Microsoft Lync Released to Manufacturing

Microsoft reached the released-to-manufacturing (RTM) milestone on Wednesday for Lync, its next-generation universal communications platform. The company will launch Lync at an event in New York Nov. 17.

"We're incredibly excited about this release as it's really the culmination of a five-year journey to help customers transform the way they communicate," wrote Kirk Gregersen, Microsoft's senior director for communications server marketing, in a blog post.

Lync, code-named Communications Server 14, is the new name for what is known as Office Communications Server. Microsoft announced the new name after posting the release candidate last month. Microsoft's Office team oversees Lync, which provides voice-calling capabilities accessible through a browser, mobile phone or its own Communicator client.

In his blog post, Gregersen described Lync as a single-communication platform that integrates various modes of communication. Specifically, Microsoft is positioning Lync as a replacement for traditional voice communications systems including PBXs. On the same platform, it supports audio, video and Web conferencing, instant messaging and presence and the ability to connect with mobile networks and devices.

"It does this for the end user via a single client experience, and on the back-end with a unified infrastructure and management experience," said Gregersen, who also pointed to the Lync API, which is enabling developers to build Lync-compatible applications.

"The success here will be driven by our open approach to interoperability which enables Lync to work with existing communications systems while implementing a single API set across all modes of communication, simplifying the developer experience," he said.

Making the case for Lync, is its ability to replace the costs associated with operating and maintaining PBXs, while tying the phone system to Microsoft Office, SharePoint and Exchange Server. At the same time, it will provide universal communications in a "softphone" mode, meaning individuals can use whatever device they choose, including a PC, browser or mobile phone. That unified platform lets users share contacts across Lync and Office apps.

Its conferencing capabilities include one-click scheduling of conferences, built-in desktop and app-sharing including PowerPoint upload capability, white boarding and the ability to copy and paste images and other content and a virtual lobby that provides improved security and control over who can attend a conference.

Perhaps key to making Lync a viable alternative to the traditional PBX is its support for E-911, high availability and support for survivable branch appliances and the ability to manage bandwidth utilization and support for quality of services (QoS) even over the Internet.

Lync also has new management and deployment tools including a PowerShell-based foundation that is consistent with Exchange Server, Active Directory and other key Microsoft server platforms. It offers consolidated management via Silverlight-based graphical tool and role-based Access Control (RBAC) for improved security.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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