The Lync Server 2013 Planning Tool has been a long time coming for Lync aficionados. Why? Lync Server 2013 is still fairly new to the scene and has left many early adopters with reading articles and white papers to find the how-tos and whys of the planning and deployment process. Many admins who deployed Lync in the past are familiar with Microsoft's previous planning tool (for Lync 2010) and have relied on the tool to give them a high-level view of what their deployment could look like. I'll address two key areas of the new Lync 2013 planning tool that will explain what you've been waiting for:

  • Planning Tool Walkthrough
  • Planning Tool Reporting

Lync Server 2013 Planning Tool Walkthrough

One of the biggest areas where customers like to get assistance is in doing the initial planning for which server roles they'll need and how many of each role will be necessary to support their environment. The Lync Server 2013 Planning Tool is great at creating a high-level blueprint of what you'll need for your conceptual deployment. As deployments get more detailed and complex (and specifically when it comes to integration with telephony), customers might find it necessary to engage a consulting service of some sort.

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When you launch the Lync Server 2013 Planning Tool, you'll see the welcome page, which Figure 1 shows.

The Lync Server 2013 Planning Tool welcome page


From here, you can jump into the question-and-answer portion of the wizard or jump directly into the Design Sites section, which allows for custom configuration of the site. Click Get Started to walk through a wizard where you answer questions about your proposed environment for Lync 2013. Here are just a few of the areas (in no particular order) where the planning tool asks questions about your planned deployment:

  • mobility
  • Persistent Chat (formerly Group Chat)
  • archiving
  • high availability/disaster recovery
  • conferencing usage
  • remote access
  • audio/video conferencing

The planning tool wizard addresses key areas around capacity planning and profile usage scenarios. The goal is to better assist individuals who are faced with deploying Lync 2013 with guidance on making decisions regarding the location and quantity of specific Lync 2013 server roles for their environments.

The planning tool asks questions about the number of users that will be leveraging Lync and specific workloads you plan to implement for users, such as IM/presence, conferencing, and Enterprise Voice. In the Enterprise Voice questions, the planning tool asks for details about response groups and Microsoft Exchange Server Unified Messaging usage (Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2007 are both treated the same in the planning tool). When you've answered all the questions, the tool generates a Visio output, as Figure 2shows. The diagram is high-level conceptual view of the Lync 2013 environment based on the answers you provided to the planning tool.

Lync Server 2013 Planning Tool Site Topology page


Lync Server 2013 Planning Tool Reporting

The Lync Server 2013 Planning Tool reports section is my favorite area of the tool. After you've gone through the deployment wizard and view the site topology that you created, you can click the Edge Admin tab to get to the reports page. This is where everything comes together: The tool provides you a rich, full set of reports that makes the deployment of your Lync 2013 environment easier.

The Edge Admin Report contains a suite of reports that provide details about what you'll need for certificates, DNS, and Firewall ports. The following are the reports the tool creates:

  • Certificates Report -- This report shows certificate Subject Names and Subject Alternative Names you'll need for Lync server roles. (Lync 2013 is secure by default and requires certificates on servers during the deployment.) Figure 3 shows a sample of the Certificates Report.

Lync Server 2013 Planning Tool Certificates Report
 

  • DNS Report -- This report outputs the DNS records needed for your deployment (internally and externally). Figure 4 shows an example of a DNS Report.

Lync Server 2013 Planning Tool DNS Report
 

  • Firewall Report -- Your Lync environment uses certain ports and protocols for the Edge server and additional roles and services such as hardware load balancers, Front End servers and Mediation servers; this report lists what you'll need to be aware of. Figure 5 shows a sample of the Firewall Report.

Lync Server 2013 Planning Tool Firewall Report
 

  • SummaryReport -- This report produces an overview of the settings that are needed to set up your Lync 2013 Edge environment, such as fully qualified domain names (FQDNs) and IP addresses. Figure 6 shows an example of the Summary Report.

Lync Server 2013 Planning Tool Summary Report
 

The planning tool provides you with reports that you can print, export, or save away and leverage for your Lync 2013 deployment. A nice nuance of the reporting is the editing capability. On the Edge Network Diagram tab, you have the ability to edit information such as IP addresses or FQDNs of the servers to fit your environment. Also, the DNS Report details practically all the DNS SRV and A records that you'll need in the deployment from internal and external (public) records.

Final Recommendation

I'm a big fan of the planning tool and the new version didn't disappoint. The end goal of the planning tool is to give customers a starting point and a reference to get going with the Lync 2013 planning and design process. The one big piece of advice I give to all my clients is to walk through the planning tool a few times before you begin your planning process. Using the tool puts you in the right mindset for the questions you have to ask to have an effective Lync 2013 planning discussion later on.

You can find more information about using the Lync Server 2013 Planning Tool in the Microsoft article "Designing the Topology by Using the Planning Tool," []and the tool itself is a free download from the Microsoft Download Center.

Learn More: Lync Server 2013 Deployment Scenarios