August 23, 2011

QoS: The Missing Link

If you're considering implementing Unified Communications (UC) or even if you're completely new to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) this white paper is for you.

Co-authored by Sue Bradshaw of Integrated Research and Tom Cross, CEO of TECHtionary, it will help you translate your years of experience managing servers and applications to be meaningful in the new world of VoIP, IP telephony and UC.

And it is a new world if you're from the network, server or application sides of the house. With potentially confusing concepts and terminology, UC also redefines what real time really means.

This white paper takes you on a journey that explains the importance of achieving real time performance of voice and video to deliver quality UC. To assist you further it also includes Tom's Top 10 Recommendations for UC implementations and a Prognosis VoIP monitoring checklist to ensure visibility and control of your UC ecosystem.

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This is a super summary and review of the QoS issues that need to be present in any converged voice/data network solution. And even though we always need to be cognizant of these issues, a reminder is more important than ever due to the introduction of Microsoft Lync.

So what's so special about Lync? Basically, it's a change of environment. While administrators for converged services and/or dedicated VoIP equipment have long been dealing with issues such as latency, jitter, and packet loss, these are issues that are much less important - or at least handled differently - in a data-only environment. And even though "all generalizations are wrong" (including this one), it's a pretty fair guess that folks using Microsoft servers in a data-only environment may not have had to deal with these issues previously.

With Microsoft's acquisition of Skype, some of these issues may be resolved. However, the "trickle-down" effects will take quite a while to have a huge impact, so this is still a question that deserves immediate attention.

So, with that intro, let me turn to one of the coauthors of the paper for a first question.

Sue, What do you see as the main challenges for companies implementing Lync?

The main challenge we identified and the main reason for this paper is that Lync is now being added to the portfolio of products managed by application and server administrators.

UC introduces a new world of potentially confusing concepts and terminology. I hope this paper will help translate years of experience managing Microsoft servers and applications to be meaningful in the new world of VoIP, IP telephony and UC.

In your opinion why does even a well-performing data network have the ability to potentially affect voice quality?

When it comes to measuring voice quality; user satisfaction and tolerance are measured not in seconds, but in milliseconds. We do in fact talk very quickly! So, although other network applications and services are performing well, any delays caused by insufficient bandwidth, incorrect router configuration, and lack of priority settings for voice have the potential to impact the user experience.

How do you perceive the management challenge of the increasing prevalence of virtual servers in the Lync environment?

The management challenge is to make the right decisions quickly because more people or processes are affected when things go wrong. This means that UC managers are looking for proactive performance management for all servers and would like to avoid having to use one tool to monitor UC applications, one for VMs and yet another for hardware.

In this type of environment, problems can exist in any layer; hardware, virtualization management or applications, monitoring all the layers cohesively ensures the mean time to identify and repair the faulty component is as low as possible.

And this question for you, Thomas. As the author of many books, videos, and developer of internet products what is your particular interest in Lync?

Lync from the get-go was and is a game-changer. The key is the total integration with the email-IM client and most important introducing “presence technology.”

What is the future of Lync?

Lync integration with Kinect truly transforms video tele/presence or video tele/conferencing by making it truly affordable and usable even by children who then can incorporate video collaboration into their lives. The other issue will be the integration of Skype and Lync and the “jury is still out” on that one. Both are great platforms but how Microsoft “mashes” them together is still a way off.

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