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.