Aruba Networks announced its Aruba 802.11ac product portfolio of indoor and outdoor access points is now certified under the Microsoft Lync Server Wi-Fi qualification program. The qualification ensures that Aruba customers using Lync within their gigabit Wi-Fi environments will have a high-performing, reliable voice and video experience, the company said.
Microsoft's Lync is a leading product in the unified communications (UC) market. But deploying UC brings with it new network demands -- especially when real-time voice and video traffic threatens to guzzle wireless LAN bandwidth. "There are a lot of Lync users today, but a lot of businesses are still on the fence regarding whether they should deploy Lync Voice," said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at Westminster, Mass.-based ZK Research. "I think this qualification can help to remove that hesitation, particularly if they are planning to use Lync for mobile voice and still have their deskphone."
The Microsoft certification swayed one institution, Bellevue College in suburban Seattle, to install Aruba's Wi-Fi technology across its campus, according to Russ Beard, Bellevue's vice president of information resources.
"That relationship was a big checkpoint for Aruba," he said. "Our partnership with Microsoft isn't going away any time soon, so any time we can work with a vendor who also has a relationship with Microsoft, it makes a difference."
Aruba 802.11ac now qualified by Microsoft
Aruba 802.11ac technology -- which includes its indoor AP-200, AP-210, AP-220 and its outdoor AP-275 access point (AP) series -- is the only gigabit Wi-Fi technology on the market to gain the Lync qualification from Microsoft, said Keyur Shah, senior product marketing manager for Aruba.
The qualification means Aruba's wireless LAN technology can differentiate among Lync voice, video and desktop sharing from other application traffic, and prioritize Lync traffic to deliver a better overall user experience.
"We have been working very closely with Microsoft to develop APIs that will give us quality of experience information," Shah said. The qualification allows Aruba controllers to tap into the Lync server and get call quality information, like loss and jitter, and bring that information into Aruba's network management product, AirWave. That integration gives the network manager a view into Lync performance, devices and the ability to troubleshoot any performance issues, Shah said.
Bellevue College has 40,000 users on Lync, including students, faculty and staff. The UC platform is used for instant messaging, but also for more bandwidth-intensive applications, such as connecting students to the lecture hall or classroom for distance learning. Beard said the IT team is able to monitor Lync performance right from AirWave. "We can isolate issues down to the client and the access points it's on, and look at Lync traffic in particular on the dashboard," he said.
Many enterprises have a mixed vendor environment. With Aruba playing only in the Wi-Fi space and Microsoft historically pushing softphones as a UC strategy over hardware-based deskphones, the two vendors have a synergy that allows the two technologies to complement each other, Kerravala said. Aruba's ClientMatch, a technology that helps to direct mobile devices to the closest or least congested access point, is also an important feature to assure voice and video performance. ClientMatch helps relieve the "sticky client" problem, which occurs when a device tries to stay connected to one AP even when the user or client moves to a different location.
"[Sticky clients] is a big implication for things like voice and video, where you always want to have the highest quality connection. You don't want voice quality to degrade because you're standing right in front of an access point, but your device is still trying to use one that you were connected to before," Kerravala said.
Aruba/Lync partnerships open the door for tighter network, UC integrations
The Wi-Fi network is becoming the primary network for many businesses, so tighter integration between the network and bandwidth-intensive tools -- like UC -- will be necessary to ensure performance and reliability. Bellevue College eventually wants to transition away from deskphones and roll out Lync as its softphone strategy, which will be particularly useful for Bellevue's staff members who have had to give out their personal cell -- or even house phone -- numbers in the past.
Indiana University (IU) is in the throes of a PBX replacement strategy using Microsoft Lync. Lync is currently supported across all eight of the university's campuses. Some 12,000 faculty and staff members are now using Lync, and that number is expected to grow, said Dennis Cromwell, IU's associate vice president of enterprise infrastructure.
The university is now ready to move Lync to IU's existing Aruba Wi-Fi network. While Aruba's 802.11n technology is also qualified to work with Lync, the school is implementing the vendor's 802.11ac APs where needed. That will enable IU to support the increase in users as well as accommodate the expected uptick in voice and video traffic, Cromwell said.
"We've been taking advantage of that synergy [between Aruba and Microsoft], he said. "And 802.11ac will provide more bandwidth that will support more intense apps like video."
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