Microsoft Pushes Lync Voice Services Into Cloud With BT Pilot

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Posted 2012-01-05 Print this article Print

Microsoft and British Telecom have joined forces to start offering Lync voice services and functions via a hosted service that resides in the cloud.

In what may be a sign of the times, Microsoft is expanding the footprint of its Lync platform further into the cloud. The company has launched a pilot program with telecom giant British Telecom to begin offering an enterprise-class platform to host dedicated Microsoft Lync Voice service.

The pilot augments BT's existing global Managed Lync services offering, which is part of the BT One portfolio offering. Each pilot instance can support up to 250 users, and offers such Lync convergent technology features as instant messaging, online presence, audio/Web/video conferencing and Lync's full Enterprise Voice capabilities.

"By adding full voice support into the picture, Lync becomes a full-service hosted offering for small and medium businesses for all of their telecom needs," said Raj Mehta, president and CEO of Infosys International, an IT services firm. "It is just another sign of how cloud services can expand to displace traditional IT offerings."

The Lync Voice pilot will be offered to BT's U.S. customers out of the company's Texas Operations Center and will be available under a 90-day trial period. Customers participating in the pilot trial will be offered the opportunity to test a complete range of Lync functions. Lync features and functionality will be modeled and tested under customer-specific conditions.

BT will offer pilot customers a specialized team to walk them through implementation, planning and design, and testing of Lync-certified audio endpoint devices. The team will help define the next steps and assist customers in selecting the services they need among BT's Lync service options. These include on-premises Lync system integration, on-premises Lync managed service or the hosted Lync service.

"This pilot environment was designed to address the unique customer requirements for a Lync-based 'cloud' managed service," Jason Cook, chief architect and CTO, CPG and U.S. & Canada, BT Global Services, said in a prepared statement. "We're excited to be able to introduce customers to a low-risk opportunity to evaluate a production-class Lync environment while benefiting from substantially lower costs and faster time-to-production of a pilot compared to a typical on-premises systems integration project."

Microsoft isn't the only software vendor looking to bring hosted voice and telecom services to the SMB community. Many other companies are already doing that, ranging from 8x8 to Vonage to local cable companies, such as Cablevison with its optimum lightpath service.

However, what Microsoft is proposing to offer is increased integration and convergence. Lync combines many telecom functions into a single platform, while offering integration into applications such as Microsoft Outlook. It will be the combination of services, the high level of convergence and the one-stop shopping advantages that will most likely set a hosted Lync offering apart from the crowd.

Prices for the BT One portfolio with Lync Voice offering have not yet been announced. 

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at

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