Microsoft Lync 2010: Finally, a communications server worth the effort

Touted as a PBX replacement, the successor to Office Communications Server adds capabilities and is easier to deploy

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Deploying Office Communications Server was always a huge pain, requiring a tremendous amount of education for IT admins already struggling to learn about SharePoint collaboration, unified messaging, and BI tools in the past 10 years. Lync Server is unfortunately just as complex as Office Communication Server, but the new Lync Server 2010 planning tool takes some of the stress out of the deployment. At first, it looks like the Office Communications Server planning tool, but as you get into it you'll see the many new features, such as improved Visio site topology drawings, support for more topologies for Enterprise Voice and dial-in conferencing, and firewall and IP addressing views.

One of the best aspects of the Lync Server 2010 planning tool is its ability to let you design your deployment, then export that design to a configuration file you can use to automate the deployment of the Lync Server.

What's better in Lync Server 2010
There are several changes in the overall architecture of Lync Server that differentiates it from its predecessors:

  • Central management store: A centralized configuration database that saves configuration data for the deployment. This master configuration database replicates configuration information to all servers in the deployment. (Previously, the data was held in both a database and in Active Directory.)
  • New management control panel: Based on Silverlight and built from PowerShell, this new interface replaces the MMC version and allows administration through a Silverlight-supported browser so that an administrator can log on to the control panel from any compatible computer.
  • PowerShell support: Lync Server has some configuration options not available through the control panel; you access these options through the Lync Server PowerShell interface, which replaces WMI configuration.

In addition to some of these bigger changes to the management side to the server, there are improvements to the monitoring features as well. For example, Microsoft plans to release a better management pack for System Center Operations Manager that will more accurately issue alerts, reducing false positives. Microsoft also plans PowerShell-based synthetic transactions, which are basically simulation tests you can run through cmdlets to test your system. There is a new dashboard report for administrators to see at-a-glance information regarding the health and usage of the server.

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