications secret sauce

        @bitcrazed I think you missed the sarcasm in the post. It was meant to highlight yet again that Silverlight is not dead and has a very prominent role to play both now and in the future.
        spc1972
  • RE: Microsoft touts next-generation VOIP as its unified-communications secret sauce

    we started with the 180 day free trial but we've already contacted a <a href='http://www.suddencommunications.ca/products/microsoft-lync/'>Microsoft Lync Provider</a> about fully converting over to this. Our office has been pretty pleased so far with the results. don't know what anyone else's experience has been but there's a very positive vibe around Lync in our office.
    bdonald221
    • RE: Microsoft touts next-generation VOIP as its unified-communications secret sauce

      @bdonald221 Are you guys using it with internal extensions or direct dial numbers? What SIP provider are you using? I'd love to hear more about the core phone functionality. Thanks!
      GollyJer
  • RE: Microsoft touts next-generation VOIP as its unified-communications secret sauce

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