Here at Exchange Connections in Las Vegas this week, in addition to lots of information about Windows Phone 7, Microsoft is really getting the word out about the newly renamed Office Communications Server, now known as Microsoft Lync. Shaun Pierce, the general manager of the Lync Server Division delivered a keynote about Lync, which included the expected live demo of the collaboration possibilities of the new version. In addition to the new end-user enhancements, Lync should be easier to implement than OCS—which is good news for IT pros.
One of the first new things most people will notice with Lync is that contact photos appear in your Lync client, which is essentially an updated version of Office Communicator. But it's a pretty extensive update, which also includes the ability to show your contacts in a view similar to Facebook or Twitter with recent activity displayed. However, I spoke to Microsoft's Harold Wong in the Expo Hall, who assured me that the social media aspects can easily be turned off if you're someone who already feels overwhelmed by that sort of information. Other new features in the UI include the ability to use a dial pad to dial (yes, apparently some people prefer this method over dial by name) and visual access to voicemail.
Pierce's keynote also highlighted many of the architectural changes in Lync that lead to things like better call routing and—hopefully—easier deployment. The big change here is a reduction in the number of mediation servers needed because a single mediation server can now talk to multiple PSTN networks. The complexity of OCS 2007 was undoubtedly a deployment blocker for many organizations, and even for those that did implement the product, it might have prevented them from getting full benefits from it. We'll see if Microsoft got that message and has truly managed to improve things with Lync.
Another major change, and one of the features Wong mentioned as most significant for IT pros, is that Lync is now supported for virtualization. Wong also listed better bandwidth control through policies, wide device support, and improved SIP trunking support as things IT pros could look forward to with the Lync 2010 release. He demoed the ease of switching devices, such as microphones or video, on the fly during a conference without the need to sign off and back on to have the new device recognized. Indeed, there's a lot to be excited about, and talking with Harold Wong about UC is likely to inspire anyone.
Microsoft is planning a virtual launch event for Lync 2010 on November 17, which you can access on Microsoft's Lync website. Lync was released to manufacturing (RTM) last week, and it's expected to reach general availability on December 1. Have you had a chance to check out the beta? Are you looking forward to the chance get this functionality in your organization? Let me know what you think.