Irwin Lazar
Irwin Lazar is the Vice President and Service Director at Nemertes Research, where he manages research operations, develops and manages...
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Irwin Lazar | September 12, 2012 |


Microsoft Lync Is Selling Telephony; Are Enterprises Buying?

Microsoft Lync Is Selling Telephony; Are Enterprises Buying? Microsoft is indeed making progress; as deployments move from pilot to production, we'll see the real test of whether Lync continues to gain share and displace incumbent telephony vendors.

Microsoft is indeed making progress; as deployments move from pilot to production, we'll see the real test of whether Lync continues to gain share and displace incumbent telephony vendors.

Back in 2007, after the launch of Microsoft Office Communications Server, I questioned whether Microsoft was too late to the IP telephony game. After all, I reasoned, most companies had already started on the path from TDM to IP. What could possibly convince them to abandon those plans in favor of an untested platform that was far more software application than enterprise PBX? I revisited the question in 2009, again concluding that Microsoft had yet to crack the enterprise IP telephony nut. Now, here in 2012, with Microsoft getting ready to release its newest version of Lync, its third generation unified communications platform, what, if anything, has changed? The answer is "lots."

In Nemertes' benchmark of enterprise technology adoption last year we noted that just 4.9% of companies had planned to implement Lync as a telephony platform, a rather small percentage of the market. Perhaps more importantly, more than half of our benchmark participants said they were deploying Lync as an IM/web conferencing/presence platform, even if they didn't have plans (yet) to use it for telephony. Now, in 2012, Microsoft is demonstrating that it is gaining mindshare, and market share. This year, 11.2% of participants are now deploying or planning to deploy Lync as their IP-PBX, more than double the percentage doing so a year ago.

What's driving this change? We note the following factors:

1. Integration with Microsoft applications: 53.3% say this is the number one driver for adopting Lync as a telephony platform. If one is already deploying Lync for IM, presence, desktop video and voice chat, and web conferencing, and is also using Microsoft Exchange for e-mail, SharePoint for document management, and so on, why not simply use the Microsoft platform for telephony as well, rather than attempt to mate it to a third-party phone system?

2. Licensing costs: 33% say that the ability to leverage existing Microsoft licensing agreements to add voice is the primary impetus behind their decision to deploy Lync for telephony. Indeed, clients tell us this is the major focus of Microsoft's sales team's efforts--arguing that if a customer already has an Enterprise Client Access License (ECAL), they can simply use it for voice rather than paying for another separate license for telephony.

3. Features: A small percentage; 6.7%, cite the feature set as the biggest driver for Lync. Most often cited is the ability to leverage softphone capabilities directly from within the Lync client already deployed for IM.

One important factor we noted in our research: The decision to deploy Lync often comes from those at the most senior level within IT organizations. Nearly half say a C-level executive, rather than IT, made the call to deploy Lync.

For those not deploying Lync, investments in the current platform were the biggest factor. If I've already invested millions of dollars to roll out an IP telephony solution from a competitor, and it works, I'm probably not that anxious to throw it out. By comparison, just 16% cited concerns over Microsoft's product maturity as their primary reason for not deploying Lync.

As far as characteristics of deployments, we find that the sweet spot for those using Lync is large companies with aggressive or bleeding-edge views toward technology adoption. They are those who believe that their investments in IT create strategic advantage, and they want to be first movers with the latest technology. Among those identifying themselves as "Conservative" companies with respect to IT, 25% are evaluating Lync as a telephony platform but none have yet implemented it.

Overall adoption is still largely in pilot stage, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand desktops. Feedback is all over the map as well--just as many benchmark participants told us they weren't happy with Lync performance as those who said they were. The biggest area of concern we see is around mobility: Lync adopters often express a desire for more robust support for non-Microsoft smartphones and tablets.

For those keeping their existing telephony platforms, the mobile device represents an emerging challenge. While most IPT vendors provide the ability to integrate their system with Lync's desktop client, integration of mobile clients simply isn't available. Those wishing to support Microsoft for IM and another platform for voice may be able to run a Lync plug-in on the desktop to extend third-party call control to the Lync desktop client. However on mobile devices it is a different story--solutions range from supporting multiple clients (Lync mobile and your PBX vendor's client), to leveraging a third-party client such as ShoreTel Mobility. Add video into the mix and it gets even more complicated.

Still, Microsoft is indeed making progress, though as deployments move from pilot to production, we'll see the real test of whether or not Microsoft can continue to gain market share and displace incumbent telephony vendors. Stay tuned.

IT buyers wishing to participate in a confidential interview for our next round of benchmark research should contact me at


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