First Look at Microsoft Lync 2010
Lab testers see significant improvements in quality and feature/function.
Testing lab partner Miercom recently conducted testing on the just released Microsoft Lync Server 2010 unified communications solution. The focus of this test review was to verify new features, functionality, performance, security, and resiliency, and verify that new enhancements corrected deficiencies noted in previous test reviews.
Microsoft Lync is far more than a rebranding of the previous UC offering, Office Communications Server (OCS). Overall we were extremely impressed with Microsoft Lync 2010, and feel Microsoft can now do serious battle on the enterprise unified communications front. We verified a rich feature set, high quality audio, video and web conferencing, a wide variety of third-party "Lync optimized" peripherals, voice-to-text voice mail preview sent to email, and many more business-enabling applications and functions.
The server component is now consolidated, eliminating the disjointed and hard-to-manage four separate servers required previously. There are significant enhanced capabilities such as multipoint voice and video conferencing, reporting and CDR records server, enhanced client features including Call Park, Call Admission Control, and well-integrated Instant Messaging, email, and voice/video conferencing ability. A complete test report is available for download at Miercom's website.
Fixed and Improved
Features missing and performance limitations previously noted, including less-than-optimal quality of experience (QOE) have been corrected in this release. Voice and video QoE achieved near perfect 5.0 on MOS (Mean Opinion Score) on uncongested network, and 4.5 on constricted networks. Latency is no longer an issue. Impaired or degraded network conditions are no longer a show-stopper for the Microsoft Lync 2010 UC offering.
Features improved from previous published testing included the addition of music on hold, call park with ability to dial an extension number from anywhere to pick up a call on hold, and the addition of an interactive whiteboard sharing application to go with desktop sharing.
There are many other business enabling features and "neat" things we will let other editors pull from the Microsoft reviewer guide, or from a product demo to further elaborate in their articles. We focused our review on the hands-on testing of the product under less-than-favorable conditions; we tried to break the product, but found no vulnerabilities inherently in the Microsoft Lync 2010 Server from load or attack.
Our bulk testing effort focused on three areas that the customers we consult with have identified as their concerns in deploying the predecessor to Lync, OCS: Performance, Resiliency and Security.
Microsoft Lync successfully passed voice and video Quality of Experience (QoE) tests under heavily loaded and degraded network conditions. Even with significant jitter and a packet loss (percentage in excess of 5%), the voice and video quality of the Lync client with High Definition Video was superb. High Definition Video Peer-to-Peer calling was conducted over T1 bandwidth, with an average bandwidth of 142 Kbps needed to maintain the connection. Peak traffic utilization did hit 1.5 Mbps at times when there was full motion in the video sessions.
SIP trunk load testing for Lync Server 2010 Mediation Server is still in progress at the time of writing this article. Endpoint Lync Client scalability testing verified up to 8,000 clients, limited only by the test delivery system.
To verify the branch resiliency, the Miercom engineers put Microsoft Lync 2010 thru a series of tests by failing connections between Lync Client and the Lync Server. We found the Lync Client to recover quickly (within seconds) upon restoration of the network connection to the Lync 2010 Server.
We also conducted failover scenarios for simulated branch locations using a Survivable Branch Appliance (SBA) from NET, the UX 2000. During a WAN outage, it can provide more than basic voice services to users in the branch--services such as IM, desktop sharing and video calling. Microsoft Lync passed resiliency tests for local client as well as branch office deployment.
Security testing for the Microsoft Lync Server revealed a "pass" rating for reliability and security (with an appropriate network firewall employed). No inherent vulnerabilities were discovered in Microsoft Lync Server 2010 outright, when a battery of vulnerability and protocol analysis tools from Ixia, Mu Dynamics, and Touchstone were used (for more details, see the Sidebar at the end of this article, "How We Did It").