I asked Stark what Microsoft had done to make deployment easier in Lync 2013. He cited two tools: The first is the Lync 2013 Planning Tool, a wizard that asks simple questions like how many users and sites you have. It asks if you are going to use instant messaging, conferencing, and voice capabilities, then provides a parts list of what kinds of servers you need, as well as their high-end configuration needs, external and internal firewall configuration requirements, and the site topology. It also generates an XML file of the high-level architecture that the second tool, the Topology Builder, uses to delve into the nitty-gritty, such as server names, servers, and their roles and locations.
One reason for Lync's complexity is that it must support different types of deployments and customers. Plus, customers scale differently: Some start with baby steps and deploy just the instance messaging and presence in Lync, then add conferencing. They may slowly decommission PBX systems in a gradual switchover, or they may switch an entire department or a building to Lync. As you scale your rollout, you can use the Topology Builder to help plan the details on the new equipment required by your expanded architecture.
New features in Lync will appeal to admins
One of the cool new features in Lync is the ability to provide for higher availability, an area where previous versions fell short. In those prior versions, admins concerned about site failure could make a hard backup, go to another site, and restore it should the first site go down. They could also stretch pools across data centers, but that only worked where you had a sub-30ms connection, which meant the two data centers had to be very close to each other. Lync 2013 allows the front-end pools to share to a paired pool in a distant data center using automatic failover (whose behavior the admins control).
Monitoring in Lync 2013 has also been improved, with real-time monitoring of the servers and every call or IM, with dozens of data points, including the type of device used, the network, and level of voice quality from that connection. Administrators can look across users, network subnets, buildings, and so forth to find areas experiencing audio or video quality issues. In addition, these capabilities were put into System Center so that you can perform synthetic transaction testing to simulate real-time communications activity, both before deployment and after to validate what's going on in your network and its quality end to end.
Another cool admin feature is the ability to provide a single policy in Exchange to ensure control and compliance across both Exchange and Lync. For example, if an Exchange administrator has to put a mailbox on compliance watch, Lync's instant messaging is also put on watch.
Although you may need help getting Lync up and running in your environment, I believe it's worth the effort.
This story, "How to cut through the complexity of Lync 2013," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blogand follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.