Hi everyone, I’m Tarek Radi, a senior program manager on the Microsoft Lync partner and customer engineering team. I’m excited to give you a quick glimpse of how Lync 2013 delivers enterprise grade, real-time audio and video communication in a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment, either from your thin clients, or from your thick clients… at scale.

September 19, 2012 Update: The Microsoft Lync 2013 VDI plug-in is now available.

October 31, 2012 Update: New VDI bits released; added links to RDP bits; new VDI deployment instructions; guidance on working with VMware PCoIP; Lync Online guidance.

This plug-in enables you to experience local-like audio and video in peer-to-peer calls and conference calls when using Microsoft Lync 2013 in a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Environment.

Author: Tarek Radi, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft

Article publication date: July 31, 2012

Plug-in release date: September 19, 2012

Article update: October 31, 2012

Product version: Lync 2010, Lync Server 2010, Lync Server 2013 , Lync 2013

As VDI solutions (such as Microsoft Remote Desktop Services, VMware View, and Citrix XenDesktop) gain market adoption and the technology evolves, a PC-like experience on thin clients becomes increasingly important, especially when Microsoft Lync is the unified communications platform.

As explained in the Microsoft Lync 2010 Client Virtualization whitepaperthere are several limitations when using Lync 2010 in a VDI environment. The most notable updates are the requirements for a Lync-qualified IP Desk phone and the lack of video support.

NOTE: This white paper was updated to include support of Lync 2010 over a VMware View 5 VDI infrastructure. For additional information see VMware’s article Microsoft Lync 2010 with VMware View 5.0.

As part of the new release of Office 2013, Microsoft has worked closely with multiple partners to bring enterprise-grade audio and video communication support using Lync to thin clients running in a VDI environment. This includes key features, such as E911 support, Call Admission Control (CAC), Call Park, Media Bypass, and many other features required by enterprise customers. The solution is extensible and designed to work on both hardware partner platforms (such as Dell Wyse and HP) and Protocol Partner platforms (such as Citrix and VMware).

On July 24th 2012, all these partners announced their plans to support Lync 2013 plugin over their devices and protocols. These are truly exciting announcements. (See Citrix’s blog article, XenDesktop Support for the New Microsoft Lync, Dell Wyse blog article, Dell Wyse Enables Microsoft Lync To Be Deployed On Its Thin Clients, HP blog article, Talking Thin Clients? Yes – Literally – Here’s What HP Has Planned for Microsoft Lync, and VMware blog article, Microsoft Lync 2013 Support with VMware View Desktops).

To support enterprise-grade audio and video over VDI with Lync 2013, Microsoft implemented a new Media Redirection architecture and built a VDI plugin that runs on thin clients and pairs with the Lync client running in the remote desktop to which the end user has connected. This means audio and video originate and terminate at the thin client. This offloads encoding and decoding of media from the datacenter to the thin client, leveraging the thin client’s local resources, and enabling the solution to scale. All the other great features of Lync (IM, Presence, Desktop and App sharing, whiteboards, file transfers, online meetings, and Office Integration) are available from within the virtual or remote desktop. Figure 1 is a high-level architectural diagram that shows how audio and video originate and terminate at the plugin running on the thin client or access machine, which results in minimal bandwidth consumption between the access device and the data center, making this solution scalable.

Figure 1. High-level architectural diagram of Lync 2013.

From a hardware perspective, Microsoft has been testing Lync 2013 over VDI using a multitude of thin client devices, including three models from Dell Wyse (Z90D7, R90L7 and X90m7) and two models from HP (t610 and t5740e). As part of the Lync VDI Partner TAP, thin client OEM partners can perform their own thin client testing and support additional devices based on their results.

From a protocol perspective, the Lync VDI plugin makes use of Dynamic Virtual Channels (DVCs), a standard set of APIs that have been implemented in RDP and improved upon as captured in this article Fast and Fluid Audio/Video Experience with the new Lync and RemoteFX. Out of the box, the Lync VDI plugin will work over the RDP protocol on Windows 7, Windows 8, WES 7, WES 8, and WinTPC. Protocol partners envision enabling Lync 2013 over other desktop remoting protocols, such as Citrix’s ICA and VMware’s PCOIP. This is possible because Lync 2013 was built using a platform independent model that leverages DVCs.

To summarize, the Lync 2013 VDI plugin delivers enterprise grade audio and video to PC users, as well as thin client users, leveraging platform independent DVC APIs that partners can support over their remote desktop protocols, not just RDP.

UseFul Links

The Lync 2013 client is licensed as part of Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2013, which is available to TechNet subscribers here. You can also download a copy of the Lync Server 2013 from TechNet here.

To download the Lync VDI plug-in (released October 29, 2012), visit the Microsoft Download Center:

Note that you will need to install a couple of RDP updates:

If you are interested in running the Lync VDI plugin over a VMware View infrastructure, you need to install the updated PCoIP software on the thin client or your access machine. You can get a copy of the VMware View PCoIP software and applicable installation guide by contacting your VMware Account Manager who will put you in contact with the VMware Product Management team and give you access to this material through their private Beta.

The Lync VDI plugin is not supported in Lync Online scenarios. In other words, if you are remoting into a VM, and are running Lync Online through Microsoft Office 365 inside the VM, the Lync VDI plugin on your access machine will not pair, and you will not experience the benefits of the plugin. For more details on deploying and using the Lync 2013 VDI plugin from a Win7 machine, see the article Deploying the Lync VDI Plugin. For additional information on the changes that went into the Lync Client, take a look at the Microsoft TechNet Articles What's New for Clients.

Thank you for reading this blog. Please feel free to post questions or leave your comments below.

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Keywords: VDI, Lync VDI, Lync plugin, virtualization, desktop virtualization, Tarek Radi, Lync client