Microsoft Lync: More than just an instant messenger

A comment I hear all too often about this technology really doesn’t do it justice. Office Communications Server is not just Microsoft’s “Instant Messenger on steroids”. Have you thought about replacing your PBX with an IP-based solution that would drastically reduce telephony costs? What about all the money your organization would save by using Microsoft’s solution for conferencing and communicating between multiple global locations?

Next generation telephony” is just one of the ways that Microsoft describes the soon to be released, newly-chrsitened version of OCS (2010, unofficially). Here is a technology that provides a single, comprehensive unified communications solution that includes voice, instant messaging, presence, and audio, video, and web conferencing, all integrated with commonly used applications such as Microsoft Office and SharePoint, and infrastructure elements such as Microsoft Active Directory, Exchange and System Center Operations Manager.

New features & functionality

The Release Candidate is out and they’re calling the latest version Microsoft Lync (cross between “Link” and “Synch.”) It’s probably safe to assume that the full RTM (Release-To-Manufacturing) is another couple of months away. Microsoft announced the new features at TechEd recently, however, I personally found this post rather informative from Chris Williams of the OCS Insider.

Some of the cooler enhancements include:

–    Better integration with Outlook and a robust client that gives you a “unified experience.”

–    The ability to collaborate through Sharepoint integration (Skill Search) and having pictures & location info.

–    Complete Enterprise Voice features (discussed below)

–    Desktop and application sharing, whiteboarding and uploading of PowerPoint presentations with a few clicks.

–    Easier to manage and more flexibility / extensibility (think .NET and the ability to modify the client experience)


As if to signify how far OCS has come as a voice solution, Microsoft is also introducing the “OCS Voice CAL”, or Client Access License as an entirely new and separate CAL. Some of the voice specific capabilities will be removed from the OCS wave 14 Enterprise CAL and combined with new voice features/functionality in this new OCS Voice CAL.

A generous grandfathering policy from Microsoft allows those who already own the Enterprise CAL (as a component of their Enterprise Agreement prior to July 1, 2009) to have access to the OCS Voice CAL for not just the upcoming release but also the next (OCS 2012?), as long as they continue to maintain Software Assurance on their licenses.

As for those who bought between July 1, 2009 and the official release of OCS 2010, they have the option of renewing Software assurance separately on the OCS Voice CAL, should they choose to utilize this functionality upon release.

What’s my ROI on OCS?

Short answer: Depends on your implementation. Here’s the slightly longer answer:

  • Cost avoidance: IM and Presence means you don’t have to make unnecessary calls and end up leaving VM.
  • Cost reduction: Conference calling, VOIP, Live Meeting, Video calls can all save considerably on not just telephony but even travel costs.
  • Revenue gains: Free-up time & resources. Better workflows. Ease of communication = faster sales cycle.
  • Customer satisfaction: Communicate effectively both internally & externally and respond quicker.

In summary, you could potentially eliminate separate PBX and conferencing directories, utilize existing deployment and operations models, and reduce help desk call volume and cost. Travel can be substituted with conferencing, and the mobility allowed empowers employees to leverage this technology both internally and externally to their advantage.

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About Faisal Mumtaz

Faisal manages Softchoice's Microsoft Business Development team for US West. He has an in-depth understanding how best to leverage Microsoft’s licensing agreements and technologies.