With the recent announcement about Lync 2013 (previously known in beta circles as Lync 15), I’m sure everyone is interested in what’s new. Lync 2013 doesn’t re-invent the wheel when compared to Lync 2010. Lync 2013 builds on the features introduced in Lync 2010 in a way that makes Lync 2013 a compelling upgrade. Here is a quick rundown of the new features (note this is information from the beta product so things may change before its final release):
There has been significant role consolidation in Lync 2013. There is no longer a separate server role for monitoring and archiving. Each front-end server communicates directly with the monitoring and/or archiving database, eliminating the need for a separate monitoring/archiving server.
You can no longer install the A/V conferencing server role separately. It is now always co-located with the front-end role.
Directors are now an optional role, which is kind of funny because I’ve always treated them as optional myself.
DR/High Availability Options
Lync 2010 introduced the concept of a backup registrar. When a user’s home pool becomes unavailable, the client can automatically register with a pre-defined backup pool. This maintains basic voice availability, but the client loses conferencing capabilities, and the user’s contact list is unavailable. In Lync 2013, users will maintain nearly all functionality in the event of a failed pool. This is made possible because all user data is now replicated between all Lync servers in the enterprise. Every server maintains multiple copies of the user database, so there is almost no reduction in service availability. I say “almost” because Response Groups are still not highly available (something that was sorely missed in Lync 2010). So, should you suffer a failure on your home pool that hosts response groups, those response groups will not be available.
Each front-end server stores a complete copy of all the databases stored in the SQL back-end, so if the back-end SQL database server is unavailable, the front-end will still function.
Also, Lync 2013 supports SQL mirroring on the back-end databases. This can reduce hardware costs typically associated with the older clustering options in SQL (separate shared storage).
In Lync 2010, if you had multiple mediation servers connecting to the same PSTN gateway or SIP trunk, you had to fake the Topology Builder out by creating multiple DNS A records pointing to the same IP. Lync 2013 now supports M-N trunk routing. This allows you to have multiple trunks to different gateways, and a gateway to have multiple trunks to different Mediation Servers.
Lync 2013 includes support for inter-trunk routing. This feature allows Lync to act as an intermediary between two or more different phone systems. For example, Lync can accept calls from one PBX, and pass the call through to another PBX. This can be very useful in larger environments and allows Lync to be the backbone of a corporate telephone network.
In Lync 2010, you could use trunk translation rules to modify the CALLED phone number before passing it to the next hop. However, you couldn’t make any changes to the CALLING number (ie the person making the telephone call). Lync 2013 now allows you to make changes to both the called and calling number. This is very useful when the PSTN provider does not accept E.164 formatted phone numbers. For example, in North America, many PSTN providers do not accept the country code 1 as part of the number and only accepts 10-digit numbers. In the past, an external gateway would have to do the necessary manipulation, but with Lync 2013, all the number manipulation can be done in Lync.
There are also several other new Enterprise Voice related enhancements. Delegates can setup simultaneous ringing to their mobile devices for incoming calls to their manager. When a user has setup simultaneous ringing to a mobile phone, and the device is turned off or out of range, Lync 2013 can determine that an incoming call was immediately routed to voicemail, and disconnect that endpoint so the call can continue to ring other endpoints. Caller ID presentation allows administrators to modify the Caller ID format in a much more scalable way than in Lync 2010, which only allowed Caller ID changes based on the route.
Not much has changed here, but you can configure Response Group Managers and Administrators, allowing you to delegate Response Group tasks to other users. If this seems familiar, its because that feature was in OCS 2007 R2, but was removed from Lync 2010 for some reason.
Integration with Lync Online
You can now create hybrid deployments with a mix of on-premises and Lync Online servers (similar to Exchange 2010). This means that you can have some users running “in the cloud” and some users on traditional on-premises servers. Microsoft calls this “hybrid voice”. You can also have all your users running in Lync Online and make calls via an on-premises PSTN gateway. This means you can allow Lync Online users to dial legacy PBX extensions, or make calls via a traditional PSTN connection (T1/E1 or similar) in situations where SIP trunking isn’t desirable or an option. Media bypass will work in this situation, so a user’s media stream won’t be hairpinned through the Lync Online service when making phone calls from an office running a local PSTN gateway.
Mobile clients will finally get the featureset people have been asking for. Mobile clients will be able to make audio and video calls from their mobile device using either a mobile data connection or wi-fi. I have no idea if this will be available at launch or sometime after. There isn’t a Lync 2013 mobile client available yet that I’ve seen, but there are definite signs around mobile A/V in some updated Powershell commands like Get-CSMobilityPolicy. I saw an early demo of Lync 2013 on a tablet running Windows 8, and it pretty much guaranteed I’ll be buying a Windows 8 tablet when it comes out. Lync on a tablet was just THAT cool.
Persistent chat (or group chat), is now a full-fledged Lync service, unlike older versions which was really just tacked on (and quite poorly, in my opinion). You now define servers in the Topology Builder as with other roles, and the persistent chat features are included in the base Lync 2013 client (no separate client required).
Other New Features
Other features that don’t fall into the above categories include:
- Full A/V capabilities on the Lync Web App client
- Full IPv6 support
- VDI plugin – allows full A/V support in virtual desktop environments
- H.264 SVC codec support
- Skype federation support
There are a lot of other small enhancements that go a long way towards improving the overall product or enhancing usability. If I were to go into detail here on all of them, it would become a very long post. I will do future deep-dives into some of the specific improvements at a later time.