Linking up with Lync at Lync Conference 2014
Lync Voice is starting to draw some bigger deployments--with some user preferences that may surprise you.
Lync Conference 2014 started off today with a bang. At a private all-afternoon event, AudioCodes invited a stellar group of customers to share their experiences deploying both Lync Enterprise Voice and Lync Conferencing. One of the common denominators was that each had deployed an AudioCodes SBC as part of their solution.
What really intrigued me was the size of the companies involved. It's easy to find case studies of smaller organizations deploying Lync Voice, but to see so many companies of such significant stature deploying Lync Voice was impressive. Before the event, I was given a list of the companies who were attending, and just for kicks, I looked up how many employees each had. The largest had over 140,000 employees while the average of all of them was just under 30,000.
In fairness, Lync Voice or Lync Conferencing was not deployed ubiquitously. For example, the largest company had deployed "only" 70,000 seats of Lync Conferencing (on-prem), while the largest Lync Voice deployment was approaching 10,000 and growing.
Most of these companies had deployed AudioCodes Mediant 1000 session border controllers, many with remote Lync survivability. AudioCodes has just released a new version of its Mediant 9000 SBC, which will support from 2,000 up to 12,000 Lync media sessions. Given the direction these deployments are going, it will not be long before we see enterprises deploying these larger-sized SBCs in significant numbers.
One issue that came up over and over was the problem users were having with headsets. I thought this was no longer an issue. I personally use Office 365 with Lync Online with a Plantronics DECT wireless headset optimized for Lync, and I never have a problem. The challenge is that most of the users have inexpensive headsets which are not Lync optimized. One speaker said that the most cost-effective solution for her company that worked was to use cheap USB wired headsets. I was quite surprised at the number of difficulties people were having.
A second issue that surfaced was the aversion people have to a softphone-only deployment. Over and over again these companies reported that users have a preference for hard phones, even if they are only USB-based. In addition, many of the users prefer a hard phone that is always on. One company reported that its users have a number of people who go from meeting to meeting, so when they step into their offices, they need a hard phone that is ready to work.
In addition to end users reporting their experiences, Bern Elliot of Gartner presented a thought-provoking discussion of Lync's appeal to 70% of users, but raised five key issues including what to do about the 30% of users for whom the Lync profile is not quite right. In addition, Aamer Kaleem, CTO of Microsoft Lync Enterprise Voice, told of his conversion from "Mr. Cisco" at his previous employment to a believer in Lync.
I also had the good fortune of addressing this deluxe crowd, sharing some TCO analysis that compared Microsoft Lync to a leading IP-PBX provider. This was an unbiased evaluation that included hardware, licenses, software and hardware maintenance, installation, and operating costs over a five year period. Lync didn't always come out less expensive than the alternative IP-PBX, but there were some licensing suggestions that could possibly turn the tables by converting CAPEX-based Microsoft Enterprise Software licensing into an OPEX-based Enterprise Agreement Subscription. I'll be discussing this topic at the Microsoft vs. Cisco session at Enterprise Connect next month.
The first day of the conference has already been a great learning experience from the people on the front lines deploying and using Lync. The next two days in which Microsoft and a number of consultants and analysts present on a variety of Lync-related topics should prove entertaining and educational!