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Lync not enterprise-ready, claims Microsoft ISV-turned-rival

Lack of support for mobile clients and hidden costs can make a large-scale Lync deployment far less appealing than a small-scale one

By , Network World
September 20, 2011 03:15 PM ET

Network World - A gap between what Microsoft promises with Lync's telephony and what it delivers makes Lync a poor choice as an IP PBX replacement for large organizations, according to a former Microsoft "Most Valuable Professional" who now works for Avaya. A current Microsoft MVP also says that Lync in its current form is a mediocre choice for a large enterprise, but that it works well for the SMB and is really geared toward smaller businesses anyway.

The former Microsoft MVP, Joe Schurman, has lobbed three big complaints against the collaboration platform's telephony server: 1) Its support for mobile devices is atrocious. 2) It is sold as a software-only solution but really requires a lot of hardware. 3) Microsoft has stuffed Lync full of licensing gotchas.

Schurman currently works as director of Avaya's Unified Communications; however, until recently, he was one of the more well-known advocates of Microsoft's Unified Communications products and it is fair to say that Schurman knows Lync well. He is a six-time Microsoft UC MVP who penned two books on Microsoft's unified communication technology. Microsoft's MVP program recognizes individuals outside of the company who share their knowledge about Microsoft technologies.

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Schurman's company, Evangelyze Communications, launched in 2008 to sell add-on products for Microsoft's Office Communications Server (OCS) and its successor, Lync, and is still a Microsoft Gold partner. However, earlier this year Schurman grew so frustrated with Lync's telephony technology, as well as Microsoft's SDK and other developer support, that he bailed on Microsoft altogether, he says. Evangelyze is now retooling its unified chat product, SmartChat, and its secure, HIPAA-compliant healthcare version, SmartCare, to support Avaya's one-X Unified Communications Client instead. Shortly after that decision, Schurman also took a job with Avaya.

Note that Lync's capabilities as an instant messaging server and a Web conferencing server are not disputed, particularly for companies using Microsoft products like Windows, Exchange, SharePoint and/or Office. However, for a company considering using Lync for voice, the debate centers on how suitable it is and how costly.

"If you've already got Lync for instant messaging and Web conferencing, you add one more service to it and you have voice. It is basically free in the sense that you've already set up 90% of the stuff," explains Rand Morimoto, Microsoft MVP, president of San Francisco-based consultant company Convergent Computing and a Lync user. "If you already own the Web conferencing piece, you already own the enterprise license for Lync to do voice." (Morimoto also pens the Secrets of Windows Back Office Servers blog for Network World's Microsoft Subnet.)

Yet Schurman contends that Lync is neither low-cost nor easy to implement at enterprise scale, and he makes some valid points, according to information sent to Network World by Microsoft.

Lync's lack of support for mobile clients, and for platforms outside of Windows, is an issue for the enterprise, says Morimoto, though he doesn't expect the issue to last. While Lync's softphone can be implemented on Windows XP and higher, it can't yet run on Windows Phone 7. Morimoto's company uses Lync as its PBX to support Convergent Computing's 100 employees, 70% of whom are road warriors.

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