IT based Communications

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Lync glitch fun #1

Time to implement a find+replace tool on the development tools  :)

LyncGlitch

Can Lync fly?

This was a proof-of-concept that I made quiet a time ago (may 2013). I was hoping to perform it again with more data and images, but never got the right time :(
With all the new features of Lync 2013 (mobile devices), one of my curious questions was: can I make a video call using Lync on a plane?

The Cookbook
– A Lync 2013 deployment (front-end + edge servers);
– one computer (my home PC) and a smartphone (Iphone 4) with Lync client
Airfield with 3G network coverage
– A plane and a pilot
lync-pilot
– A co-pilot to handle the lync call – we prefered to leave the pilot with is main task ;)
– Clear sky for great images

The outcome
Mission partially acomplished! There was one expected problem an one unexpected failure. 3G coverage while the plane is on air is very unstable (image freezes during transmition and the call failed after several minutes) and I forgot to give record permissions to the ‘land’ user.

So I have to improvise and manage to save one picture from my desktop.
lync-flying

I want to thanks to this guys that made this test possible:
Flight academy Hangar 5, for the plane (and is aso a great place to learn to fly);
– “Captain” Nuno Colaço for the flight.

Conclusions

I don’t think we will have Lync conferencing as an airplane gadget, but it’s will just be matter of time and legislation to allow the use of wireless devices on board.
But the airlines will be looking for this potential. One of our customers where I deployed Lync was evaluating the possibility to use Lync with the pilots Ipad to discuss fligth plans with the main office control room (this while on land, of course).

Other samples of video call from planes:
– An inflight facetime videocall from a commercial flight (2010);
Skype in-flight video call made on MSNBC TV;
– Skype Call and Google + Hangout with Gogo Inflight Wifi (2011).

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 36,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Lync 2013 protocol workflow

Microsoft published an updated version of the Lync protocol workload for all type of conversations: Presence, IM, AV, Webconferencing, Application Sharing and Enterprise Voice.
It looks complex, but it’s a great poster to have if your main job role is deployment and support. It helps you to see all possible elements envolved in a communication while deploying and troubleshooting.

It also has includes the CMS replication workflow, DNS records envolved and Certificates.

If you want download an high definition pdf file or even the visio version, you can get from the Microsoft Download Center here.

Getting ready for Lync voice? start here

If you are thinking about connecting link to the public telephony network, here’s a free light reading for the weekend.
It will not take more than 1 hour reading, and is not going to explain the ‘how-to’, but has a good overview of what you need to know before digging in ;)

Click on the picture to jump to the download page.

Lync in action – client ecosystem

What’s the most noticeable new feature about Lync 2013?
We cloud browse several sites or documentation to read quiet a lot of improvements, but for me and the end users being able to use comunicate the same way on several diferent devices is the key advantage.

I don’t have the resources to get all them, but fortunally I have good friends that I was able to join one day and make my most complete demonstration of how you can join people together in a videoconference. The following picture summarizes the result (sorry for the low resolution, but was the only way to get a full panorama – click to see it larger).
LyncConferenceMobileParty

Some notes and impressions about this demo setup:
LyncConference2Devices>> Pidgin is present, but was’nt participating on the conference. The reason is explained on a previous post;
>> The Windows PC was connected to a wired network while all the others were using a wireless network;
>> in a multipoint conference Lync will only allows VGA resolution;
>> the iPad has a very good display resolution;
>> the iPhone front camera resolution is very poor compared with the back camera (not a good experience);
>> video went smoothly during the entire test.
>> there are still missing some guests: a Windows Phone, Lync WebApp, Lync Basic and Lync Attendant.

As this is what I call: a real UC experience :)

Now… I wonder If we could make Lync fly?

Lync deployment: using Virtual Desktops (VDI)

Now with a full Lync 2013 deployment it’s more easy to have things to write :)
Before Lync 2013, building demo environments using a complete virtual infrastructure was a ‘challeging’ task. With a virtual desktop I needed to use some extra techniques to send video (a USB redirector was the best method), but the experience wasn’t good enough.

Microsoft Lync 2013, RDP and RomoteFX  introduced this capability: The Lync 2013 VDI component allows a Windows client to use the local media devices on a remote session (a Windows Desktop or RDS Windows Server). Actually the component will send audio and video directly to the peer or Lync Server, wich will assure the same quality and experience. It looks like a very strip-down version of the full client.

After some more (late) hours reading and heaving testing, I finally mastered the right implementation. This is what we ned to  deploy and configure:

Virtual Desktop

1. Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8 (32 or 64 bits), Windows 2008 R2 SP1 or Windows 2012;
2. Remote desktop enabled (Win7/8) or RDS (Windows Server);
3. Ensure that remote recording is enabled for remote desktop, so you can send your local microphone audio. Command line:
REG ADD “HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Terminal Server\WinStations\RDP-Tcp” /v fDisableAudioCapture /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f
4. Lync 2013 full client installed with the latest updates.

Lync Server 2013

1. Lync user account must have Media Redirection client policy enabled
This setting can only be enable using powershell. For global policy:
PS> Set-CsClientPolicy -EnableMediaRedirection $TRUE

about_RDP8Local desktop

1. Windows 7 SP1 , Windows 8 (or embedded versions);
2. For Windows 7 SP1, install KB2574819 (DTLS support) and then KB2592687 (RDP 8.0);
3. Lync 2013 VDI with the same OS bitness (install VDI x86 plugin on a 32 bits Windows version, and the VDI x64 plugin on a 64 bits OS).
4. compatible USB webcam installed

…We are ready to start using it!

Before you connect, you should configure you remote desktop client correctly. Enable remote audio on Local Resources tab > ‘Remote Audio settings…’ and ensure that ‘Persistent bitmap caching’ is disabled on Experience tab.
RDP8_lyncvdi_config

After connecting start (if is not already running) your Lync client session and wait for an additional logon window and If everything is authenticated correctly, you should see a confirmation at the bottom right of your remote Lync client.
LyncVDI_authetication->->->->LyncVDI_connected

All you need to do is make a video call. I received this impressive 720p wide video flowing fine and without delays.
LyncVDI_videocall

And this is how you can have UC on a VDI. This is a good foundation for a cloud offer (UCaaS), although you have to evaluate the costs (ex: licensing the local and remote Windows). One thing for sure, there aren’t that much capable solutions available.

Take into account about some limitations, like:
>> Not supported with Office 365;
>> No Integrated Audio Device and Video Device tuning pages, and you can only use your local default audio/video devices (cannot switch between cameras);
>> Not Multi-view video, recording of conversations or joining meetings anonymously.

Additional notes:
>> There’s also support for VMware Horizon view and Citrix HDX;
>> You can also use Windows enabled terminals (Wyse Z90D7, R90L7, X90m7 and HP t610 and t5740e).
>> if you have a 32 bit version of Office installed, you’ll get a noticed blocking the plugin setup. You need to uninstall Office.
>> You can have a Lync client installed on the same computer as the plugin, but you cannot run both at the same time.
>> The plugin could not start correctly when I used my VPN connection.

Comments are welcomed

sponsored

Lync Federation: Skype is available

MicrosoftSkypeSince May 23rd, Microsoft replace the messenger federation with Skype. There are several blogs and a Microsoft also released the official documentation, but here’s my quick provision instructions and ‘proof of work’.

Must have requirements:
*** Lync Edge configured with public certificates
*** PIC domain provisioned
*** _sipfederationtls.<_yourdomain> registered on Public DNS
*** Skype users should be logged on with a Microsoft ID account (not skype)

Instructions for Lync administrators:
1> enable federation on Access Edge Configuration
2> configure policies for user access
3> replace MSN sip provider with Skype provider
PS> Remove-CsPublicProvider -Identity Messenger
PS> New-CsPublicProvider -Identity Skype -ProxyFqdn federation.messenger.msn.com -IconUrl https://images.edge.messenger.live.com/Messenger_16x16.png -VerificationLevel 2 -Enabled 1

lync-client-skypefederationAnd then, (authorized) Lync users can add Skype contacts:
1> click on add contacts and pick Skype (see right picture);
2> you must enter the Skype user’s email in the following format: user(domain name)@msn.com; this step is not required for the Microsoft public domain accounts: @live.com, @hotmail.com or @outlook.com. For details about supported custom domain names, see “Known issues that occur with PIC and Lync / Communications Server”;
3> If your Skype contact already had your sip address, you should see his presence state after you had is contact. If not, he will receive a notification like this
skype-lyncinvitation

Now comes the great part – you can:
> share presence
skype-presencetoast
> exchange instant messaging and make peer-to-peer audio calls ! Just right click on your contact…
skype-lynccontacts….skype-callingLync
…and you’re talking!
SkypeLync-call

And here you go: Lync-Skype federation – your company talking with million of people… anywhere, anytime!

Some notes about this federation:
> This configuration works for Lync 2013; It also works for Lync 2010, but you need to strip the iconurl parameter from the powershell command; it looks like it also works with Office Communications Server 2007R2.
> You cannot make video calls for now. It’s on Microsoft priority list but, for now, no compatible codecs are available (will Lync support SILK, or Skype will adopt RTvideo or just plain H264SVC ?)
> we can only have peer-to-peer converations. There’s no audio conference or even instant messaging (why not this last one?!)

sponsored

Troubleshooting: the “clearinghouse effect”

This is the first category post, regarding very strange and “hard to find” problems in Lync deployments.

trouble_connectiong_to_serverserver_temporary unavailableThis customer had a full working Lync Edge server, but it stop working for remote desktop user access (!!). I mean, you could login using mobile clients, talk with federated users, but if you have a Windows or OSX client… users could not log in. To makes things harder there were several behaviours: with some users the client would just loop on the log on process, wihle others would give two type of error messages: “server temporarily unavailable” and “…having trouble connecting to the server”.

As always, I took the log and trace sip packets (good faithfull snooper). Nothing was found on the client side, so the clue has to be on the edge server.
And I got the message ‘The connection from a remote user client is refused because remote user access is disabled – SIPPROXY_E_CONNECTION_EXTERNAL_INTERNET_ACC ESS_DISABLED”
snooper_refuseclient
Gotcha! – remote user access was disabled on the Edge server. It was a simple problem… not!:
….* Remote user access was in fact enabled on the control panel;
….* Replication was working fine and settings were identical;
….* clients were not receiving  this warning message and lync mobile was able to log in.

Result: 4 days working on it, lots of swearing, hitting the firewall and even installing a new edge server and renewing certificates would solve the problem. At the end of the day I just take a look at the edge configuration setting using the shell and noticed a particular enable parameter:
get-csedgeconfiguration
There’s not much about this setting on the documentation, except this warning ‘ This parameter should not be changed unless you are instructed to do so by Microsoft support personnel’.

It turns out that the customer execute to command shell to enable Partner Discovery, but might also have set the beClearingHouse. After disabling it, the magic happens… Everything was back to normal !!

This is a clear case of ‘what does this button do if I press it?’. If you don’t ear any bang… it doesn’t mean we still didn’t broke anything.
But I would recommend Microsoft to document this and even update the Edge/client code to give more clues about this one.

Another annoying thing:
Set-CsAccessEdgeConfiguration -BeClearingHouse $false
will simply not change the setting. After some more time, you’ll find out that oyu need to include two more parameters
Set-CsAccessEdgeConfiguration -BeClearingHouse $false -EnablePartnerDiscovery $true -UseDnsSrvRouting

Lync in action: company meetings broadcast

On this new section I will show you real scenarios where I implement or use Lync to leverage productivity and people to communicate.

On my company, the board members decide to have weekly  meetings with the commercial and operational staff (on different days) and quartely with all the employees. On the company headquarters theres an auditorium for about 100 persons. But there’s more persons on other locations, on travel and even teleworkers that are required to participate. The solution was… Microsoft Lync !

There’s was any significant investment to apply this solution. We just need to be resourcefull enough to find some workaround’s: an IP PTZ camera (it can move and zoom if the speaker move to show other things, like a flipchart), a PC, some custom windows video drivers and a combination of wired/wireless media technology.

AuditorioHW

So the usual activity for this meetings are plain and simple:
• Meetings are scheduled using Outlook, with the invitations providing the url for remote participants;
• On the conference room the speaker(s) will talk with a wireless microphone, and data is projected on the main wall. The presentation is provided by a computer running Lync client;
• Remote participants will follow the presentation and the speakers video and sound on their Lync client whenever they are. If someone needs to make a questions, he will be heard on the conference room speakers.

Meeting from a remote attende client

The final result is an high quality meetings and a real productive bussiness process:
• presenters take no more than 5 minutes to setup the meeting and conduct using the keyboard/mouse;
• remote participants can assist like they were at the room, without the need to travel.
• this meetings usually take no more than an hour, so everyone will resume they work activity on the next 5 minutes.
• the presenters can also be remote and on this case, the conference room participants are the ‘remote’ ones but they still can interact;
• important training sessions can be recorded and are posted on the company intranet for offline training and review.

Comments always welcomed.

Lync mobile: voice, video and desktop sharing… finally (updated)

Just read the news from the Lync Blog team. Lync 2013 for mobile devices will have all the features that the competition had as an advantage and recently try to use as an attack (like Cisco -what really matters in collaboration- or Avaya -The True Cost of Microsoft Lync-).

What do we really find on this release?:
* Voice and Video – Windows Mobile(download here) and iPhone (download here);
* Desktop and application sharing – for iPad 1.5 (download here).

….Lync2013-iPad-presentation

Can’t wait for the release to start testing and… has anyone got an iPad, iPhone or WinMobile 8 to spare ? ;(

Update: a recent post has a real experience with several clients in a videoconference.

It’s celebration time: 100’000 visitors

Today my blog reached the 100’000 visitors (100’110 now). Two years (May 5th, 2011) ago I could never imagine these numbers a100knd if I could still keep posting this blog. Today is also the time to say thank you to all visitors, supporters and 190 comenters. This is an “open minded” blog so your comments and contributions are welcomed (except spammers)

You gave me an important reason to continue, and in return I will do my best to start posting more times about UC. Here’s some numbers and facts:

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
2011 340 938 1,790 4,234 3,507 3,392 3,844 4,209 4,438 4,229 3,255 34,176
2012 4,662 4,864 5,182 4,377 5,032 5,222 5,184 5,253 4,860 4,508 4,714 3,496 57,354
2013 4,360 3,405 819 8,584

Views by Country (since february 25,2012)visitors-by-country

Country Views
United States FlagUnited States (where’s my green card? :) ) 18,319
United Kingdom FlagUnited Kingdom (thank you) 4,232
Germany FlagGermany (danke) 2,586
Australia FlagAustralia (greating to the other side of the globe) 2,444
France FlagFrance (merci) 2,236
India FlagIndia (शुक्रिया) 1,944
Canada FlagCanada (thanks) 1,876
Netherlands FlagNetherlands (dank u) 1,428
Russian Federation FlagRussian Federation (спасибо) 1,238
Sweden FlagSweden (tack) 1,026
Belgium FlagBelgium (merci) 998
Italy FlagItaly (grazie) 910
Switzerland FlagSwitzerland  (obrigado manel) 832
Norway FlagNorway (takk) 813
Brazil FlagBrazil (obrigado) 727
Spain FlagSpain (gracias) 718
Finland FlagFinland (kiitos) 641
Denmark FlagDenmark (tak) 635
Mexico FlagMexico (gracias) 613
Austria FlagAustria (Dankeschön) 550
Portugal FlagPortugal (faltou um bocadinho para o top 20) 541
Singapore FlagSingapore 528
Japan FlagJapan (ありがとう) 488
New Zealand FlagNew Zealand (the lord of the visitors) 486
South Africa FlagSouth Africa (Baie Dankie) 466
Poland FlagPoland (dziękuję) 412
Ukraine FlagUkraine ( спасибі ) 318
United Arab Emirates FlagUnited Arab Emirates (شكرا) 312
Saudi Arabia FlagSaudi Arabia ( شكرا) 300
Egypt FlagEgypt (hope you find peace) 298
Hong Kong FlagHong Kong (thank you) 296
Turkey FlagTurkey (teşekkür ederim) 281
Czech Republic FlagCzech Republic (děkuji) 281
Thailand FlagThailand (Khop Khun Mak) 277
Israel FlagIsrael ( תודה) 275
Hungary FlagHungary (köszönöm) 257
Malaysia FlagMalaysia (Terima Kasih) 256
Indonesia FlagIndonesia (terima kasih) 255
Pakistan FlagPakistan (Manana) 249
Ireland FlagIreland (go raibh maith agat) 239
Argentina FlagArgentina (gracias) 239
Colombia FlagColombia (gracias) 229
Korea, Republic of FlagRepublic of Korea (Kamsa hamaida) 211
Morocco FlagMorocco 210
Romania FlagRomania (Multumesc) 199
Viet Nam FlagViet Nam (Kam ouen) 193
Iceland FlagIceland (Takk) 189
Slovakia FlagSlovakia (Dakujem) 182
Chile FlagChile 163
Taiwan, Province of China FlagTaiwan 154
Luxembourg FlagLuxembourg (greatings to Sogeti) 149
Peru FlagPeru 141
Serbia FlagSerbia (Va multumim frumos) 139
Philippines FlagPhilippines (salamat) 137
Qatar FlagQatar (Shakkran) 102
Greece FlagGreece (σας ευχαριστώ) 102
Costa Rica FlagCosta Rica 89
Slovenia FlagSlovenia (ďakujem) 88
Nigeria FlagNigeria (Na gode) 87
Tunisia FlagTunisia (Barak Allahu fiik) 84
Lithuania FlagLithuania (ačiū) 82
Sri Lanka FlagSri Lanka (stuutiyi) 75
Bulgaria FlagBulgaria (благодаря) 74
Croatia FlagCroatia (hvala) 72
Uruguay FlagUruguay 60
Lebanon FlagLebanon 58
Mauritius FlagMauritius (djiere dieuf) 55
Bangladesh FlagBangladesh (शुक्रिया) 47
Oman FlagOman (Shakkran) 47
Kenya FlagKenya (Ahsante) 46
Venezuela FlagVenezuela 45
Estonia FlagEstonia (aitäh) 45
Ecuador FlagEcuador 44
Kuwait FlagKuwait 43
Cyprus FlagCyprus 42
Belarus FlagBelarus (дзякуй) 42
Bahrain FlagBahrain 34
Kazakhstan FlagKazakhstan (Spasibo balshoye) 31
Azerbaijan FlagAzerbaijan (çox sag olun) 30
Bolivia FlagBolivia 29
Latvia FlagLatvia (paldies) 28
Jordan FlagJordan 28
Georgia FlagGeorgia 27
Puerto Rico FlagPuerto Rico 27
Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of FlagMacedonia, the Former Yugoslav Republic 26
China FlagChina (謝謝) 25
Trinidad and Tobago FlagTrinidad and Tobago 24
Mongolia FlagMongolia (Баярлалаа) 24
Guatemala FlagGuatemala 17
Panama FlagPanama 16
Faroe Islands FlagFaroe Islands 15
Algeria FlagAlgeria (saha) 14
Dominican Republic FlagDominican Republic 14
Angola FlagAngola (matondo) 14
Monaco FlagMonaco 13
Paraguay FlagParaguay 13
Maldives FlagMaldives (my paradise) 13
El Salvador FlagEl Salvador 12
Moldova, Republic of FlagMoldova (Multumesc) 12
Tanzania, United Republic of FlagUnited Republic of Tanzania (murakoze) 11
Bosnia and Herzegovina FlagBosnia and Herzegovina (Hvala) 10
Ghana FlagGhana (Akpé) 10
Bermuda FlagBermuda 10
Albania FlagAlbania (falemnderit) 10
Nepal FlagNepal (Dhan-ya-vaad) 10
Belize FlagBelize 9
Malta FlagMalta (nirringrazzjak) 9
Brunei Darussalam FlagBrunei Darussalam 9
Botswana FlagBotswana 9
Gibraltar FlagGibraltar 9
Honduras FlagHonduras 8
Armenia FlagArmenia (շնորհակալություն) 8
Iraq FlagIraq (spas) 8
Afghanistan FlagAfghanistan (tashakor) 8
Cambodia FlagCambodia (akun) 8
Namibia FlagNamibia (Nali tumela) 7
Uganda FlagUganda (murakoze) 6
Palestinian Territory, Occupied FlagPalestinian (با تشکر از شما) 6
Liechtenstein FlagLiechtenstein 6
Montenegro FlagMontenegro (хвала) 6
Iran, Islamic Republic of FlagIran, Islamic Republic of (çox sag olun) 6
Nicaragua FlagNicaragua 6
Bhutan FlagBhutan 5
Jamaica FlagJamaica 5
Mozambique FlagMozambique (obrigado) 5
Jersey FlagJersey 5
Greenland FlagGreenland 5
Barbados FlagBarbados 4
Cape Verde FlagCape Verde (obrigado) 4
Yemen FlagYemen (Shakkran) 4
Burkina Faso FlagBurkina Faso (a ni kié) 4
Senegal FlagSenegal (Abarka9 4
Suriname FlagSuriname (bedankt) 4
Åland Islands FlagÅland Islands 4
Zimbabwe FlagZimbabwe (zikomo) 4
Cuba FlagCuba 3
Saint Kitts and Nevis FlagSaint Kitts and Nevis 3
Côte d'Ivoire FlagCôte d’Ivoire (merci) 3
Sudan FlagSudan 3
Rwanda FlagRwanda (murakoze) 3
Lao People's Democratic Republic FlagLao People’s Democratic Republic 3
Réunion FlagRéunion 3
Syrian Arab Republic FlagSyrian Arab Republic (spas) 3
Mali FlagMali (a ni kié)
3
Guadeloupe FlagGuadeloupe 2
Djibouti FlagDjibouti 2
Congo, the Democratic Republic of the FlagDemocratic Republic of the Congo (matondo) 2
Macao FlagMacao (obrigado) 2
Grenada FlagGrenada 2
Guam FlagGuam 2
Libya FlagLibya 2
Isle of Man FlagIsle of Man 2
Ethiopia FlagEthiopia 1
Chad FlagChad (Abarka) 1
Guyana FlagGuyana 1
Madagascar FlagMadagascar (misaotra) 1
Martinique FlagMartinique 1
French Guiana FlagFrench Guiana 1
Uzbekistan FlagUzbekistan (Mo’teshake’ram) 1
Cameroon FlagCameroon (Na som djita) 1

Is Microsoft “hurting” his UC partners ?

It has been a while since my last post. The reason was simple: too may work (including weekends), new type of projects (cloud) and a slow but painfull decline on the UC market.

On the last couple of months, almost 80% of our OCS/Lync customers gave up the product. The reasons were almost the similar:
* The current (country) crisis makes IT departments to make cuts;
* Microsoft licensing became too expensive, expecially if you plan to roll-out voice.

Fortunnaly, most of our customers that had integration of MS/Cisco moved to Cisco UC solutions. Cisco was aware of this market change and by offering Jabber to existing customers, it helped us to continue to keep our market and profit.

Returning to the MS Lync, we all know that Microsoft has the “Ferrari” of UC, but it demands that everyone should use and pay for it. It has been dificult latelly to upsell a complete MS solution in both possible ways:
* Service Provider: You can build and offer a multi-tenant solution, but you have to compete with the new Office 365 (how can you compete against a ‘free’ 25GB  mailbox?); And if you can implement VoIP integration, the SPLA licensing plus will make per user licensing at a very high cost;
* Service Integrator – you will resell Office 365, receiving your 4% commision and try to earn something with professional services. But with the current market margins you’ll have to choose to use persons less qualified just to keep customers with you.

And things doesn’t look to became any better. We the release of Office 365 Professional plus (and also Windows intune), the first impressions are not favorable: “Big changes in Office 2013 and Office 365 test Microsoft customers’ loyalty” (zdnet).

I believe Microsoft will noticed this, and will very soon smash prices, the competition and start recover the UC market that should be by now on the IT “top 5 hypes”.

I still think that the Lync solution and partner ecosystem is the ideal tool for the growth of your business… but there are some new and interesting alternatives ;)

This is just my opinion based on my latest experience. I would really like to hear from UC guys about this.

Additional sources:
Office 2013 licensing changes increase IT angst
Microsoft’s attempts to clarify Office licensing policies fall short
Microsoft Addresses Controversial Office 2013 License Lock-In
Microsoft Nearly Clarifies Office 2013 Licensing, Still Dithering Over Cloud Computing
Why Microsoft’s new Office 2013 license may send users to Google Docs

hands on Lync 2013 Preview

As soon as Microsoft announced the availability and reading the new features list, I could resist to try it ASAP and see the look and feel. It is just a release preview of both server and client so, some things might change until it’s gone gold.

From the new features list (client and server), here’s a summary of the shinny ones:
+ Support for audio and video in a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environment – Working with the RDP 8 protocol, we finnaly have break the barrier for a virtual UC destop. Note: it requires you to install the Lync VDI plugin on your local computer.
+ HD video (1080p, 1280 x 720; 16:9) even in multiparty conferences. Also the default client video codec is now H.264 – it’s CPU frying time !! :)
+ Gallery view – strange name for the most great conference feature (I known as continuous presence) . You can now view multiple video participants (up to 4)… this one I really have to try it !!. Setup 3 virtual desktops, and made a conference call with 3 video streams using manycam.

+ computer audio and video to Lync Web App – outside participants can now join and experience full working meetings… using a Windows desktop.
+ Meeting customization and conference experience improvements – custom logo and attendee mute controls on invitation options, powerpoint with videos support.

Update: a recent post has a real experience with several clients in a videoconference.

UC clients: Cisco Jabber (initial) review

(Finally some spare time to post!).
About 1 year ago I watched a Cisco webcast about their UC strategy: the unification of a single client for all platforms. After the initial releases with OSX, IOS, Android and now the Windows version release. The ‘brand’ name was bought on 2008: Jabber, a presence+IM client based on the XMPP protocol.

Firstly, I think the ‘name unification’, logo and similar interface a smart ideia.
Cisco decided to advertise Jabber as a client ‘free for all customers’… you might add ‘paying customers’ (check the comments). But there’s really a free version available for everyone.

This is an initial review using the two clients available for Windows and OSX (have no resource$ to test the iP* editions). I will update and even correct based on all feedback received by the readers. Cisco guys are also invited to correct or clarify any doubts :)

The main interface is a facelift of the previous version (CUPC). It has a group tab on the left, contact search on top, with tagged contacts list on the main window. The contact pictures can be retrieved from an url or and LDAP/AD.
….…..

For the user, the interface it’s a simple ‘point and comunicate':
>> Instant Messaging and file transfer
 ………
>> Voice, video (where you can get a 720p H.264 quality) and desktop sharing (including remote control)

>> and others, like Outlook presence integration, click-to-call tags (on browsers).

Another interesting feature is that this client can be used for and on-premises deployment or a cloud service (WebEx).

Other nice features are the ability to switch between networks (cellular to Wifi) and clients, without interrupting a call.

Remote users have Jabber Secure Connect (throw a Cisco ASA) to reach the infrastructure.

My opinion: Good

I just tried the Windows and OSX versions, but from the users perspective the experience was positive and I believe that with this one interface platform approach Cisco is on the right path to continue on the UC leaders group.
I still maintain my previous opinion: If you are already a Cisco customer, you should consider this solution portfolio if you want to extend your VoIP infrastructure.

But … now it’s time for some considerations.

The clients are not consistent between platforms:
– The current Windows version is 9.0 and on OSX is 8.6. This means that for 8.x you provide all the configurations using CUPS, and on the new 9.0 you also need to define an XML configuration file for the client (Jabber standards);
– There are reports that the IOS client loses connectivity with the server and other bad reviews;
– Some features and requirements are undefined: is there a Cisco Jabber IM and a Jabber for iOS? is a WebEx meeting client required for conferencing data sharing?

In terms of infrastructure requirements, you still need to investment based on the feature needs:
– At least a CUCM and a CUP servers are required for a Jabber deployment;
– Multiparty IM is supported but you will need servers (or services) for voice, video and content conferencing.
– Full voice mail features requires Cisco Unity;
But you can try to now put all them on fewer physical servers (using VMware). Also “for current Unified Communications Manager customers, with this announcement Cisco Unified Presence server software is available at no additional license cost… video capabilities will require separate licensing”.

And other small limitations might be considered:
– You can only sign-in from one Jabber endpoint at a time;
– You can only search LDAP directories. Support for Outlook personal contacts will be available soon.

Don’t see this as ‘criticism’… more like as ‘space for improvement’ ;) .
You can make your personal opinion starting on the Jabber official site.

Comments and opinions are welcomed.

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