Evolution of Microsoft Unified Communications with Lync Server 2013 and Exchange Server 2013.

Microsoft has been in a forward march with their messaging and collaboration applications, which a majority of businesses run on today. The trend has been toward cloud, the word everyone is using today. As for Microsoft, they are making the business case stronger for what they call Hybrid deployments. These allow Exchange and Lync on-premise and Exchange Online and Lync Online coexistence. In the 2013 release of both applications, Microsoft has increased the coexistence of infrastructure between on-premise and cloud, in addition to a slew of new features for both Exchange and Lync.

Lync 2013 takes the features introduced in Lync 2010 and builds upon them, making a solid case for an upgrade.

Lync 2013: Server Components and High Availability

The roles in Lync 2013 have been significantly consolidated as has been the expected lifecycle progress in the application. The Edge role had been consolidated from OCS to Lync 2010. In Lync 2013 the Archiving, Monitoring, and AV Conferencing roles have been consolidated and no longer will be installed as separate roles. The Director role stays much the same but now is implied by Microsoft as an optional role. Lync 2010 introduced the functionality of a backup registrar where if a user’s home pool were to fail, they would connect to the backup for voice resiliency. The issue here was that the user would suffer limited functionality since this backup was not their home pool. Lync 2013 enhances this by replicating all user data to all Lync servers in the enterprise. This allows for a user to fail over to a backup pool and retain full functionality. In terms of full functionality, there is preservation of ALMOST all functions for a user failed over to a backup pool. The Response Groups Services will not fail over; thus, in a failover, those functions would be inhibited until the user’s home pool is restored. Lync 2013 also introduces backend database SQL mirroring instead of SQL Clustering which lowers management and overall deployment costs. Lync 2013 Persistent Chat is also the evolution of the Group Chat (Persistent Chat). In Lync 2013, this is a more tightly woven feature and an actual server role definable in the topology unlike in Lync 2010. The client is also consolidated to the single Lync 2013 client.

Lync 2013: Enterprise Voice and Response Groups

Lync 2010 was on track to being a full PBX replacement; however, it still did lack some features business with enterprise grade PBX’s have come to rely upon. Lync 2013 enhances voice features in making the case more compelling as an enterprise grade voice solution. Lync 2013 supports inter-trunk (M-N) routing. Inter-Trunk routing allows Lync to handle traffic between multiple phone systems and allows Lync to receive and then hand off calls to another PBX. This is a very important function for larger enterprises running multiple voice systems, which is a very common occurrence. The Mediation role has also been enhanced by allowing for multiple trunks to different gateways, and also gateways having multiple trunks to Mediation servers. Number manipulation has also been improved by allowing trunk translations for modification of the CALLED and CALLING numbers before passing the call to the next hop. This is a very significant change in allowing Lync 2013 to be configurable and comparable to PBX’s further down the lifecycles. There have been numerous enhancements to Lync 2013 Voice. The details are vast and will be covered separately. The Lync 2013 Response Group services remain mostly unchanged; however, the Manager Role and Administrator Role have been added to alleviate some tasks functionality.

Lync 2013: E-911

The distribution of notification to security personnel can now be done by a group rather than a specific SIP URI. This allows for ease of management with security personnel turnover. The Location Information Service (LIS) can now be specified on the number of hours to wait before requesting a location update. Disclaimers are now also definable per location policy rather than being global. The Lync 2013 client running on Windows 8 also allows for Link Layer Discovery Protocol-Media Endpoint Discovery (LLDP-MED). This helps in locating the clients in the LIS.

Lync 2013: Lync Online and Mobility

Exchange 2010 has been able to deploy a hybrid system and now Lync 2013 shares this same configuration option. In Lync 2013 you are now able to deploy a single SIP domain between the cloud and on-premise. Users may be spread between cloud and on-premise servers. This results in a true Hybrid Voice system. A company may now deploy a gateway locally and have all users in the cloud connecting to voice services locally with Media Bypass as an option to avoid hair pinning through Microsoft cloud servers.
The mobility platform gets a much needed makeover allowing for the user to make Audio and Video calls over their mobile devices. The data for this would utilize the mobile data network or a WiFi connection. This is a feature that had been lacking in the Lync 2010 mobile platform. It is also worth mentioning that Response Groups may ONLY be deployed on-premise. In a Hybrid Voice deployment, users acting as agents would need to be located in on-premise servers.

Lync 2013 introduces many new features, not of all which have been discussed here. A couple more notable enhancements are Voice support on virtual desktops and integration with Skype. A complete list of server features may be found here at Lync New Server Features. A complete list of client features may be found here at Lync New Client Features.

Exchange 2013 also has evolved as a messaging platform. The new features introduced are a positive direction forward in availability and features. The Exchange platform also becomes more tightly integrated with Lync as a Unified Communications platform. An example of this integration is Lync 2013 archive now utilizes Exchange 2013 Archive stores. In addition contacts are now in a Unified Contact Store which allows all contacts in Exchange 2013 and access them from either Lync 2013 or Outlook 2013.

Exchange 2013: Server Roles and Administration

The Exchange 2013 roles consist of more of a front end, back end configuration, familiar from legacy versions of the product. The Client Access role is front facing and services SMTP, POP, OWA, and mobility. The basis of consolidation of the Client Access Server and Hub Transport roles are from Exchange 2010. The backend Mailbox role stays much the same and utilizes the powerful Database Availability Groups of Exchange 2010.
The Exchange Management Console (EMC) makes an exit with the introduction of the Exchange Administration Center (EAC). This new interface allows for management of Exchange Online and/or Exchange on-premise, Hybrid deployments.

Exchange 2013: Topology and Architecture

Coexistence is only supported with Exchange 2007 and Exchange 2010; all other legacy infrastructures are not supported for coexistence. The only supported underlying host OS is Windows Server 2008 R2. Outlook Anywhere (RPC over HTTPS) is now the only means for Outlook connectivity and all RPC connectivity is now outdated legacy. Public Folders are still here in Exchange 2013. The Public Folder strategy now takes advantage of high availability of the mailbox databases. The Public Folder hierarchy now uses the mailbox databases instead of a Public Folder Database. The Outlook Web App is also now available in Offline mode. The transport pipeline now consists of 3 tiers: Front End Transport Service, Hub Transport Service, and Mailbox Transport Service. The functions of these services are spread between the Client Access and Mailbox roles in tendering a messaging infrastructure.

The additional features of Exchange 2013 are many more and a full list of new features is available here at additional Exchange 2013 features.
Microsoft’s evolution of their messaging and collaboration suite with Exchange 2013 and Lync 2013 is a strong step forward in market domination. By building on the powerful tools Microsoft is once again proving to be the leader in Messaging and now Voice technologies.

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