A Lync Appliance for Enterprises?
It's not just for SMBs; a software appliance can help you scale up from proof of concept to deployment, and can provide other TCO benefits
Recently Brian Riggs explained the benefits of a Lync Appliance for SMBs. We might also ask: Can an appliance also benefit an Enterprise environment?
In the past, enterprises sourced traditional telephony systems through their Telecom departments, while IT departments added value to voice only from an IT perspective--like making business-critical information available to voice systems or reducing cost by adding VPN routing for voice. In parallel, the business units of these enterprises asked for added value to increase revenue and improve customer service, which usually got translated into auto-attendant, web portals or sometimes call center features: More an evolution than a revolution.
Now that Microsoft, with all its marketing power, is pushing Unified Communications (from Lync to Office365 and from Instant Messaging to Collaboration), some businesses are demanding "a revolution" and putting a challenge more directly into the hands of IT departments: Telephony.
So what about a Lync Appliance for Enterprises?
In my opinion, a Lync appliance should at least be a pre-defined and pre-configured Lync deployment with limited impact on other IT resources. There are hardware appliances--combining gateway, server and Lync deployment onto a single box--and there are software appliances that ease the installation process in a virtualization environment. In essence, that is where a traditional Lync rollout differs from a (software) appliance rollout: The appliance approach offers less troubleshooting, quicker ROI, no Active Directory schema changes, and more features that are not available within Lync.
At a large Enterprise customer, one of our partners recently deployed our software appliance. The customer had a need to decrease travel budgets for meetings and they calculated that by using Lync they could cut budgets by double-digit percentages. The challenge: company employees are distributed over 8 Active Directories, with a migration path of several years to get to a single AD. The need to overcome this through additional software and professional services was ruining the business case (money-wise and project time-wise). Therefore, the software appliance deployment, being able to connect to multiple ADs, was beneficial for this enterprise.
Another common scenario in the Lync arena today are Proof of Concepts. However, often forgotten is how to move forward and bring a PoC for Lync into "live" production. To minimize risks and keep away from making changes to the IT infrastructure, many of the standard PoCs are demolished even after a successful introduction and rebuilt from scratch again. Isn't that a waste of effort and money?
Making use of available (software) appliance technology allows you to take it one step further during PoC. Some appliances allow you to migrate servers to other virtual machines, creating a full deployment in your environment. Others allow you to stay away from AD changes and minimize impact. Just as important: Using a PoC platform that can transform into a live operation seamlessly allows you to grow the environment with the needs of the enterprise, rather than trying to roll out a traditional deployment capable of hosting 10.000 users from day one. Also here a (software) appliance has proven to be beneficial for enterprises.
Lync designs usually have a complex enterprise setup, which has a negative effect on the TCO for the years after you go "live" with a Lync deployment. The additional software that can be found in appliances provides additional simplicity for daily maintenance--an important ongoing benefit to an organization seeking to realize a quicker ROI.
It is important to define your objectives with your Microsoft partner so both can scope the project along these objectives. We live in a complex technology world and I believe that this all about the simplification of something complex: that is what enterprises benefit from as much as SMBs.