The Microsoft Lync Server technical community is full of knowledgeable IT professionals that work tirelessly to share their wealth of experience and expertise with the world. They blog, tweet, deliver presentations and answer questions in the forums to help foster expert knowledge for administrators and IT Pros in every corner of the globe.

In mid-2011, I decided to use my own blog, Justin Morris on UC, to interview and learn from these noteworthy individuals who consistently go the extra mile to help all of us better understand Microsoft Lync Server.

For the third installment in the series on NextHop, I interviewed Norwegian Lync MVP, Ståle Hansen, from IT integrator Atea, to find out how he got into IT and why he loves Microsoft Lync.

Author: Justin Morris

Publication date: March 23, 2012

Product version: Lync Server 2010

What's your technical background? How did you end up where you are today?

After completing my bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2003, there were practically no jobs available in the IT industry here in Norway. I ended up as a trainee in a retail store selling cellphones. This got me some valuable sales experience and soon enough I was a B2B technical sales professional selling everything from IT infrastructure to telephony solutions and accessories. I viewed myself more as an advisor than a sales person though.

After a while, I needed to make a choice whether to focus on sales, with less in-depth knowledge, or to dive into technology and become a consultant. I chose the latter and in 2006 became a Microsoft Consultant for an IT infrastructure company called Ementor. I have been with this company—now called Atea—ever since. It is now the biggest System Integrator in the Nordics.

Introducing Ståle Hansen.

Can you tell us what your position at Atea entails?

Today, I work as sort of a Lync technical lead at Atea. I do everything from presale, technology advising, evangelism, and teaching to designing, deploying, and troubleshooting Lync 2010. I also try to invite others to share information within the company and externally. I believe that through sharing of knowledge, everyone gains, even the one that shares the information in the first place.

Right now, I am in a big project as a principal architect making sure Exchange Server, Lync Server, SharePoint Server, TRIO, Active Directory, and Avaya play together as intended. In the same project, I deploy Lync 2010 and am in charge of the IT Pro and end user training materials. So there is a lot going on at the same time, which is the way I like it.

What made you get into UC and specialize in Lync Server?

I always wanted to be a leading advisor in some field within IT, and when I started as a consultant, I did a deep dive into Microsoft infrastructure and specialized in Exchange Server. One day, my boss asked if I could go to this LCS 2005 course, because they had committed themselves to Microsoft by certifying consultants for LCS 2005. I went to this course without knowing what it was, but from there on I was hooked and have worked mainly with Microsoft Unified Communications ever since.

The great thing about Atea was that UC was a primary area, so we got to talk about and play with the technology, even though the bulk of the projects did not come until OCS 2007 was released. I did a lot of Exchange projects until OCS 2007 R2 and then Lync 2010 with Enterprise Voice took off. Lync is now my primary focus.

What's your favorite thing about Lync?

As a consultant, my favorite thing about Lync is the complexity of the solution--that it involves everything from networking, MS infrastructure design, and PowerShell, to name a few. I like that the work I do has the ability to change how people work and relate to each other, and that they understand the impact of the solution. I love being able to really deep dive into technology one moment and go all the way up to business value and end user experience the next moment.

Ståle presenting Lync 2010 at the Nordic Infrastructure Conference.

What was the most challenging Live Communications Server/Office Communications Server/Lync Server problem you ever solved?

I have spent a lot of time troubleshooting Lync, but can’t recall any epic scenarios I solved. There is one feature though that I feel is missing in Lync Server 2010, which is the ability to find available Direct Inward Dialing (DID) in any given number range. When doing a lot of Enterprise Voice deployments, it would be great to be able to use Lync to find the next available number, instead of maintaining and depending on complex Excel workbooks for this task.

However, with PowerShell, you can easily find all DID’s that are used within the deployment, and knowing the number range, you can create a script that finds the next unused number, which you can then assign to a user.

I created this script in January 2011 during a long weekend and have been using it ever since. It even got published as the only external script at the Lync PowerShell blog, which I am very proud of. You can find the script here: List-UnusedNumbers.ps1.

In short, what it does:

1. You create an Unassigned Number range with the number range you got per location.

2. When you run the script, it will look for all entities that can contain a LineURI, which is:

  • Users
  • Analog Devices
  • Common Area Phones
  • Exchange UM Contacts
  • Dial in Conferencing access numbers
  • Trusted Application Endpoints
  • Response Group Workflows

3. All the numbers get stored in one array.

4. Then we need to make sure the array only contains numbers. So we need to remove

  • tel+[countrycode]
  • ;[extensions]

5. Then we go through each Unassigned Number range and compare how many numbers are actually used within any given range:

  • The amount of used numbers get stored in an integer
  • All the used numbers within the range get stored in an array
  • After that we do a compare to find all the numbers that are not used
  • Finally you get to print all the available numbers within the PowerShell window

6. The script continues until all Unassigned Number ranges have been traversed.

The cool thing about this script is that it is dynamic. You only need to change how many digits your country code is. It can work in almost any environment, as long as the DID is less than 10 digits, because of the limitation of Int32. This is an issue I plan to look into when time permits.

This kind of script shows the real power in PowerShell, where you can create functionality that is needed to get things done. The script can also be adapted to a function within a script to create users and assign the next available DID automatically, using the users location as input.

Ståle with his wife and son on holiday by the sea in Norway.

If you could think of one feature you'd like included in the next version of Lync, what would it be?

I really hope they incorporate the ability to find available numbers in a number range for Enterprise Voice. Present it as a cmdlet in PowerShell, like find next free number, and make it available in the GUI when enabling users. Because all information about used numbers and free numbers is available in the solution, it should be no big investment for the product team to implement such a feature.

What do you feel is your area of expertise, where you consider yourself a bit of a rock star?

I like to think that I am able to communicate effectively with both IT Pros for deep-dive technical talks and business decision makers for business value talks, always explaining things in an understandable way. I also love presenting, and my main goal is that those who attend one of my sessions actually learn something new. I’m no rockstar, but I try to do the best I can and surpass expectations.

Ståle talks about custom presence states in Lync at the Nordic Infrastructure Conference.

Your blog msunified.net covers both Exchange Server and Lync Server, along with lots of helpful troubleshooting tips. When did you start it and what direction has it taken?

I started my blog in April 2009 when I was home on paternity leave--actually late each night, waiting for my son to wake up to eat. My primary goal for the blog was to create an online repository for useful KB articles, blog posts, and downloads that I found around the web. I hate spending time searching for a document, blog post, or article I know exists but can’t find when I need it. Creating a public website meant I was able to find the information I needed wherever I was, and I could also point customers there for solving specific issues.

After a while, I got a good overview of the blogs I was interested in and found out that I could contribute with my own solutions as well. The blog is based on real life experience, so by looking at what I am blogging about, you see what I am currently spending my time on. Thus, there haven’t been many Exchange Server posts lately.

I try to blog useful articles talking about Lync features and solutions to problems I encounter that have not been talked about in other blogs. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, because now I know that there are a lot of good articles out there, and it is becoming difficult to find unique topics to write about. That is what I love about the Lync community. There are so many people out there blogging and sharing the know-how.

You’re our first Nordic Lync Pro to be interviewed. Where are you from in Norway and what do you think makes your hometown/city great?

I grew up in Trondheim, which was the capital city in Norway during the old Viking times. Therefore it is a great tourist destination, with a lot of history. The city’s architecture has personality. I moved to Oslo in 2010 because of two things: warmer weather—yeah, I don’t like cold summers—and more family around Oslo that can help out with our son.

When you're not dishing out quality technical know-how, what do you do for fun?

On weekends, I try to spend time with my beautiful wife and son. Being a father takes up much of my spare time after working, staying up to date, and blogging. I also try to help out the local sports team as an activity leader for 3-4 year olds once a week. I am an old gamer, and when I get time, I play some MMO or FPS.

Summary

Thanks a lot for taking time out of your schedule to answer our questions Ståle! We really appreciate you sharing your knowledge, expertise, the story of your career thus far, and most importantly your passion for Microsoft Lync with the community.

Make sure you come back in April for another Interview with a Lync Pro. If you have suggestions for interviewees, please leave them in the comments below.

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Keywords: Lync MVP, interview, Ståle Hansen, IT Pro, Lync Server, Justin Morris