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HP helps deliver on the promise of Unified Communications and Collaboration

By Alan MacLeod – HP Frontline Partnership team

 

Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) has promised a great return on investment (ROI) as well as significant productivity gains for many years – but exactly what is UC&C, and how can it deliver on these promises?

 

UC&C Explained

 

UC&C has become an umbrella for all things involving humans communicating via technology in the workplace.  What used to be called telephony then VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) is often what people mean when they say UC&C. Instant messaging (IM) services with presence added voice and video and became classified as UC (unified communications) and Web conferencing had voice and video enabled and became UC as well but these are all separate systems, and hardly qualified as “Unified” in even the most generous of sense.  So what does make something “unified communications and collaboration”?

 

Dictionary.com defines Communication as “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs” and Collaboration as “the act of working with another or others on a joint project”, make those process remote – and we have captured all the forms of interaction mentioned above – but that doesn’t make them “Unified”.

 

The “unified” part of UC&C is what makes UC&C exciting. It’s not the bundling of the next version of IM with a telephony solution and a web conferencing system but rather a single, cohesive experience encompassing all of those capabilities.  And that’s important, because to replace something as common as a chat client and a phone, UC&C better be in a position to offer a far superior user experience.

 

Microsoft Lync

 

This is where Microsoft Lync comes in.  Lync is Microsoft’s real time communication addition to the messaging and collaboration capabilities of Exchange and SharePoint.  Lync brings together the capabilities of instant messaging, presence, voice, video, content sharing and web conferencing under a single interface – i.e. it unifies these.  Importantly, Lync also plugs in to Outlook  and SharePoint – from within Outlook and SharePoint, I can start phone calls, video sessions, IM’s etc. it unifies the communications experience under those two very well-known interfaces as well.  So for me, Lync brings Exchange and SharePoint together and creates a Unified Communications and Collaboration suite.  So why are we blogging about this at HP?

 

UC&C is much more than a user interface in front of some features.  As important as the user interface is, the user experience is equally critical – it’s not useful if calls can’t go through, data sharing randomly stops or content is not available when needed. 

 

All IT systems need to be designed for the task, and while the software is the “icing on the cake” i.e. it’s the bit we see, the platform on which it runs is critical or the software fails.  With the cost pressures everyone is facing nowadays, over-sizing a system is no longer a viable option – and sizing the system to fit the task is critical. 

 

 

Upcoming HP Reference Architectures for Microsoft Lync

 

With these thoughts in mind, HP has been producing Reference Architectures based on testing of the software on the actual hardware to enable customers to buy with confidence – the confidence to know that the specific application that they are looking to deploy has been tested in the specific scenario on the specific hardware.

 

This month HP will be releasing reference architectures for Lync 2013 for installations with 2500 or fewer users. The majority of the reference architectures HP has released have focused on the servers, storage and top of rack switches needed to support an application in the data center – and the Lync reference architecture also has this.  Where Lync is different is that the majority of the traffic generated by Lync does not go between the user and the server, but between users, and users to gateways, and that traffic can often be highly sensitive to network conditions – latency, jitter, packet loss and bandwidth – and as such the new Lync reference architectures address this as well.

 

HP’s new reference architectures for Lync can be applied alongside the existing ones for Exchange and SharePoint to enable a complete UC&C experience.  HP’s testing of the solutions enables customers to be confident that they are going to purchase the optimal configuration for the way they intend to use the solutions – this approach enables the best ROI.

 

ROI is one of the many touted UCC benefits.  Reductions of 20-25% in the costs associated with travel, messaging, telephony, conferencing, real-estate and can be achieved with a correctly designed and implemented UC&C system. 

 

Of course, these costs can be quickly consumed if the solution is undersized, poorly implemented or such a poor experience is delivered that the users lose faith and stay with the existing solutions.  This is where the reference architectures come in to make the promise of the UC&C software, turn in to reality for the IT and finance departments. 

 

Gone is the need for extensive testing to ensure the right servers and storage are deployed, or the network is properly specified to carry the real-time traffic – HP’s reference architectures do a large portion of that work for you. 

 

Working with an HP/Microsoft qualified partner will enable the final design to be fine-tuned to your needs, and knowing that the building blocks that are being used are tested and approved from HP removes the doubt that is typically addressed with many months of heavy testing – we’ve done that for you, you can move rapidly to costs savings instead.

 

HP’s reference architectures have helped hundreds of customers to deploy the right solution with confidence over the years – and this has been extended to cover Lync 2013, enabling the promise of UC&C to be brought to your business. 

 

What next?

 

You can find the reference architecture material and further details of the solution here.

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