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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Lync Server also includes the following new voice capabilities:

  • Branch office resiliency and data center resiliency: If you are to trust your voice calls to a Lync environment, you have to believe there is some resiliency in play. New options provide greater branch office and data center resiliency by letting you look at failures of the WAN link for the branch office, or the loss of an entire data center, so that core voice features are still available to users. The key to this resiliency will be devices called survivable branch appliances that will be backup registrars (ready to be the primary) for Lync clients in the event there is a failure. The appliance will route calls through a local gateway to the public phone network if the WAN goes down.
  • CAC (Call Admission Control): This has been the focus of quite a bit of attention for Office Communication Server admins because it lets you ensure there is enough bandwidth before establishing the call. CAC allows administrators to control the number of calls that occur simultaneously based upon the bandwidth available. There are some incredibly powerful policies that admins can take advantage of by having audio and video sent over different routes if necessary, as well as reroute calls to the Internet or over the public phone network if the WAN link bandwidth is not sufficient.
  • Call park: A feature for receptionists to place calls on hold where the intended person called can retrieve the call.
  • E.911 (Enhanced 911): This is a required VoIP feature for handling emergency calls that the FCC has pushed providers to offer.
  • Common-area phones: These are phones you see in lobbies, conference rooms, hot-desk situations, and so forth -- phones that aren't assigned to a specific user. Admins can deploy these special phones and configure them to meet certain standards (for example, you might not want to allow long-distance calls on the common-area phone).
  • Media bypass: This allows the Mediation Server role to be bypassed, which ultimately allows for the Mediation Server role to be installed on the front end, reducing the number of servers needed for a Lync deployment.
  • Conferencing and real-time collaboration: Live Meeting is no longer needed as conferencing is integrated into Lync 2010. The applications have been improved, including the Office Web App-based conference experience.
  • SharePoint integration: This allows users to perform keyword or skill-based searches from Lync clients. In addition, recorded meetings can be saved directly to a SharePoint asset library.

There is more to talk about here, so stay tuned for a review of the clients that work with Lync Server 2010.

And I have to say that renaming Office Communication Server to the snazzier Lync Server was a good idea -- the change might get admins to take another look at this product and see if it fits in their environment of ever-aging PBXs. But more important, Lync Server is about needed enhancements.

This article, "Microsoft Lync 2010: Finally, a communications server worth the effort," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in networking and Windows at InfoWorld.com.

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