This week Extreme Networks announced the availability of an integrated solution for Microsoft’s Unified Communications platform, Lync. The announcement is well timed, as there is no hotter UC platform today than Lync. Over the past few years, Microsoft has been aggressively getting Lync into its customers’ hands. However, the majority of customers have been using Lync for its desktop features, such as chat, presence, and web conferencing. Over the past year or so, Microsoft has been much more aggressive in getting its customers to adopt Lync voice and video.
Today, Lync is a strong No. 2 to Cisco when considering a UC solution. In the last ZK Research Unified Communications survey, we had asked the question "Which vendor would make the short list for a UC deployment?" Cisco ranked No. 1 with 71% of the respondents and Microsoft came in second, with 51% (note: I am employed by ZK Research). No other vendor scored over 27% for consideration rate. In all likelihood, almost every large company is going to have some combination of Lync and Cisco to meet its UC needs. Lync is here to stay and Lync voice has become a viable alternative to a traditional IP PBX.
The survey asked a number of other questions specifically on Lync, including "What are your primary concerns regarding network readiness with regards to Lync?" The top response was managing the quality of service (61%), availability of WAN bandwidth (48%) and LAN bandwidth (45%). To help combat the concerns, Microsoft developed a qualification process for network vendors to speed up deployments and optimize the user experience.
Extreme Networks this week announced that it has completed the qualification process for its wireless, wired, and software defined networking (SDN) products. While other vendors have gone through the rigorous Lync qualification process, I believe Extreme is the only vendor that has achieved it for all three areas: wired/wireless/SDN.
The SDN qualification with Extreme's OneFabric Connect and NetSight is interesting as the invoking of a Lync call can dynamically make changes to the network to ensure high-quality delivery of audio and video calls across the entire network. As hot as SDN has been in the media, it’s been slow to adopt in businesses because of a lack of real uses cases. The Extreme/Lync integration is a good example of how an SDN can benefit network operations.
The qualification with Extreme's network gear helps customers tune the network and set network and security policies. Microsoft has been one of the most aggressive UC vendors when it comes to cutting the cord on the IP phone and would prefer customers to use BYOD endpoints for business communications. There are literally hundreds of settings that need to be tweaked to optimize performance across the network. The Lync qualification removes much of the "guess work" from this process.
Extreme's Purview application will give customers the ability to collect data and then analyze it to help with ongoing management, capacity planning, and understanding usage patterns. Extreme has discussed Purview in the context of wireless networks, and because of that there’s a perception that the application is just wireless analytics. However, Purview provides the same capabilities across the wired and wireless network.
For wireless, it's worth noting that Extreme has completed the Lync qualification for the 802.11ac products as well as 802.11n. While ac is red hot today, there's still a huge install base of n, so it's important to be qualified on both platforms.
Given the momentum behind Lync today, Extreme's qualification should prove to be a strong differentiator for the company as it looks to ramp its business following the acquisition of Enterasys.