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Aruba Networks Hopes to Make Rain With Microsoft Lync

If you've ever been to the country of Aruba, one of the unique characteristics is that it rarely rains there. In fact, I've been there a few times and never experienced a drop of rain. I guess that's why there are so many happy Arubans! However, the other Aruba, Aruba Networks, is hoping to make a lot of rain by making Microsoft Lync customers happy.

Last week, the Wi-Fi vendor announced that its 802.11ac access points (APs) are the first to be certified under the Microsoft Lync Server Wi-Fi qualification program. The qualification includes both indoor APs, where most of the industry has focused, as well as Aruba's outdoor APs, which I believe to be a growing area as more and more organizations are looking to extend wireless outside the walls of the building. Also, the qualification ensures that the configuration of the wireless networks adheres to the rigid guidelines laid out by Microsoft to ensure quality voice and video transmission.

The use of 802.11ac is becoming increasingly popular as more and more businesses want to have a wireless network that is as fast or faster than the wired network. At the end of last year, ZK Research and media partner, Tech Target, ran our annual purchase intention study. In it we asked, "Will your company upgrade its wireless LAN to 802.11ac for high speed throughput in the next 12 months?" - and a whopping 68% responded yes. Another question asked whether the company would consider replacing part of or the entire wired network with a wireless network, and 28% responded yes to that.

The 28% that responded positively to the last question are the ones at the forefront of shifting to becoming an all wireless (or at least mostly wireless) enterprise. Part of this transition is using mobile devices for voice and video instead of wired endpoints. Of course, this vision isn't for everyone – at least not yet - but for those that want it, being "all wireless" puts some new demands on the Wi-Fi network.

These new requirements become even more crucial in Lync environments. The rise of Lync has been well documented on No Jitter and many other sites, and it's fair to say that Lync has legitimized itself as an Enterprise voice platform.

The widespread adoption of Lync has raised the bar on the wireless network. If the wireless network is going to be the primary or only access network, it needs to act a lot more like a wired network than most Wi-Fi environments do today. I think we have all experienced poor performing wireless, and it's a very frustrating experience. Frustrating enough that some workers may find other ways of connecting, such as bringing in a 4G card.

The high performance characteristics of 802.11ac are ideally suited for Lync and other demanding applications. In a way, the shift from 802.11n to 802.11ac is similar to going from a 100 MB hub-based network to a switched Gigabit network. By Lync-qualifying all of its indoor and outdoor 802.11ac products, from the entry level up to industrial-grade series, Aruba is supporting Lync in almost any environment -- from small branches running Office 365 to the largest hosted or on-premises Lync server-based solutions.

The move to a predominantly wireless network has two primary benefits for the deploying organization. First, there's no desk phones to buy. The younger workers, or GenMobile using Aruba nomenclature, are as tied to their mobile devices as Arubans are to the sun. An investment in IP phones to this audience will likely be wasteful, as the majority of younger workers won't use them. Even if the business doesn't want to go "all wireless," it should certainly look to reduce the number of desk phones by looking at the utilization of the current phones.

Second, no matter how widespread wireless is, there's always a wired network supporting it; by reducing the number of wired phones, businesses can reduce the number of ports in the wired network. I've talked to some businesses that have cut the number of wired ports by as much as 50% by removing the desk phone. This kind of savings could partially pay for the Lync deployment.

As I said before, Lync deployments are on the rise and the Lync-certified products from Aruba give customers a strong Wi-Fi platform to cut the cord on IP phones without worrying about performance.

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