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Living with Lync: The Lync Community
Microsoft Lync is a fine UC solution and Lync can certainly serve as a complete PBX replacement. But there are many fine UC and PBX solutions from other vendors: Cisco, Mitel, Avaya, Siemens, and others. That being said, one thing I have found different, dare I say better, related to the Lync solution is that the Lync Community is large and strong.
A strong community of Lync experts has coalesced in order to support and promote the adoption of Lync. One might argue, more experts are needed because Lync is less of a "bundled offering". Yes, it is true that a complete Lync solution typically relies on an experienced systems integrator or reseller in order to connect all the pieces: Lync software, IP phones, PSTN gateways, telecom connectivity (PRIs or SIP), etc. Clearly a UC solution provides greater value and is more complicated than just a voice solution; Lync from its inception was designed as a full UC solution, not a "bolt on" to voice (see "Voice is Not the Path to UC").
In many respects then, the fact that Lync requires a collection of vendors--with a combination of expertise--in order to assemble and deploy a complete Lync solution, that has created and driven the growth of the Lync community. It is interesting how the cited negative of needing to work with multiple vendors in some ways created a strong and sharing community of experts.
A great way to access the Lync experts' community is via the blog roll on the NextHop site, which lists links to over 100 Lync blogs. The NextHop site was set up by the Microsoft Lync Team to develop, and in response to, the channel community. Many of the blog roll contributors are part of the Most Valuable Professional (MVP) community, a community created by Microsoft to acknowledge independent community leaders who share their passion, technical expertise, and real-world knowledge of Microsoft products with others.
Beyond a community of architects and implementers, Lync also has a small but strong developer community. Microsoft has always been good at cultivating and promoting developer communities. Lync, like almost every Microsoft offering, is both a solution and a platform. The Lync platform can be extended and augmented using the familiar .NET tools and APIs.
If you are interested in developing CEBP or add-on applications for Lync, you may need to work harder to find and join the community. Originally written for the 2010 version of Lync, Professional Unified Communications: Development with Microsoft Lync Server 2010 by George Durzi and Michael Greenlee, is still my favorite introduction to the Lync development world. Michael Greenlee also maintains the Lync Development blog where he shares very detailed coding examples and code samples related to Lync development.
Perhaps Lync itself can be credited with building the largest community through its widely deployed federation capabilities. For organizations running Lync, including those using the Office 365 hosted version of Lync, federating allows you to view presence (availability), exchange instant messages, call, video, and conference with colleagues in other organizations as easily as you can connect to people inside your own company. And with Lync, it seems more so than other solutions (although this is not a scientific study), people are federating. Matt Landis's Worldwide Federation Directory currently lists over 18,000 organizations that support Lync federation. Quite a community.
And should 18,000 organizations not be a large enough community for you, with the Skype-to-Lync federation launched earlier this year (supporting IM, presence and, for now, only audio calls), a new B2C community exists that connects Lync users to the estimated 124 million Skype users (60+ million online at the same time).
Effective collaboration is about solving a problem with others you could not have solved on your own. The Lync community is strong, proud and seems to be growing.
This year at Enterprise Connect 2014, I expect to hear, share and learn more about the Lync community and its members.
Do you have stories of the Lync community? Do you think another UC community is stronger? Share your experiences or comments below. I will respond to each and every comment.