It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since the launch of Lync Server 2010 in New York. I was back in New York (and Boston) this week visiting with customers, press and analysts, sharing updates and touching base on progress since launch. Many customers have used our instant messaging and conferencing technology for years, but with the release of Lync, it’s been notable the number of customers who are using Lync to bridge the gap between enterprise telephony and other real-time communications. Over the last couple years, we’ve tracked and validated deployments of Lync and OCS, including telephony, with a subset of our customers. We’ve seen enterprise voice deployments grow 250% in the last fiscal year alone, adding up to nearly three million total “lines” deployed to date (i.e., call control with Lync or OCS), and hundreds of enterprises with multi-thousand user Microsoft telephony deployments.
Recent enterprise voice roll-outs include 15,000 seats at Swisscom in Europe, 33,000 seats at Western Kentucky University in the U.S. and 10,000 seats at Sharp in Japan. Global energy group Royal Dutch Shell has 150,000 IM and presence users and nearly 20,000 telephony users. Information Week highlighted another customer – LA Fitness – that chose Lync for its 20,000 employees after assessing Avaya and Cisco, and is now saving $650,000 per year in hard savings and reaping significant other productivity benefits. At Microsoft, we’ve literally bet our own business on Lync, with more than 90,000 employees worldwide using Lync as their only telephony solution, in addition to IM, audio, video and web conferencing. It is making a difference at Microsoft and for customers all over the globe, so if you’re considering Lync and want to hear about other customer experiences, check out the more than 450 case studies on Microsoft.com, or talk to another customer who has deployed it – your Microsoft account executive would be happy to make the connection.
Why are customers increasingly choosing Lync for telephony as well? First, as the workplace and collaboration have evolved, many customers are looking for more than a phone replacement. Lync is the first truly unified communications solution on the market – with a single client experience for the user, a single server and management experience for the administrator, and a single set of unified APIs for the developer. This platform element of Lync in particular has also helped finally realize the aspiration around Communications Enabled Business Process, which was introduced as a concept nearly ten years ago. With Lync, partners and customers can finally build rich, real-time communications into business applications and workflow (examples are here and here). And for customers who have made a bet on Microsoft technologies such as SharePoint, Exchange, and Office, Lync works great with those products right out of the box.
Customer and market momentum may be one of the reasons behind recent legacy infrastructure vendor claims about Lync. Let me address a few of the questions that have come up recently in the blogosphere.
First, because Microsoft is the only vendor in this space that builds its own mobile phone OS, one area I get asked about is mobility. Mobility is a huge investment area for the company and Lync, and we are committed to building the best experience for customers. In fact, many customers choose Lync because of its advantages for mobile workers in particular (e.g., built-in remote access in our PC and Mac clients that enables customers to effectively serve mobile workers without requiring mobile phones or VPN connections, as consulting firm AT Kearney describes in this case study). Beyond a best-in-class softphone user experience, we’ve traditionally supported clients for the PC, Mac, Windows Phone 6.5, Symbian, and Blackberry, and later this year we’ll release the next generation of mobile phone clients for Lync 2010 for Windows Phone, iOS, and Android – clients built and supported by Microsoft. Moreover, Lync has a rich set of unified APIs that enable developers and partners to build custom mobile clients and experiences, leading to an ecosystem of custom options for customers as well.
Another area I get asked about is system level pricing for Lync, since we rely on a more ecosystem-oriented approach to our offer. We’ve bet on leading global partners for hardware since we fundamentally believe this leads to greater innovation, more choice for customers, and more competitive pricing. System level pricing for Lync depends on a variety of factors, and we encourage customers to make side by side comparisons based on their unique situation and requirements. The telephony RFP evaluation at the 2010 VoiceCon (highlighted in this blog post) showed that the Lync based solution, including all hardware and software, compared favorably with legacy suppliers. In fact, today purchasers of a Microsoft-based system will see much lower endpoint prices than those used in the 2010 sample RFP response, and many will see lower per user licensing costs as well.
Another advantage of this approach is that customers can choose the best client and infrastructure hardware for their needs, taking advantage of the innovations of multiple device, server, gateway, and application suppliers. From a purchasing perspective, the ability to procure software and hardware from different suppliers also often results in greater pricing transparency than single-vendor offers.
Finally, because we take a more software-oriented approach to UC, we often get asked questions about related hardware requirements. Of course, hardware infrastructure depends on the capabilities deployed, as well as the required scale. For example, Avaya often suggests dedicated servers for its SIP Enablement and Application Enablement Servers, while Cisco requires a separate server to add IM and presence to a Communications Manager environment. We provide multiple deployment options and guidance on the most effective configurations, which includes the use of dedicated servers in some cases. However, we also allow the use of both physical and virtual servers and allow multiple software elements (or roles) to be co-located on servers.
Does this automatically mean that Lync has a more efficient architecture than those competitors? Not necessarily, though the Lync Standard Edition server, which provides IM, presence, conferencing, telephony, and application interfaces for 5,000 users using a single server, and can be made redundant with a second server, provides a starting point for comparison. A customer can add secure remote UC access for those 5,000 users by deploying a Lync Edge Server, eliminating a need for the VPN infrastructure required by some traditional voice solutions. And the results in terms of PBX voice scalability and reliability have been rock solid, with Miercom writing that:
“Microsoft Lync 2010 is the first Unified Communications product to pass the SIP Torture and Attrition Test with Miercom by achieving a record 4 million SIP calls complete without error…Microsoft Lync Server 2010 was able to sustain heavy call volume without dropping any calls or reporting any errors in a 4 million call completion test. The delivery rate with sustained operation without error is the highest capacity test applied to any Unified Communications / IP PBX product we have tested to date.”
Nine months ago we launched Lync Server 2010, joining with customers and partners to change the way businesses communicate. There are new examples coming all of the time from customers who are embracing a more unified approach to communications and collaboration. One great story that’s being told today is from employees of Volkswagen Group of America, who are blogging about their experiences with Lync at testdrivinglync.com. Thanks for your continued interest in Lync, and visit our website for more information on how Lync is harnessing the transformational power of software and changing communications.