A Lync With the Ecosystem

2 Mar 2014

The recent Microsoft Lync conference in Las Vegas was proof that Microsoft is a UCC force to be reckoned with. New product announcements were limited, as Microsoft has an 18-month release cycle, and the Lync conference was in between cycles. I liked what I heard from Gurdeep Singh Pall and was very pleased to see him back in charge of the Lync group, although the jury is still out on the term "universal communications." Is this really any different from unified communications? Unify (Siemens), Alcatel Lucent, and others have similar visions for what I call "Optimized Communications." Microsoft laid out a vision, but not a roadmap, so we'll have to wait and see where this goes.

Rather than focusing on announcements, let's focus on Microsoft ecosystem partners. Microsoft has made it clear that it believes in an ecosystem and will not provide all of the pieces of a Lync solution. As someone who follows the contact center market, I was especially impressed with the large number of Lync partners providing contact center capabilities to supplement Lync solutions. I was introduced to several companies I was previously unfamiliar with, including a few small Nordic-based companies that are using Lync to help enter the US market.

The exhibit hall was filled with a wide range of vendor sponsors and ecosystem partners, ranging from Diamond Sponsor HP to Platinum Sponsors Sonus, Dell, Polycom, and AT&T. There were Fortune 500 companies, and smaller companies that most people hadn't heard of before.

Areas that Microsoft has left to partners include SBCs, phones (Polycom, snom, Aastra), headsets (Plantronics, Jabra, Sennheiser, Logitech), and more. Some fierce battles are being fought among Lync ecosystem partners, but as Lync deployments continue to grow and expand, there's plenty of room for a variety of vendors. As the saying goes, rising tides lift all boats. Here are a few other areas that were represented at the conference:

  • Video Room Systems: Similar to how it approached desk phones, Microsoft provided a set of hardware specs that partners can use as the basis for developing their products. Microsoft's Lync Room Systems rely on partners that deliver the optimized integrated hardware and software necessary for Lync Room Systems, and include the cameras, microphones, touch screens, and more. The three partners currently providing the video room systems are Polycom, Crestron, and Smart Technologies. Each company had great demos of their room systems, identifying how they differ from each other and the value that they provide to Lync.
  • SBCs: The two SBC companies with the largest presence at the conference were AudioCodes and Sonus. Sonus, which is newer to the game but gained a great deal of expertise from its acquisition of NET, is ramping up new customers quickly and has been expanding as companies convert to Lync. I spoke with Sonus' Wes Durrow and Todd Abbott, who claimed that their funnel of large deployments is up exponentially from a year ago. They believe that one of their value propositions is the ability to make Lync integration easier while delivering the interoperability between Lync and legacy PBXs, As enterprises move from traditional PBXs and IP PBXs to Lync, interoperability is crucial, and companies like Sonus help provide multivendor interoperability. Microsoft realizes that most companies won't rip out their existing PBXs, and is working with a variety of SBC and gateway companies, such as Sonus, AudioCodes, and Patton Electronics. These companies have a key role in the Lync ecosystem, and provide crucial capabilities that Microsoft does not provide.
  • System Integration: Lync is not a single vendor solution, and requires the integration of various elements from different vendors. In addition to the video and SBC elements previously mentioned, system integrators need to tie Lync together with networking components, devices, business applications, and more. A range of companies have taken the lead in this area. For example, HP has transformed part of its business to become one of the leading Lync system integrators, and hosted two customer luncheons to share best practices and help customers that are expanding their Lync deployments. HP has been dedicated to Lync for several years, providing hardware, software, networking gear, and system integration capabilities. Stay tuned for more information on UCStrategies about what HP customers have learned from their Lync deployments.
  • While it was no surprise that HP brought a strong presence to the event, it was interesting to see companies such as Carousel and Arrow S3 touting their Lync practices. These companies have long been aligned with Avaya, and have recently expanded to add Lync to their offerings. UCStrategies has long believed that the key to success in UC is in the hands of Solution Integrators, including system integrators, VARs, and resellers, so it was refreshing to see companies such as Dimension Data, Dell, Avenade, CDW, Avtex, the Via Group, NACR, Unify 2, and others at the event. These companies will not only bring Lync to market, but will help with the interoperability and business process integration needed to ensure UC market growth.

Whether it's universal communications, unified communications, or my favorite, Optimized Communications, there is no denying that business communication systems are going through a truly significant transformation. The Lync ecosystem is a great example of how innovative companies can find gaps that need to be filled, and develop useful products and services that can provide more complete solutions for customers.




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