Dec 20

Global Microsoft Lync 2013 roll-out and conferencing

Already starting from OCS server, Microsoft supports conferencing (audio, video and web) in it’s UC solution. More and more organizations are conferencing on the Lync platform and use it to save costs on their conferencing. With multinationals more than often 100.000’s minutes per month are spend on conferencing. And very often these organizations only use a few local dial-in numbers on Lync.

If you choose the right global voice provider (e.g. BT), they can supply you with local dial-in numbers for conferencing. This can be delivered in 170+ countries. So what do you need in order to achieve such a solution:

  1. SIP trunking with local dial-in numbers
  2. SBC (session border controller).  A good description can be found on the NextHop blog, written by MVP Steven van Houttem. “What is an SBC and do I need it?”
  3. Lync 2013 Enterprise Pool (Standard Pool is also possible but not seen a lot with multinational organizations)

Note:

  1. proper sizing of AVMCU has to be done based on amount of meetings, participants and duration and meeting size (default max 250, on dedicated AVMCU’s up to 1000 simultaneous participants)
  2. proper sizing of SIP trunk to carry all voice traffic during peak hours.

An illustration of the solution can be found below:

Lync and global conferencing

Lync and global conferencing

On the bottom left the Lync datacenter can be found with:

  • Enterprise Pool containing
    • AVMCU on the Front-End servers (hosting the conferences),
    • Mediation Server for SIP interconnectivity
  • In the DMZ are:
    • Edge Server for connectivity with remote clients and mobile clients
    • SBC for connectivity and demarcation of the service provider central SIP trunk

Branch site containing:

  • A Surviveable Branch Applicane (SBA) (more info in: SBA deployment and testing). This can be used for survivability in case the WAN connection fails and/or to connect local PSTN and decentralized SIP trunks
  • Lync Client users and/or Lync Phones

Ok, now let’s see how everybody connects when a conference is organized:

  • On the top: any normal phone user (pstn or mobile), will have received a local dial-in number toll or toll-free (e.g +3120xxxxxxx for NL, +49xxxxxxx for DE, +32xxxxx for BE etc.). They don’t have to call an international number to dial into the conference even though the Lync datacenter might not be in their country
  • On the left: Lync 2013 desktop clients and Lync 2013 mobile clients join via the internet and external users can connect via federation or via Lync Web App.
  • On the bottom right: users in the branch office can (option 1) connect via the WAN to the datacenter or (option 2) via the SBA and the PSTN/decentral SIP trunk, depending on configuration and survivability mode (in case of WAN failure)

So in this picture the only users that need the old fashion dial-in conferencing are external users not in possession of Lync (or don’t want to use Lync Web App) and travelling users (i.e. in the car etc). Since most conferences are internal in an organization, easily 50 to 80% of PSTN minutes can be reduced. Additional cost elements are the Lync infrastructure, SIP trunk and network connectivity (SBA is not necessary). But after collecting all data, this is a very easy business case to make in multinational organizations.

So what do we need to configure in Lync to have local dial-in numbers when a user sends an invite when organizing a meeting.  High Level the steps are follows:

1. order a SIP trunking with a global provider with local numbers in the countries you like (i.e. matching your own presence, where you have office or customers / partners0

2. install a Lync Qualified SBC. Approved and tested Microsft Lync vendors can be found at the UCOIP page for Lync. Look for Infrastructure and Session Border Controllers. Well known are Audiocodes, Sonus and Acme Packet. Note: Cisco CUBE has not been tested, since Cisco does not want to submit their products to Microsoft testing.

3. Lync Server 2013 Control Panel.

  • Configure conferencing policy
  • Configure local dial-in numbers as per indicated in this blog of Elan Shudnow, this is still for Lync 2010, but in Lync 2013 the concept is the same. I’ll update this blog when time is available to make some Lync 2013 screenshots.

A detailed Microsoft section on Configuring Conferencing settings for Lync 2013 server can be found on Technet. 

After this is done. All the user has to do to organize a meeting is the following:

In Outlook:

Outlook, start Lync 2013 meeting

Outlook, start Lync 2013 meeting

Outlook, organizing a Lync 2013 meeting

Outlook, organizing a Lync 2013 meeting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This will look like the above and can be extended with the 170 local dial-in numbers (toll and toll-free). When a users wants to join the meeting with his Lync client or Lync Web App al he has to do is push the “Join Online Meeting” link (for audio/video and desktop sharing meeting). Audio only participants can use the local dial-in numbers.

In a future a blog i’ll go into multiple regional Pool (i.e. EMEA, Americas, APAC) conferencing setup and considerations. Note that a conference is hosted on the pool where the organizer is homed upon. For local dial-in numbers a separate numbering dial-in range per region would be used.

Dec 14

Lync 2013 – compelling reasons to upgrade

 

It has been already more than a year ago that Microsoft released Lync 2013 server. The history of Lync can be found at Wikipedia. Microsoft Office Communicator and Lync 2010 have caused a revolution in the Unified Communications and concepts like presence are now known to many end-user. Microsoft has reached the Gartner’s Magic Quadrant in UC as leader next to Cisco. Big pro’s are the tight integration with the end-user in the Office suite en solution’s like the tight integration Exchange server in a Unified Messaging solution. It’s easy to upgrade from legacy OCS 2007 R2 and Lync 2010 platform.

A quick summary of the new features introduced in Lync 2013 can be found on the Lync blog here. 

I have picked out a couple of the major enhancements in the Lync 2013 release:

Video Enhancements

Microsoft has done a major overhaul on the video parts within Lync. Where in the past the Lync client supported codecs like H.263 and RtVideo, support for H.263 has stopped and next to RtVideo Microsoft now supports H.264.SVC with a specific SIP implementation. A great description on the Microsoft implementation of H.264.SVC can be found in the blog of Jeff Schertz, Microsoft MVP working for Polycom.  The blog is called Video Interoperability in Lync 2013 and can be found here.

Very cool is also the new Gallery View when doing conferencing with at least 3 people. You can have web- and or video conference on an Enterprise Pool up to 250 users and up to a 1000 users if dedicated servers are used for the AVMCU’s.  Participants can join with the Lync client and dial-in via the PSTN network. You can have up to 5 participants in the standing row (big pictures) and 25 users in the sitting row. The other users will be in the background.

A great overview with all the different scenario’s can be found at the Microsoft website here. Note: if you want to include standards based videoconferencing endpoint’s you may need to move all users to an MCU of Polycom or Cisco, this is very dependent on the setup of your infrastructure. If might be useful to use the Lync Room System if you want to include room systems into this multi-party conference.

Lync Room System

In februari 2013 the Lync Room System (LRS) was announced and vendors first started shipping the systems in august/septermber this year. The system is supported on Lync 2010 (note with limitations) and on Lync 2013, which is recommended since then the Gallery View is shown. It just needs an Lync and Exchange user account and there is no need for difficult back-end integrations. Scheduling is very simple from Outlook and people only have to push the join button when they enter the meeting room. Some create resource on the LRS can be found at:

The systems contains an adapted Lync client build into an appliance connected to a single or dual screen solution with a touch-screen smart board functionality. Vendors building the LRS are Smart Room System for Lync, Creston RL and Polycom CX…. (name to be confirmed). Originally Lifesize with their LRS 1000 was also to produce one, but they stepped out of the program.

Lync 2013 and Skype connectivity

Microsoft has bought Skype and put the Lync product group in the Skype division. With the introduction of Lync 2013 is possible to communicate between the two. Currently IM and Audio are support, Video is expected to follow.

This bank uses it for example to use Skype Lync connectivity to keep in contact with their customers. A Youtube video shows perfectly how to get connected and interact between Skype and Lync, once the administrator has configured this.  Youtube video Skype and Lync client The details on how this can be configured can be found at this Microsoft link.

Mobile Clients

Mobile clients were already available in Lync 2010, functionality was mainly limited to IM and Presence. Lync 2013 introduced a lot more mobile clients and enriched functionality and it is now possible to have audio and video calls over 3G/4G or Wifi. Utilizing these features end-users can save money on their roaming cost and easily join conferences remotely. Several resources on mobile clients can be found below:

Lync Web App

Users that want to participate into conferences but don’t have the Lync client installed can use the LWA (Lync Web App Client).  This can be used by employee or anonymous users.

The comparison on features with the normal clients can be found here.

Lync 2013 has made some great steps since Lync 2010 and has enhanced further on the voice capabilities (ie. voice resiliency with Pool Pairing) on which I will write at a later stage.

Jun 05

Microsoft Lync 2010 and Mobility support on Apple, Android and Windows devices

December 2011. Microsoft releases an announcement Apple style and announce the availability for mobile clients within a week. Support is promised for the Windows Phone, Apple iPhone and iPad and Android mobile phones. Microsoft is providing broad cross platform support, important missing platform to date is the Blackberry devices from Research in Motion (RIM). Details can be found on the Microsoft Lync mobile page here.  A detailed feature comparison can be viewed on the Mobile Client Comparison table on Technet (may require partner access)

This blog will cover a description of functionalities, screenshots and video of the Lync client for the iPhone and the iPad and also the Xync Collab app for the iPad of Damaka. The clients as shown in the blog are located in the Netherlands, where the Lync 2010 and edge server is located in Switserland, including Exchange 2010 with unified messaging capabilities.

Architecture

The client connects to the server directly via the internet and the edge server or a VPN (provided by Junos pulse app). Both setups provide optimal connectivity to support roaming users to connect via 3G or WiFi internet connectivity. My Lync profile has been setup with DiD (Direct inward Dial) of the Netherlands, more specifically a Dutch amsterdam (020) number. These services are provided by SIP trunking and allow PSTN & conferencing connectivity with a global reach, starting in Germany and terminating in France and Holland, allowing any to any connectivity.

So in short the Lync clients in attached screenshots connect to a Lync 2010 server, that is voice enabled by a SIP trunk connected to a Front End.

Mobility is taking a big rise in today’s global workspace, it is being driven by cost reduction, the new way of working and trends like BYOD. Multinational want cost reduction of roaming charges and employees want continuous presence, always on and maximum flexibility in a meeting or while traveling. Lync certainly is certainly a visionairy in the UC space, closely followed by Cisco UC propositions. Players like Avaya and Alcatel are playing catch-up.

Many multi nationals having been piloting small deployments and are launching full blown deployments, in a PBX replace mode or a hybrid mode with existing PBX vendors (usually Cisco UCM, Avaya or Alcatel OXE platforms).

 

 

Dec 12

Djeek.com forum revamped

A human error took down the Djeek.com website last sunday. Luckily Bluehost.com provides good backup facilities and allowed me to easily recreate the website without any content getting lost.

I greapped the opportunity to recreate the Forums section of Djeek.com. Please check it out and start some discussions or give comments on what you think of the website.

Goto Djeek.com forum at http://forum.djeek.com/

 

brgds

Djeek

Dec 09

Martini Video: Anytime, Anywhere, Any Place and Any Device

Videoconferencing has been used since the end of last millenium. In the early days it was an expensive technology that could be only used over ISDN and in a business environment.

The first wave in growth and usage and adoption has been since the usage op IP technology, making video flexible and raising the quality.

We are now in the midst of the second wave. Better processing power build into codecs, pc, and mobile devices is leading to HD 720p/1080p quality and running these technologies over wifi, internet and making it very flexible to use. The codecs are better resistant to jitter, latency and packetloss giving a better experience anytime, anywhere, any place and now even on any device. Since march this year when apple released the iPad2 (with camera’s) and Samsung the Galaxy tab, video is really taking off and adoption is really imminent.

People can now join conferences from remote locations like via wifi:

  • home
  • airport
  • hotel
  • meeting rooms (even when the unit is unavailable)

with technologies like 3G and the upcoming LTE (4G), users can really communicate everywhere as long as there is some kind of network connection. An Extension on voice and video is presence so someone can indicate if they want to be reached, since you cannot and want to be disturbed 24 hours a day, or only for certain people.

Business Market

Are all the technologies the same? No definitely not, videoconferencing is far from being a standard in the marketplace although several standards do exist. Adhering to standards promises to provide interoperability against the lowest amount of cost and gives flexibility in vendor choice and does not lead to limitations that the other end needs to have the same device or client.

Call Control and Signaling
Standards used in the videoconferencing are H.323 (proven, gets outdated) and SIP for signaling. Note that SIP is actually not a real standard, it provides interoperability between old kinds of vendors but only very a very small subset of features and true interoperability between different platforms must be vendors must be tested and supported on both ends.

Media
Media in video are devices in audio and video. Common audio codecs used are for example G.711 and G.722. Video codecs commonly seen are H.263, H.264.

Presentation sharing

Standards for presentation sharing in the video world are H.239 for H.323 communications and BFCP for SIP

These codecs are now supported as well already on mobile devices and tablets, through the use of applications like Dinsk, Vippie video as written on in last december 2010 post on Djeek.com. Recent additions the Mirial Clearsea (acquired by Lifesize/Logitech), Polycom, Radvision Scopia and other business vendors are expected to follow on short notice. Cisco has even developed a specific table device called the Cius to support, similar to the Apple methodology having full control over both hardware and software.

This market is rapidly evolving and new technologies are developed on a daily based and new endpoints, software solutions and tablets are brought out on a day by day basis. One standard to follow is the H.265 codec, a follow up standard of the H.264 which will offer estimated 25-50% reduction in bandwidth, this is expected to become official in September 2012. Very important for the adoption of video, since wide spread usage will increase the bandwidth appetite of a global deployment. This is not so much a problem for consumers and home usage, but it is a bottleneck for wide spread corporate usage. Many companies are afraid to let video go and be used widespread, since they cannot support full usage and are late in adapting the network infrastructure and bandwidth requirements.

Consumer Market

On the consumer side introduction of new technologies has gone at an even greater pace, where we seen Apple, Google, FaceTime, Skype, MSN, Yahoo and many more getting a great amount of users in a tremendous short timeframe. All these solution have generally one thing in common, they are closed user group with their own proprietary technologies that cannot interoperate with other solutions. A thing they have been doing is created access to their own technologies across different platforms (Mac OS, Windows and Android to name the most important pc and mobile platforms, Blackberry is loosing ground and Nokia has chosen for Windows Mobile).

Apple FaceTime

Apple has developed their own protocol FaceTime, which runs only on Apple devices but across all type of devices ranging from iPod, iPhone 4(S) and Mac OS (MacBooks and iMac). Apple is having a massive success with their devices and they have made FaceTime incredible simple to use, connect it logically to someones phone number or email address (or both) and if you have multiple devices you can even choice on what device you want to pick up the call. A big drawback of Apple is that you cannot communicate with other PC platforms or mobile devices. They do market FaceTime actively and are a large promoter of using video.  It is so easy I even you use it with my 71 year old father and we use it when goes on vacation and shows where he is. Our kids love it as well and always join the videoconference with grandpa does FaceTime. A previous blogpost has been dedicated to this topic before. 

Android

The Android platform is open to any solution and other vendors can run their video applications on this platform. Android has been created by Google and Google recent leased their Google+ application and also their multi party Hangout functionality. Google is big promoter of the VP8 codec. Even though VP8 is an open, free to use codec, it is not yet supported by a wide audience outside Google.

Skype

Skype has a vast amount of users and has used a peer to peer technology, initially dedicated for free voice calls, video has been added to this platform. It has one the widest amount of registered users and also a large amount of active users. Some small Skype gateways are available that can transcode to standards based H.323 or SIP endpoints, but currently these gateways are not widely market proven or reliable. Skype has had big recent developments, since FaceBook started using their technology to enable video for Facebook users and Microsoft has bought the company.

By buying Skype, Microsoft can start combining and integrating their consumer (Skype) and business Lync 2010 video products. They will have to combine two proprietary technologies, the peer to peer model of Skype and encrypted codecs and the RtVideo and RtAudio codecs used within Lync 2010. Lync has a massive adoption rate and integrates very well other popular business tools like Exchange/Outlook and Sharepoint.  A couple of blogpost are dedicated to Lync previous to this one. Microsoft has big dominance in the corporate marketing place with windows, office, exchange, sharepoint, ocs/lync. Even though they have closed model and it is expensive to include 3rd parties on other technologies, it is possible to transcode different protocols (i.e. Polycom, Cisco/Tandberg, Lifesize and Radvision) and make third party calls with standards based technologies .

One thing is certain and that video is rising on a massive scale. Companies trying to avoid video, will be behind on the market and will create a competitive disadvantage for themselves if they don’t follow the trend and enable the use of video, adoption and adapt their business processes and use of video within their corporate culture. School leavers these days expect these technologies to be present at there working space and concepts like the new way of working.  Please get in contact with the right partners to join you in the journey and help you create a proper roadmap.

 

 

May 05

Office365 public beta released, are you ready for the cloud?

Via my employer Orange Business Services I already had an Office365 beta user account from december 2010. Building on the great experience I have been dying to write about the great functionality, easy of use and flexibility, not to mention the user friendlyness. Microsoft has year of experience on building practical interfaces and has many methods on getting a solid understanding on requested user functionality. Yes it is more expensive than Google Apps, but it like comparing a Porsche to a Chinese car manufacturer. Both can drive, but do you want to be seen in the chinese car?

Now beginning april the public beta has been released opening the trial to the public, with a massive amount of tenants created each day. I’ll be writing on my testing and demoing experience with my own tenant with 25 users.

Office 365 is the next release of BPOS, consisting of the 2007 familie, exchange, sharepoint and OCSR2. O365 has the latest releases of server products in a cloud offering with per user flexibility:

  • Exchange 2010
  • Sharepoint 2010
  • Lync 2010
  • Ofice 2010 Professional Plus

Microsoft has split their offering into several target groups

  • SME (small medium enterprises 1-150 users)
  • Enterprise offering
  • Educational
  • Federal (US specific)

For the enterprise market there are two main service offerings,

  • E-plan (full offering)
  • K-plan (kiosk workers)

Each plan has several options, coming from E1 to E4, where the basic E1 is already very rich in functionality, including a 25GB mailbox with exchange sufficient for the average corporate.

Major improvements of Office365 compared to BPOS:

  • Federated Identities
  • Hybrid design, mix in the cloud with on-premise solutions
  • 2FA (two facor authentication)
  • Rich co-existence and migration co-existence
  • Flexible co-existence

Special attention should be given to proper planning before migrating towards Office365.

  • Connectivity is currently only possible via the internet
  • Client requirements should be checked and a baseline should be made compared to existing environment
  • Federated identities and ADFSv2
  • Existing Active directory structure and health to be ready for directory synchronisation
  • Regulatory requirements
  • Assurance
  • Network and technical security readiness
  • Migration

With these new possibilities a typical scenario could be Exchange en Sharepoint Online and Lync Hosted (on-premise). A company might want to keep Lync on premise because the online option does not support pbx replace, or full conferencing options. So if voice and lync need to be combined then integration via SIP trunking needs to be done. The same is the case for integrating video solutions like Cisco/Tandberg, Polycom, Lifesize, Vidyo or Radvision. You can also wonder if you want quality for your executives and sales people or be reliant on the congested internet for drop sensitive multi media traffic. Don’t be penny wise and pound fulish here. Bad experience leads to non usage, resulting in a bad business case, less travel reduction and limited collaboration possibilities. This is waste of time, resources and money. Where 2010 was the year of cost reduction, 2011 is the year of agility and transformation.

So now the public beta has arrived, you can sign-up here Office 365 beta signup for free and get access for 6 months.
The admin console has links to numerous content like the community, wiki’s, deployment guides, beta service descriptions etc. There is so much information documents, technet articles and content that everything is availible to prepare youself for going towards the cloud. But are you ready for the cloud?

A proper assesment has to be done to detemine your cloud readiness, from a technical, connectivity, security, regulatory and organisational perspective. This is not trivial exercise. Support from externals could be most helpfull here, they can help you guide you and make a cloud migration roadmap. So it’s not just is the cloud ready for you (which it is with this release), but definetely is your organizational also ready for the cloud?

More information on Office 365 can be found here:

A view on the user perspective:

Office 365 user portal

 

Admin Portal, the portal for cloud flexibility:

Office365 admin portal

 

 

Apr 18

Deploying SIP trunking and Enterprise benefits

Companies are constantly looking to save cost and optimize their environment. An area within organizations where almost can be saved is the space of voice and PBX. Tradionally the governance within Multi National Customers has been at the local site that was responsible for its legacy TDM PBX and had contracts with a Local ISP, like KPN, Belgacom, Swisscom, Verizon or China Telecom. These times are changing, customers cannot maintain there legacy PBX anymore because the vendor does not support it anymore, no one has the knowledge or EBay ran out of stock. The risk is just too high to stay with a legacy solution. Imagine for example the Legal consequences if there is fatal accident on your site, because emergency services could not be contacted in time.

I don’t see a lot of organizations do a one on one to replace their TDM PBX for just an IP PBX equivalent. Today customers also have a Unified Communications vision, or at least they should. This cannot be build in one day, but at least a clear roadmap has to build with a definition on what functionality should be build including presence, voice, softphones, room and desktop video and audionfonferencing integrations including end to end quality of service.

Global customers are generally looking at following vendors to build their UC vision with:
Microsoft Lync
Cisco Unified Callmanager (UCM)
Avaya Aura
Alcatel OXE

and not to forget the former Nortel, which was acquired by Avaya, which customers are currently phasing out.
Also special notice should be given in selecting the right service provider to support you in this field since it is a long way to realize the UC vision without an experienced partner.

In this blog i’ll cover the use of trunking with your global voice service provider. Tradional ways of connecting include amongst others: ISDN, TDM, CPS and IP Trunking via H.323. Recently the whole market went to IP Trunking via SIP. You have take care in selecting a service provider that certifies and supports your IP PBX platform, because SIP is not a standard and its implementation varies vendor by vendor.

Carefully think about a global architecture and where you want to connect your SIP trunks (usually where your IP PBX is, or where you want to deploy this). Note that the voice world is highly regulated country per country and especially inbound voice (DID numbers) is something you have to pay attention to. On outbound voice there is a lot of savings to be reached since this is usually the cash cow of the local incumbant and i’ve seen cases where 75% cost savings could be reached on tariffs or even higher if you would transfer your voip traffic over your MPLS network with no variable charges.

Microsoft has stirred up the game with their introduction of Microsoft Lync, they promote SIP Trunking for voice (PBX replace) and their audioconferencing features, for which you need to collect the traffic that can also be terminated via the same SIP trunk.

Voice can be a strong enabler of reaching your UC roadmap, since it can generate savings to tranfer your environment and connect your UC solution to the outside voiceworld. Make sure you addres the right voice quality to your users base otherwise helpdesks get a lot complaints and your transformation proces might get an early stop, since business support is lost in the beginning.
An additional benefit of this transformation proces is that governance can be centralized and less local support is needed and this will bring an additional cost benefit.

 

Apr 15

IPAD2 revolution in the household

Ordered on the 25th of march and this week I received my IPad2, i’ve got the wifi only version since i can use the public hotspot function on my iphone4.

I especially waited for the second generation because i wanted the videoconferencing functionality. Ofcourse perfectly simple to use FaceTime funtionality with my iPhone and another iPad. We have even videoconferenced to standard SIP Tandberg videoconferencing equipment using the Clearsea App. It had good quality, if i have some more time, i’ll make some screenshots and upload them. Now i’m writing this blog on the iPad itself, using the WordPress app for the iPad.

I could migrate all my settings from my iPhone and upload the photo’s, music en apps settings from iPhone. Apple is really good at this stuff. Almost no time needed to set this up. Microsoft can really learn from things like this and here you see the difference that Apple takes control of everything.

In general i’m very pleased with the way certain apps look, for example Google Earth looks very good and is very easy to navigate. If you are interested there is definitely more to come and i’ll make some reviews on this.