Verizon Offers New Management Services for Microsoft Lync
Verizon today rolled out unified communications management services for large enterprises in conjunction with Microsoft Lync Server 2010.
The New York-based telco has enhanced its existing enterprise offerings with a new service called "Managed Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) for Microsoft Lync." Microsoft's Lync is a unified communications solution that supports voice-over-IP (VoIP) telephony, video, Web conferencing and instant messaging for organizations via Web clients and dedicated Lync apps.
Verizon's new service adds to existing planning, architecture and deployment services for UC&C infrastructure that are offered through the company's Enterprise Solutions segment. The new service adds the operations component, including outsourced monitoring, maintenance and performance analysis of Lync Server 2010 deployments. The managed UC&C service for Lync is currently available in the United States, plus 19 European countries. It represents the last piece to Verizon's overall lifecycle support for Lync, which can push the skill sets of organizations, according to Bob Riley, a senior consultant for Global UC&C Product Management at Verizon Enterprise Solutions.
"Beyond the initial user experience or the administrative experience, there's a layer of complexity below it," Riley said in a phone interview about Lync. "Because Lync covers so much ground and so many different capabilities, it can touch a large part of the customer's infrastructure. It requires a really big skill set and knowledge expertise to not only to think about it, but also to deploy it and actually operate it. What we're doing with this service is helping customers through that."
In addition to addressing operations with the new service, Verizon sells other services that may be needed by companies deploying Microsoft's unified communications solution. For instance, Verizon offers Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) integration with the public switched telephone network (PSTN). This "Verizon SIP Trunking" service is separate from the managed UC&C Lync service.
"Where Verizon comes in and adds value is say you want to call a partner that's not using Lync," Riley said. "You have got to make a call through the PSTN. So what we can do is, through our IP Trunking product, we can bring in what we call a SIP trunk. It's our way to deliver our telephony services or voice calling termination on the PSTN to a customer's Lync Server infrastructure."
The Skype Question
As for Microsoft's integration of its consumer-oriented Skype VoIP service in Lync, not a whole lot has been publicized so far, although Microsoft has indicated there will be a Lync-to-Skype federation for business-to-consumer communications. The Skype part doesn't depend on IP trunking, though.
"When you look at Skype, it's all IP, so you don't have to really go through any gateways or utilize our IP trunking," Riley explained. "So, I really can't comment on how that would be routed, but it would probably be more direct routing between the Lync client and the Skype client. I would suspect that the Lync environment would have to be federated with Skype."
Verizon is a Microsoft Gold communications partner, having formed a strategic relationship with Microsoft on SIP technology going back to 2004, according to Riley. Verizon is a qualified provider of IP trunking with Microsoft through Microsoft's Open Interoperability Program (OIP). "Microsoft qualifies us and we certify them," Riley said.
On the management side, Verizon can provide Tier 1 and Tier 2 technical support, using Microsoft Premier Support Services. The company is a Premier Support for Lync Partner, supporting full Lync services and leveraging Microsoft's help desk resources.
"We can do end-to-end management across technologies," Riley said. "We can look at the application level down to the physical transport."
The actual Lync Server deployment on the backend depends on a number of Microsoft technologies, including SQL Server, SharePoint and Exchange, along with Active Directory and System Center Operations Manager for management. System Center 2012 now works with Verizon's Integrated Management Platform for Advanced Communications (IMPACT) technology, which Verizon uses to assure performance and reliability.
What About Lync 2013?
Currently, Verizon is all set to manage Lync Server 2010 deployments. However, it's a participant in Microsoft's Technology Adoption Program and involved in testing Lync 2013. Microsoft has indicated that the Lync 2013 product will be available sometime in the first half of 2013. Riley said that while Lync 2013 is not available yet, Verizon can help customers now with the planning and architectural phases.
As for whether VoIP services will lower costs for businesses, the jury's still out.
"We have TCO [total cost of ownership] tools that can help customers figure that out," Riley said. He added that with IP convergence, cost savings are seen and people have generally said that VoIP saves money.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.