Skype for Business in the Cloud

Migrating to Skype for Business Cloud PBX the Smart Way

Using a Hybrid Solution Offers the Best of the On-Premises and Cloud-based Worlds

Skype for Business in the Cloud 

Moving towards Cloud PBX

The rapid rise of Microsoft’s Skype for Business is a strong incentive for enterprises to consider deploying the popular Unified Communications suite. The Company’s most recent announcements regarding their on-line version and the replacement of on-premises based PBX with Cloud PBX are also compelling in a period in which the trend to the Cloud is almost universal. However, despite the technical and business advantages of Skype for Business UC, there are many reasons why organizations might want to hold on to a legacy voice system on a temporary or permanent basis. Reasons vary and can range from the need to maintain specialized functionality such as contact centers or alarm systems to investment protection for legacy equipment, to the current functionality gap between the on-premises and cloud-based offerings and even objective availability and regulatory requirements which may mean that Skype for Business Online may not be available at various locations around the world for the foreseeable future.

Planning the Migration to the Cloud

As such, in almost any scenario in the coming years, most enterprises will likely be implementing a migration strategy from a legacy TDM or IP-based PBX system to Microsoft UC, as for all but the smallest of organizations, a full switchover is simply not practical. A smart approach would be to gradually migrate workers who can benefit from the cloud today while keeping other workers who need the full feature set or have other reasons requiring on-premises PSTN connectivity as described above, on the local Skype for Business Server in the near term.

Perhaps the most important thing an enterprise should do in this regard is to develop a voice migration strategy. Such a strategy would compose of several stages including assessing corporate requirements (typically in the headquarters), building an infrastructure that meets those requirements, migrating relevant users to the cloud and finally, expanding that migration by assessing the needs of branch offices, building a corresponding infrastructure and migrating branch users to the cloud as required. By deploying a hybrid system such as AudioCodes’ CloudBond 365, enterprises can benefit from the essential functionality required to ensure a smooth migration to Skype for Business enterprise voice. This can include:

  • Hybrid and pure SBCs which ensure full interoperability between Skype for Business and legacy systems
  • Active Directory integration which enables administrators to control how calls are routed during the migration
  • SBC provided secured SIP trunking connectivity for after the migration is completed

Migrating Smart with a Hybrid System

A deployment of Skype for Business which mixes on-line and on-premises functionality will lay the foundation for a smooth transition to the full cloud solution down the line. The best way to protect the enterprise’s current investments, ensure a full enterprise voice feature set, guarantee that all company branches around the world are serviced and comply with regulations, is with a hybrid solution which offers the best of both worlds and allows the benefits of Unified Communications today with a secure and smooth migration to voice in the cloud when the time is right in the future.

To learn more about how to migrate to Cloud PBX, read AudioCodes’s Application Note: Getting the Cloud Right: A Practical Guide: Migrating users to Cloud PBX with AudioCodes CloudBond™ 365

Make sure to visit us at UC Expo on April 19-20 in London, UK stand #K1016!

Keep it simple

Deploying Skype for Business: Keeping it Simple

We live in a complex technology world.  A very successful business man, Sir Richard Branson, once said: “Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to keep things simple.”

Keep it simpleDuring one of the recent roadshows, I suddenly thought about that statement again in the context of our S-S-D pitch for CloudBond 365: Simplification, Standardization and Demarcation three words I often use in presentations.

The CloudBond 365 solution provides three pillars: A User Management Suite, an Active Directory Connector and an Office365 Connector. This makes CloudBond 365 the spider in the web between Office 365 and the local customer enterprise. The solution provides a fully preinstalled Skype for Business solution on an AudioCodes gateway, server or virtualization platform in the datacenter, standardized on Microsoft’s resource forest model. CloudBond 365 enables this Skype for Business silo model to be fully integrated with the enterprise and provide these S-S-D benefits. Of course, CloudBond 365 can also run on top of a fully (self)-deployed Skype for Business environment.

Here are a couple of examples:

From a technical perspective, simplification not only brings value for the initial deployment but also for the years to follow. ‘Simple things’ tend to break less and if they break they’re easier to fix. From a business perspective, professional services can now be enabled for integrating SfB with the business processes of an enterprise.

Standardization is key not only for the deployment phase, but also for the support period in the following years.

  • Support engineers ‘know’ exactly what the architecture is
  • The exact customer environment is always available in the lab to reproduce test
  • Problems and solutions for one customer are now applicable to most other customers as well

If you’re in the business of selling Skype for Business, standardization allows you to offer the solution without assuming the risk of covering potential trouble shooting or ‘unknowns’ within the customer environment. Standardization means there are no projects that are open ended.

The demarcation provided by the CloudBond 365 solution presents a very clear line between the Skype for Business deployment and the customer enterprise environment (in which Active Directories, Exchange, SharePoint, etc. are being managed). There is no need for discussions on SLA and who’s responsible for what. This same demarcation line also helps the business to stay out of competition with the new customer’s current ICT partner and doesn’t require managing two ICT partners within the same network.

Skype for Business designs usually have a complex enterprise setup which can cause projects to become more expensive than at first anticipated.  This complexity can have a major effect on the TCO in the years that follow going “live” with a Skype for Business deployment. The CloudBond 365 solution provides additional simplicity for daily maintenance, an important ongoing benefit to an organization realizing a quicker ROI by means of a lower TCO.

CloudBond 365 is all about simplifying something complex, allowing enterprises to benefit from Skype for Business as   much as SMBs.

Sir Richard Branson had it right. Just keep things simple.

AudioCodes at Enterprise Connect 2016

Today, Tomorrow, and In-Between: Skype for Business Observations with Fortune 50 companies

On my flight back to Israel from Enterprise Connect 2016 at Orlando, I decided to recap my top 3 observations about Skype for Business from spending time with some of our largest customers.  During the show, I sat down with one of the world’s largest energy companies, one of the biggest pharma producers, and one huge food maker that feeds us. They all deploy Lync/SfB and they all shared the following views.

AudioCodes at Enterprise Connect 2016

A vision is not enough

“Yeah, I get what Microsoft is trying to do with CloudPBX, but…” was a common amongst them.  Seems the “Everything Cloud” vision is compelling when left described by 2 words only.  Numerous caveats are observed:

  • How do I gradually migrate there? Because overnight replacement of a great number of PBX’s serving x0000s of users is clearly not an option.
  • Do I really want to relinquish control of all my users to a Front-End server that is hosted by Microsoft? I understand Microsoft is racing Google and wants as many Enterprise users on their cloud as possible, but is that good for my company, or just for Microsoft? Can I customize to preserve my competitive enterprise edge?

Show me the money savings

Microsoft seems to have correctly identified that the heavy monthly costs of conferencing services is something these enterprises love to cut.  Offering simple, hop on/off services right within SfB, with intuitive integration into Outlook is clearly a compelling proposition.  However, if I am going to send all my global voice traffic to the cloud for conferencing, I must guarantee excellent voice quality and experience.  Getting this done requires costly MPLS infrastructure.  How do I calculate the actual cost or savings by moving to the cloud?  Overall, it seems Microsoft still hasn’t convinced these customers that the TCO through the cloud offering and on a global level, is a favorable one.

Old habits are hard to break

A clean, wire-free workspace with voice, video and chat integration, and slick “click to everything”.  Nirvana!

There are a few “Buts”…

Not all of the employees easily say goodbye to their phones and switch over to headsets.  Nor are they proving responsible to own a small and expensive wireless ear piece, without losing or taking it out of their pants before washing. The bigger “over the head” headsets annoy some of the users, and it seems most “Born before 1980” are used to transferring a call by a push of a button, and hate reaching out to their computer for that.  Last, but not least, it seems a great number of the international markets associate a desk phone with seniority and status.  Seems the IP Phone is going to be with us for a good number of years to come.

 

Read more

CloudBond 365 gradual migration to CloudPBX

VoIPerfect less-MPLS solution for resilient, quality-assured VoIP

AudioCodes IP Phones with IT management tools for SfB

Transition to Cloud PBX

Start the Transition to Cloud PBX Today with a Hybrid Hybrid Environment

Transition to Cloud PBX

One of the biggest challenges today with the vision of transitioning to Microsoft’s recently released Cloud PBX revolves around matching business needs with available features. Although Cloud PBX is on a rapid pace to parity with Skype for Business Server, some of the advanced features are only available on-premises for the foreseeable future. For example, a user who migrates to Cloud PBX today won’t be able to take advantage of features like response groups or integration with contact center software.  In addition, the organization will not be able to use existing analog / fax lines or common area phones.  So the question is, what can you do if you’re interested in making the move over to the cloud but you can’t afford to compromise when it comes to features? One choice is to wait, but I believe the true answer lies in what we call a hybrid hybrid environment.  Yes, you read that correctly – a hybrid hybrid environment.

Bridging the Limitation & Availability Gap

Microsoft has basically allowed – and even encouraged – people to live in a sort of hybrid environment.  Users can essentially take advantage of the Cloud PBX features and functionality that exist today while keeping their existing T1s or SIP trunks. This hybrid deployment gives them the ability to do IM, chat, and video calls with other Skype for Business and Skype users – but limitations as compared with a traditional PBX exist.

Features aside, it’s also now possible to have voice calling plans coming from Microsoft services in the form of DIDs in the cloud (PSTN Calling). Unfortunately, Microsoft is encountering the limitations and regulatory pressures of essentially becoming a carrier.  As a result, it’s going to take them quite some time before they’ll be able to provide DIDs in regions outside of the US.

These limitations and challenges is where the hybrid hybrid model comes into play. (‘hybrid hybrid environment’ is a phrase we commonly use here in AudioCodes) For customer environments today, it means that as long as they have a full Skype for Business Server environment on-premises, they’ll be able to leverage the best of both worlds with some users in Cloud PBX and other on-premises leveraging full features and connectivity such as T1s, E1s, etc.  That is a huge benefit for customers – allowing them to take advantage of the promise of the cloud while staying grounded in the reality of users’ needs today.

The Best of Both Worlds Option

The hybrid hybrid model is something we speak about quite often with our customers and partners.  Today, it’s simply the only way to enable real PBX replacement and smoothly and easily get select users around the world on Cloud PBX while still having the ability to leverage full voice features with on-premises connectivity.

Organizations can pick and choose which users will have the feature set of Cloud PBX and which will be enabled for full Skype for Business Server.  They’ll be able to take advantage of features that aren’t ready for the cloud such as response groups or integration with analog phones/common area phones immediately.  My experience is these are key features that businesses need (especially in larger environments) and subsequently can delay adoption.  In a hybrid hybrid environment, you’ll have a full Skype for Business experience without having to delay the migration process to cloud PBX.

CloudBond 365 Q&A Part 1

You Asked About CloudBond 365: Part 1

As part of the recent launch of AudioCodes CloudBond 365, we conducted webinars with our global partners. The events generated considerable interest. Given the many good questions we received from both our partners and the general audience regarding the new platform, we decided to publically share these questions so that everyone can benefit and learn from them.

CloudBond 365 Q&A Part 1

CloudBond 365 is a solution for the data center, customer premises or the branch. It is a versatile all-in-one Skype for Business appliance designed for hybrid environments or a full on-premises Skype for Business deployment that combines the best of the Skype for Business server, the cloud-PBX and the service provider’s voice services. CloudBond 365 is available as a hardware box (Standard, Pro and Enterprise Box Editions) or as a Virtual Appliance.

We have divided the questions we received about CloudBond 365 into several categories, each of which will get dealt with in a separate blog over the coming weeks.  In this first instalment, we tackle the questions of upgrading to CloudBond 365 from AudioCodes One Box 365 as well as connectivity and integration issues.

Regarding upgrades: We want to emphasize that all One Box 365 units are eligible for upgrade to the CloudBond 365 firmware. The actual upgrade path will be communicated by AudioCodes in the near future.

The following questions were asked regarding connectivity and integration:

How does directory integration work? Does CloudBond 365 have FIM/AD?

The CloudBond 365 Active Directory Connector is an application developed by AudioCodes. It is FIM like and allows for synchronizing user attributes with the customer user forests while simplifying the deployment and creating a clear point of demarcation.

Can multiple CloudBond 365 units be connected into an Office 365 tenant?

Indeed they can.

CloudBond™ 365 can be connected to Office 365 to allow:

  • Exchange Online UM integration
  • Support for Hybrid topology
  • Support for On-Prem PSTN for Cloud PBX

Does AudioCodes offer a full UCMA connection to all users?

UCMA can only work with an On-prem FE server. Trusted applications can work only on an on-premises server.

What can you say about resiliency?

Resiliency can be achieved by using two units of CloudBond 365 in a pool pair. The deployment wizard simplifies the settings of the pool pair.

CloudBond 365 can be deployed as a BPA in a Skype for Business private Cloud to achieve full branch UC resiliency.

 

If you have any additional questions on these topics or any other topic, feel free to reach out to us.

Please check back for our next instalment of the CloudBond 365 Q&A which will focus on Sizing, Licensing and Pricing issues.

Further reading:

Are you stuck in the fog on your way to the cloud

Are You Stuck in the Fog on Your Way to the Cloud?

Are you stuck in the fog on your way to the cloud

A practical approach to migrating (the right) users to Cloud PBX

Many organizations are stuck in the fog of complexity as they move towards the promise of communications in the cloud. Recent Microsoft announcements surrounding enterprise voice for Skype for Business in the cloud have caused significant waves – and no small amount of confusion – in the market.  Cloud PBX and PSTN calling will undoubtedly have a dramatic impact on the way organizations communicate.  Since the online offering doesn’t yet have all the features of Skype for Business server, it is important that enterprises evaluate needs carefully and plan their users’ migration to the cloud accordingly.  (For those looking to dig even deeper, please see AudioCodes’ White Paper: To Cloud or not to Cloud? A Practical Guide for Embracing the Communications Future.)

If you’ve already deployed Lync, Skype for Business, or are seriously considering doing so, you may be compelled to start migrating some users – likely those who may not need the full feature set of the server – to the cloud. The good news is the migration can be done gradually and smoothly.  The AudioCodes solution set provides a practical approach, addressing the reality of today with the cloud’s promise of tomorrow. 

What is Cloud PBX?

Cloud PBX is the set of Call Management features of Skype for Business Online, which is the new version of Lync Online and is the Microsoft hosted version of Skype for Business Server. It is part of Office 365 and is included in selected E-Suite Plans. Cloud PBX includes a subset of the PBX features available in the server edition, enabling such things as outbound and inbound calling through on-premises PSTN Connectivity (using local service providers or local telephony systems) or through a Microsoft  PSTN Calling Plan (available only in select regions).

Challenges and practical considerations in the transition to Cloud PBX

As of December 2015, the lack of feature parity between the online and on-premises offerings remains significant.  Among the main features not included online are branch survivability, response groups, location based routing, call admission control, analog devices, common area phone, and integration with on-premises PBX (can be achieved when using on-prem software such as Cloud Connector or Skype for Business server).  Given that reality, the first step in the migration process is to profile your users and understand which ones should be included in the first migration batch.

In planning a migration strategy to Cloud PBX, several practical considerations need to be taken into account:

1) Which users do you want to migrate to the cloud? How many people really need all the PBX features? How many people outside the office (on the road) can be satisfied by the cloud features?

2) Do you have an existing on-premises telephony infrastructure that you want to co-exist with or gradually migrate away from? (Call center, PBX, IPPBX, etc.)

3) Do you have devices (faxes, video rooms, analog devices) that you need to continue to use?

4) Do you need to maintain local connectivity to the PSTN (existing contracts, or availability, regulatory and Quality of Service reasons for branch offices)? 

Getting the Cloud Right: A Practical Approach

Taking into account the considerations noted above, perhaps the most important thing to do is develop a clear voice migration strategy. Such a strategy would comprise of several stages including assessing corporate requirements (firstly in the headquarters), building an infrastructure that meets those requirements, migrating relevant users to the cloud and finally, expanding that migration by assessing the needs of branch offices, building a corresponding infrastructure and migrating branch users to the cloud as required.  We here at AudioCodes leverage the following model when helping our customers build their strategy: 

Assess – Inventory Your Profiles

In this initial state, it is important that the organization understands its requirements. This is the opportunity to pause and analyze what users are doing, what their needs are and which users can stay local and which can be moved to the cloud. Once the requirements are understood, a hybrid strategy can be developed to build the appropriate infrastructure, adopted to the organization’s needs today and its plans for the future.

Build a Hybrid Platform and Migrate Information Workers First

Once the requirements have been mapped out, an infrastructure need to be built that addresses the needs identified in the assessment stage. The solution is a hybrid platform that is both versatile and flexible, one that can meet not only today’s requirements but ensure that the investment made now can be leveraged for the coming years as well.

With a flexible hybrid platform in place, it’s time to take a second look at the users that were profiled in the assessment stage and choose the first batch of users to be moved to the cloud.

Expand Rollout to the Branches

With the platform deployed and the first users moved to the cloud, the organization can begin examining the needs of its remote branches. An assessment similar to the one done in the assessment stage at HQ may be warranted for the branches as there may be different requirements to consider, including resiliency needs and custom applications such as IVR and contact centers. An assessment should be done as to whether a hybrid platform is needed to meet those requirements. 

Migrating Gradually with AudioCodes CloudBond 365

To facilitate the migration to Cloud PBX, AudioCodes takes a gradual approach based on the steps noted above and proposes a unique solution that enables the transition of some users to the cloud, but also allows other users to enjoy the full feature-set of Skype for Business server.

AudioCodes CloudBond 365TM, the next generation of the One Box 365TM, is a modular, adaptable solution for the data center, customer premises or the branch. A versatile all-in-one Skype for Business appliance designed for hybrid environments, it combines the best of the Skype for Business server, the cloud-PBX and the service provider’s voice services.  It is available as a hardware appliance (Standard, Pro and Enterprise Box Editions) or as a Virtual Appliance.

The CloudBond 365TM provides a fully integrated solution.  When necessary, it has the required Skype for Business servers built in, including the front end, mediation, monitoring, edge and reverse proxy servers.  The appliance also contains an embedded Windows server 2012 R2 and an embedded SQL Server Standard 2012, as well additional virtual machines for trusted 3rd party applications. The CloudBond 365TM Box Editions have built in gateway and session border controller (SBC) capability as well as a host of specialized tools including Office 365 and Active Directory connectors, a deployment wizard, and IP Phone management software.

CloudBond 365TM connects and syncs with Office 365 and the local Active Directory, allowing for voice enablement and an easy setup of voice policies.  Skype for Business users can be registered on CloudBond 365’s Skype for Business server Front End or in Microsoft’s Cloud PBX and can be moved at any time in both directions, providing tremendous flexibility. For users that were migrated to the Cloud PBX, the appliance provides the required mediation, edge and PSTN/SIP trunking connectivity.

The Ideal Bridge

CloudBond 365TM is the ideal bridge for a gradual, smooth migration to full cloud-based connectivity, allowing companies to migrate at their own pace, moving from an on-premises PBX infrastructure to a true hybrid structure. While the Microsoft cloud offering is still evolving into a viable PBX replacement, AudioCodes’ solution exists today, creating the critical bond between today’s UC and the cloud of tomorrow.  For enterprises that want to leverage the flexibility, dynamicity and economical model of cloud services, but still need the power and control of the more traditional on-premises model, the wait is over. You can have tomorrow’s UC today!

For more information, see our Application Note: Getting the Cloud Right – A Practical Guide

Skype for Business-To Cloud or Not to Cloud

Skype for Business: To Cloud or Not to Cloud?

Assessing the state-of-the-market following Microsoft’s announcements on enterprise voice in the cloud for Skype for Business

Skype for Business-To Cloud or Not to Cloud

Recent Microsoft announcements surrounding enterprise voice for Skype for Business in the cloud caused significant waves in the market.  Cloud PBX and PSTN calling will have a dramatic impact on the ecosystem. Yet, real parity between the on-premises Skype for Business Server and the online offering will still take a few years and many companies have concerns about making an immediate full transition to the cloud. These include:

  • Availability and regulatory issues requiring local PSTN connectivity
  • The current Online enterprise voice feature set is limited
  • Quality of Service over the open Internet can be problematic
  • Customers may not be in a rush to forgo existing contracts and working network devices
  • Customers may prefer a gradual migration of users to the cloud

Microsoft understood this and implemented a strategy to offer a solution for this market reality. At the July 2015 WPC event, Microsoft provided more details regarding deployment options. By offering a hybrid solution, where cloud-based PBX services are complemented by an enterprise’s on-premises based PSTN connectivity, Microsoft took their customers’ concerns into account. Their approach includes four deployment options, the middle two being hybrid versions:

  • Skype for Business Server On-premises: Users are registered to the local Skype for Business server; call management and PSTN connectivity are based on-premises. The Exchange Server is on- premises and there is no Office 365 connection.
  • Skype for Business Hybrid: Some users are registered to the Skype for Business Server (this could be in an appliance or in a private cloud) and some users are registered to Skype for Business Online. User identity is synchronized with Office 365 and voice mail is in Exchange Online.
  • Cloud PBX with on-premises PSTN: Users are registered to Skype for Business Online where the call management is handled by the Cloud PBX, but PSTN connectivity (also known as “bring your own carrier”) is handled on-premises through a local gateway or appliance.
  • Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling: Users are registered to Skype for Business Online and are on a Microsoft provided PSTN calling service, all managed by the Microsoft cloud.

Given that reality, a wise deployment of Skype for Business will mix on-premises functionality for corporate and call center users, allowing integration with legacy systems with initial deployment of cloud services. This will lay the foundation for a smooth transition to the full cloud solution down the line. The best way to protect the enterprise’s current investments, ensure a full enterprise voice feature set, guarantee that all company branches around the world are serviced and comply with regulations, is with a hybrid solution which offers the best of both worlds and allows the benefits of Unified Communications today with a secure and smooth migration to voice in the cloud when fully available.

Want to learn more about these 4 options and which one best fits your needs download this white paper – A practical guide for embracing the communications future.

One Box for Lync Innovative Solution

Making The Most of Your Office 365 E4 Plan

Lync voice and Unified Communications are becoming increasingly popular. In this environment, it is natural that innovative solutions for specific requirements within the ever expanding Lync ecosystem are being introduced to the marketplace all the time.

Enterprise Voice for Lync can be accessed through Microsoft’s “Plus” Client Access License (CAL) offering, which in turn can be achieved by either deploying on-Premises Lync devices, or through the cloud-based Office 365 suite (Word, Excel, Outlook, Publisher, and OneNote, Exchange, SharePoint, Yammer and OneDrive). Microsoft’s Office 365 E3 plan, which costs $20 per user per month, provides UC functionality such as presence, IM, mobile clients, peer-to peer video and voice, voice and video conferencing, screen sharing and editing. The E3 plan, however, doesn’t include enterprise voice – the ability to place and receive calls on the PSTN/cellular network and the ability to use the features that allow organizations to essentially replace a PBX with Lync. To benefit from those features, the end-user would need to add an additional $2 a month to upgrade to Microsoft’s E4 plan and benefit from the “Plus” CAL (bringing the monthly cost to $22). However, the customer would need to install on-premises servers and gateways/SBCs to make it happen, requiring skills and resources many small to medium businesses (SMB) may not have.

An innovative solution to bridge the gap for Office 365 users who want to benefit from Enterprise telephony without the steep infrastructure costs is a lucrative opportunity for partners serving SMBs.

One Box for Lync Innovative Solution

A quick glance at recent research shows just how large the potential of such an opportunity might be. According to Gartner, for example, Microsoft Lync as a voice solution grew 106% in 2013. In research conducted by T3I, 80% of SMBs surveyed showed interest in deploying Microsoft Lync, and of those, 40% had interest in enterprise voice. And on the Office 365 side, one estimate had the service at 29.76 million paid subscribers, an increase of 1.32 million new subscribers per month.

Into this gap enters AudioCodes’ One Box 365. Recent conversations we have had with both industry analysts and many of our own customers have validated the strong interest we have seen in the solution since its introduction back in the summer.  A hybrid on-premises/cloud solution, One Box provides a one-stop shop for all the critical hardware, software and services required for a successful Lync voice implementation. Combining multiple Lync server roles, gateway and SBC functionality into a single appliance, it comes complete with Lync certified IP phones, an Active Directory Domain Controller, voice quality monitoring capabilities and a dedicated user interface for easy migration provisioning and configuring for Lync users. The end result is an offering which allows customers an intuitive, cost effective and quick way to bring Lync enterprise voice alongside their Office 365 deployments.

Further Information

Several articles have been published in the past few weeks about the solution.

  • An in-depth analysis by Marty Parker of UniComm Consulting and Brent Kelly of KelCor, Inc. using essentially the same methodology they used for theirLync Conference 2014 TCO analysis, determined that the five-year total cost of ownership for One Box 365 would be approximately 60% lower for an organization with 50 to 200 users than a comparable on-premises implementation of Microsoft Lync. To watch a recorded webinar with Marty Parker and Brent Kelly click here:
  • Brent Kelly expands on the above TCO analysis using One Box in several different types of Lync deployments in his article in No Jitter.
  • Articles by Kevin Keiller and Marty Parker in UC Strategies show how the Lync ecosystem allows for the introduction of innovative solutions answering needs rising from the field.
  • John Weber, a Lync Server MVP (2010-2014), takes an in-depth look at One Box in his blog, TsooRad.
Lync Conference 2014 Ran Inbar

Lync Conference 2014 – Smashing into a New Era

[Post is better viewed on the blog Website]

Lync Conference 2014 Ran InbarThe second annual Lync Conference is now behind us, this year held in the Aria Convention Center in Las Vegas and again a sell-out.  Themed “Coming Together”, the event was attended by some 1,800 end-customers, partners and Microsoft staffers.   Mecca for the Lync faithful, the Lync Conference is the place to be for Lync education, networking and a peek at coming attractions.

This year saw an increasing number of enterprise users, many sharing their experiences in moving beyond their early pilots to full implementations.  During AudioCodes’ private “Circle of Excellence” pre-conference event, we heard from a number of Lync network administrators about their successes and challenges in implementing Lync voice and conferencing across their enterprises.  Cargill, Amgen, Bally Entertainment and a number of other large enterprises all shared their Lync migration stories in great detail.  You can read a summary of the event by Brent Kelly, Consultant at KelCor.

We also took the opportunity to demonstrate our new 430HD and 440HD IP Phones along with our Better Together over IP functionality for Microsoft Lync.  Shown here, Ran Inbar, CTO Unified Communication for AudioCodes demonstrates the Better Together functionality to Matt Landis, a widely read blogger on the topic of Lync.

On the main keynote stage, Microsoft announced some key milestones for Lync with Derek Burney demonstrating the increasingly integrated Skype/Lync experience, the newly updated Lync client for Android tablets and a pre-release look at voice-driven “zero click” Lync client features.

Microsoft Lync Conference 2014 Gurdeep PallFollowing Derek, Gurdeep Singh Pall returned to the stage, announcing the end of the era of Unified Communications and the start of Universal Communications, bringing a consistent user experience across media types and devices. Gurdeep also demonstrated a web-based Jscript application, showing a somewhat un-realistic medical consultation experience, where a patient could hold a video call with a doctor.  (While the technology is very much realistic, in my experience, actually getting a doctor on a video call is highly un-realistic – they seem to be pretty techno-phobic.)

AudioCodes had the opportunity to share our experiences on a panel discussion on the Lync Ecosystem, sharing the stage with AT&T, Jabra, Unify2 and HP.  Challenging the “one throat to choke” argument, the panel dissected the benefits of the well established relationships between the large systems integrators, partners and enterprise buyers.

And finally, in an over-the-top spectacle, Microsoft’s exhibit featured a “product launch” cage where visitors could use a large slingshot to launch legacy telecom devices into a wall, aiming for a target with a gong in the center.  The occasional direct hit would fill the hall with the crashing sound, followed by cheers from the crowd.

Even if you missed the event, you can still participate in the conversation on http://mylync.lyncconf.com – Alan can be reached  via email at alan.percy@audiocodes.com or on Twitter @AlanDPercy

I don't gamble

I Don’t Gamble

The AudioCodes-Microsoft Lync angle

[Post is better viewed on the blog Website]

I don’t gamble.  Not that I hate gambling, or that I don’t understand the “thrill” that comes with it.  I just don’t gamble.

When I was in my early 20’s I went on a family vacation in Puerto Rico, and our hotel had a casino.  I had 5 quarters in my pocket when I sat next to a slot machine.

4 quarters went away in a blink of an eye.  The fifth gave me back 6 quarters, and as I was about to kiss the last one goodbye and move on, I won $86.

I took the money and ran off to rent a jet ski. That was it. I never put a single coin in a slot machine since.

I recalled this since 2014 starts off for me with an unusual sequence of travel destinations:  I just got back from Macau China two weeks ago from our APAC sales kickoff event, and I’m heading next to Las Vegas for the Microsoft annual Lync Conference.  The two biggest gambling destinations in the world, 1 month apart, for someone who doesn’t gamble. Go figure.

I don't gamble

2014 is starting off on a very positive note for our Lync program.  We have introduced a new high capacity session border controller (SBC) which has sufficient capacity to cover the data centers and headquarters of 99.9% of the world’s enterprises.  We focused significant development efforts on functionality, security and interoperability in the last 3 years, and in 2013 we were able to quickly scale up the capacity of our SBC.  I think that the timing is pretty good because we are seeing enterprises scaling up their Lync deployments, and as they start retiring legacy PBX and ISDN/T1 trunks, they are moving to SIP Trunking.  This is exactly where we fit in with our SBC, as part of our very successful One Voice for Lync offering which includes gateways, SBC, SBA, IP Phones and applications for Lync.

Our release got a lot of positive industry reviews such as the article Thinking Big with AudioCodes by Blear Pleasant on UC Strategies.

“That’s why AudioCodes is “thinking big” and introduced the Mediant 9000 Session Border Controller, which supports up to 16,000 concurrent sessions and extends the capacity of AudioCodes Mediant SBC family.  As part of AudioCodes’ One Voice for Lync product portfolio, the larger capacity SBCs enable enterprise customers to consolidate the network infrastructure for Microsoft Lync, simplifying training, deployment and support. AudioCodes and Microsoft have been working together for years, and AudioCodes realized that it was important to expand its SBC capacity in order to better support large Lync deployments. This is especially important as the momentum for Microsoft Lync continues to grow, with nearly 60% of enterprises with over 500 seats surveyed by Infotrack deploying or planning to deploy Lync.”

It was very clear to us that once we complete the networking products portfolio, the next step would be to offer a uniform management suite for it, and that we did!  We just announced our One Voice Operations Center which is a holistic suite of life-cycle management applications for large scale cloud or premise-based unified communications deployments.  With that, we are very well positioned to serve the largest of the Fortune 500 enterprises as they roll out Lync globally.

Just before the Lync conference starts, we will be hosting a closed user group event of top notch Fortune enterprise customers, for a round-table discussion about Lync global roll out best practices. Later in the week we are holding a “Vegas Style” party for our partners and customers. If you are coming to the event please make sure to stop by the Audiocodes booth #625.

All in all I expect we will have a great week in Vegas.

It makes me feel that if you plan properly, you don’t have to gamble…