Can Lync with SDN address user experience challenges ?

Microsoft Lync is a UC solution getting rapidly adopted by enterprises. However, deployment and user adoption of any UC solution, and Lync is no different, is very challenging.

There are several benefits of a UC technology such as Lync. It takes out cost associated with running traditional telephony and voice conferencing solutions. It also drives user productivity by supporting “Work anywhere” scenarios.

Anyone who has deployed Lync understands the user adoption challenges that come with it. A user with a desk phone and PSTN connection is now given a PC and a headset and is told to “Work Anywhere”. The user feels excited since he can now carry his phone with him anywhere and be productive with IM, phone and conferences wherever there is a network connection. His excitement , however, quickly fades away when he has had a poor experience due to a bad network connection at a remote site.
Needless to say, if user experience is not managed well, the UC rollout would fail miserably.

A service such as Lync is heavily dependent on the quality of the network. Providing an end to end quality experience on Lync is non-trivial especially when one of the end points is bandwidth challenged.

Fortunately, SDN holds the promise to solve this challenge.

HP and Microsoft recently demo’d Lync with SDN at Interop 2013. Here’s the demo video and a post that explains how it works.

Lync is probably one of the few real time applications that talks to the network communicating information to the network in real time through SDN controller allowing the network to dynamically tag the flows and assign bandwidth. This significantly improves the end user experience without the overhead and cost of re-engineering the network. Lync can also dynamically provide QoE information to the SDN controller allowing SDN controller to re-route flows as needed.
Conversely, SDN controller can provide Lync with network information that Lync can use to manage user expectations prior to the user initiating a media session. This is a big deal for end user experience since this information allows Lync to proactively set expectations with the user.

An average user doesn’t understand (nor is he expected to) the intricacies of application and network interaction. For him, if the call or video doesn’t go through well, he ends up blaming the application and the IT team behind it.

By having the application and network talk to each other, the user experience can be managed much better leading to a faster adoption of UC in the enterprise.

IMHO, applications such as Lync have the potential to bring out the value of SDN and take it from hype to reality.

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