Questions around Client Side Plug-in Strategy with Microsoft Lync

by Douglas Schlosser

The published API’s have opened up Lync and Lync Server to the developer community and allowed developers to extend the value of Lync. Proof of this is the ever increasing number of Lync ISV qualified applications being developed, honestly sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the new applications. But in the same vein replacing elements of native Lync features even though it is possible can raise questions of the value of doing so.

More times than not I’m asked to integrate telephone/UC systems with Lync for two reasons;

1. Clients want Lync to be the user interface.
2. Clients want Lync to be the UC application.

To answer these requests I aslways consider one simple question, “Is what’s really going on in the background making things more complex than native Lync features?” Consider the A/V Conferencing and Mobility workloads of Lync; a simple architecture in Lync 2013 Conferencing workloads are collocated on the Lync Front End Servers and remote access is achieved through the Lync Edge Server; one client for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows OS devices and all communication and signaling is secure. Sounds great, now enter client side plug-in.

Often 3rd party client side plug-in developers pitch this as a way to avoid paying Microsoft for E-Cal or Plus Cal but customers are losing much more than just telephony by dropping down to Standard-Cal licensing. When you look at UC platforms it’s important to consider what you are buying as a whole and not just one portion. Often when moving a portion of functionality to another system you are adding more complexity than first realized and in the long run more cost both in licensing and manageability. Back to that simple question “Is what’s really going on in the background making things more complex than native Lync features?”

What I have done is compile a list of questions that need to be clearly understood before deciding on client side plug-in strategy with Lync;

Lync Client-Side Plug-in Questions to understand

1. How does the Client Side Plug-in support VPNLess access?
2. How Does Client Side Plug-in effect Federation?
3. How does Client Side Plug-in tie in with my CEBP presence enabled applications?
4. How does Client Side Plug-in support video?
5. How does Client Side Plug-in support dynamic location aware E911?
6. How does the Client Side Plug-in handle the dynamic bandwidth needs of the internet?
7. What does the Client Side Plug-in do to Audio and web conferencing?
8. What additional components and costs are needed for Client Side Plug-in manufacture conferencing solution?
9. Does the Client Side Plug-in support media Encryption?
10. Is the Client Side Plug-in integration Lync ISV Certified?
11. What is the Client Side Plug-in development cycle? Ex. How long after Microsoft release a new version of Lync Server or Lync Client does the support become available?

12. What mobile clients is used on iPad, iPhone, Android Phone, Android Tablets, Windows Phone, Windows Surface RT, and Other Windows Tablet variants when I use a Client Side Plug-in for Audio/Video/Content and Desktop Sharing?

  • For each device listed above, what additional hardware & software is need to support Audio?
  • What version of Apple IOS is Audio client supported on?
  • What version of Android Phone is Audio client supported on?
  • What versions of Windows Phone is Audio client supported on?
  • Is windows 8.0/8.1 RT and Pro versions supported by Audio Client?
  • How soon after device manufacture releases a software update is the Audio Client

13. Can Client-Side Plug-in user escalate a peer-2-peer voice session into a data collaboration experience?

  • How many steps are required?
  • What additional hardware/software is required?

Don’t get me wrong there are times when client side plug-ins makes great sense but amidst all the claims of lower costs, lower TCO, and faster ROI, the end user experience when using the client side plug-in is often overlooked. The native features of Lync are focused on bringing about the best user experience for a collaborative environment. Plugins on the other hand are by design focused on preserving legacy PBX systems where desktop usability and integration are secondary unless it is promoting other competitive services such as voicemail, conferencing or external web collaboration.

Stay tuned to my next post “Is voicemail as an independent application Dead; Using Microsoft Exchange as a single messaging application OnPrem or OnLine

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