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Lync not enterprise-ready, claims Microsoft ISV-turned-rival

Julie Bort | Sept. 20, 2011
A gap between what Microsoft promises with Lync's telephony and what it delivers makes Lync a poor choice as an IP PBX replacement for large organizations, according to a former Microsoft "Most Valuable Professional".

Lync's lack of support for mobile clients, and for platforms outside of Windows, is an issue for the enterprise, says Morimoto, though he doesn't expect the issue to last. While Lync's softphone can be implemented on Windows XP and higher, it can't yet run on Windows Phone 7. Morimoto's company uses Lync as its PBX to support Convergent Computing's 100 employees, 70% of whom are road warriors.

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced that the long-awaited Macintosh client will be available in October. Morimoto expects a Lync client to ship for the Mango release of Windows Phone 7, too, and he's seen demonstrations of iPhone/iPad clients. Regarding Android, BlackBerry and other platforms, a Microsoft spokesperson told Network World that "Lync will be available for WP7, Android, iPhone, Nokia, RIM and Symbian, as we described at our launch last year, at Enterprise Connect last March and at WPC in July. We are on track to deliver Lync mobile support by the end of the year."

As for a large-scale Lync telephony deployment requiring access to a lot of hardware, this, too, can be true for some deployments. Microsoft says a typical small-scale deployment will use up to three servers while the company's large-scale reference architecture uses 14 servers. However, these do not need to be dedicated machines. Lync's servers can be run in virtual machines, Microsoft says, including Hyper-V, VMware and any other Microsoft-certified hypervisor. (Reference materials are available here.)

Morimoto points out that Lync in the SMB market can be rolled out with as few as two servers. The need for separate servers "depends on scale," he says. "For your minimum configuration where you're doing in-house instant messaging, Web conferencing, external IM/Web conferencing, your minimum buy is two servers. You have to have an internal server and a server on the edge. They can be virtualized. In our environment I have three servers running Lync. I have one internal server running IM/Webconf, an edge server and a voice server -- all virtualized."

If a customer runs Lync Standard Edition, "they need three servers total, two of which are optional: an edge server (optional, which is in the DMZ, and enables remote access) and the XMPP Gateway (which is optional), and Standard Edition Server (everything else)," says Microsoft.

Microsoft says that an enterprise can use a setup similar to Convergent Computing's: one or more edge servers in the DMZ (although Microsoft says this separate server is optional), back end servers (SQL databases) and front end servers (for almost all the other features or "roles" that Lync offers).

But here's the catch: With the Enterprise Edition, only some of Lync's features, called "server roles," can be colocated on the same physical servers (reference architecture is here). According to Microsoft, many specific server roles "must each be deployed on a separate computer." This includes Director, Edge Server, Trusted Application Server, Group Chat and others. Using Microsoft's reference architecture of 14 servers, Lync can support "upwards of 80,000 users," Microsoft says.


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