Lync Licensing: Effective Confusion
An in-depth look at the ins and outs of Lync licensing, how it fits into Microsoft's strategy, and how it fit into your enterprise's existing infrastructure.
Microsoft Lync shook up the unified communications market in numerous ways. Simply put, the product approaches communications from a different perspective; and that includes licensing. Some accuse Microsoft of purposely making it overly complex and difficult, but in their defense they are licensing Lync the same as their other enterprise offerings.
The major difference in approach relates to dedicated versus shared infrastructure. For example, a typical UC VoIP quote covers licensing, dedicated servers, required hardware, and related applications such as unified messaging or presence. It is common for quotes not to include LAN switches, power considerations, or HVAC, as those items are typically already in place. With Lync, the assumptions of what's in place are broader, particularly around Microsoft products and components (Active Directory, Exchange, SharePoint, Office) and Microsoft doesn't provide the hardware--thus Lync quotes tend to be Lync-specific licensing only. Even worse, the software, or major components of it, may already be in place through a volume licensing program. This can reduce the quotes to only design, implementation, and add-on components.
Microsoft publishes two critical guides to understanding Lync licensing: Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Licensing Guide and Microsoft Volume Licensing Reference Guide. These documents address the basic structure of the programs, but assume a familiarity with Microsoft licensing. These documents address most, but not all questions.
Lync licensing is conceptually easy, but there is no shortage of rabbit holes. Starting with the server, there are three types of Lync server 2010 licenses:
2. Client Access Licenses (CALs)
3. External Connectors
The next level down: there are two kinds of servers (Standard and Enterprise), three kinds of CALs (Standard, Enterprise, and Plus), and various connectors that are charged either one time only, or monthly. The number of servers and the roles associated with each server vary by implementation requirements and can be complex. In addition to Lync Server, there is also a Lync client for the desktop. IP phones can be licensed to users or as devices. Desktops are generally part of a Windows infrastructure with Active Directory. Most implementations will also (optionally) integrate with Exchange and SharePoint, but neither integrations are required--thus they are not considered part of "Lync licensing."
As Lync is targeted to larger organizations, the first step in evaluating licensing is for you to research whether your organization already has a Microsoft volume licensing arrangement in place. There are numerous such programs and they vary tremendously. The programs may or may not include software assurance and support, may or may not include actual licenses (perpetual) as opposed to a rental (subscription). Terms are typically two or three years. Additionally, there are different programs for non-profits, government, education, and multi-national organizations.
Once the volume licensing is sorted out, then comes the engineering. The server type (Standard and Enterprise) has nothing to do with the Standard and Enterprise CAL types. The key difference between Standard and Enterprise servers originally pertained to high availability, but now with HA for the Standard server option, the primary difference involves capacity. Client Access Licenses and licenses for the clients themselves are two different things--totally separate from each other--and should not be confused with one another.
The different CAL types--enterprise and standard--enable different features. Not entire feature areas such as video or collaboration, but levels of features within those areas. The Standard CAL is a base CAL, and both Enterprise and Plus CALs are optional and additive on top of the Standard. It is the Plus CAL that delivers enterprise voice capabilities. Many OCS users got temporary access to Plus CALs via a grandfathering policy.
Microsoft's model of licensing is not new, but it represents a radically different approach for telecommunications. Quotes from competing vendors typically start with voice, and use add-on licenses to enable entirely new feature areas such as collaboration or presence. Lync starts with collaboration and presence, and then offers voice as the add-on. Microsoft's unique approach offers both benefits and disadvantages.
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