Adding Enterprise Voice to Office 365
Microsoft Office 365 (O365) is an easy solution that allows small, medium and large organizations to quickly deploy business-class email, calendaring and contact sharing via hosted Exchange and business-class document and portal capabilities using hosted SharePoint.
Lync 2013, which is also part of the Office 365 suite, provides instant messaging, presence, peer-to-peer audio, video and content sharing and complete conferencing, including the ability for external participants to dial in to your O365 conference bridge via an optional audio conferencing provider. However, the Office 365 version of Lync does NOT include the ability to place calls to or receive calls from the PSTN, the functionality that Microsoft refers to as “Enterprise Voice.” This means that small and medium-sized organizations cannot use the Office 365 version of Lync as a PBX replacement.
Enter AudioCodes One Box 365. The concept is simple; One Box provides an on-premises appliance that allows you to use part of Office 365 along with a version of Lync that provides full Enterprise Voice capabilities. This allows you to keep the simplicity and productivity of using Microsoft software in the cloud without the cloud-based Office 365 limitations.
One Box is built on top of an AudioCodes Mediant 800 gateway, but then adds pre-installed versions of Lync 2013 server standard edition including the Front-end, Mediation, Monitoring, Edge, Archiving, Office Web App, and Persistent Chat server roles, along with a custom Active Directory connector, SQL Server and of course Windows Server, on which all of the aforementioned run. Effectively, One Box is a pre-baked implementation of on-premises Lync, with all the “bells and whistles” included. The on-premises appliance architecture means that, unlike with O365 Lync, voice and UC services will continue to operate even in the event of a WAN failure (i.e. even if you lose connectivity to the O365 cloud).
Technically, One Box is supporting a “split domain” hybrid implementation of Lync. Lync users with full enterprise voice capabilities are homed on the Lync pool supported by the One Box appliance, and if you have other Lync users, who do not need full enterprise voice capabilities, they can be homed on the O365 Lync pool. Both sets of users can make use of all the Outlook/Exchange, SharePoint and other Office 365 features. In fact, One Box relies on Exchange Unified Messaging to provide voice mail capabilities, which can be provided by O365 Exchange in the cloud. With this architecture, the less important voice mail service will not work if your connection to O365 fails.
From a hardware perspective, the One Box appliance is a server gateway/SBC all in one. For voice connectivity there are several standard configurations including 1 E1/T1 and 4 FXS, 30 sessions SIP Trunk and 4 FXS and 8 BRI and 4 FX.
AudioCodes states the maximum capacity as 200 users and 60 TDM voice channels or 250 SIP sessions, which should serve smaller and medium-size organizations well or could be used for remote branches in larger organizations. Two One Box 365 appliances can be paired for resiliency purposes. One Box might also be used as a quick starter for a Lync EV pilot.
As AudioCodes is clearly working on making a complete Lync Enterprise Voice deployment as easy as possible to implement and manage, they have bundles that include the 420HD, 430HD and 440HD AudioCodes Lync IP phones. They have created an overall management console and provide remote and on-site installation services through a channel of partner resellers that they are currently establishing. As an organization, purchasing all of the required components from one vendor may simplify your life. If you are a reseller this may be a new opportunity to investigate; AudioCodes is suggesting reseller margins of up to 25% and is currently allowing qualified resellers to purchase not-for-resale One Box appliances for evaluation purposes at deeply discounted prices.
The One Box 365 appliance includes Windows Server and SQL Server licenses (OEM versions), and relies on O365 E4 licenses for users. The Lync Server license is also not included. AudioCodes One Box licenses are based around a one-time activation fee that includes initial 25 users and then fixed fees for additional blocks of 25 users; note that the AudioCodes licenses are permanent and do not expire.
AudioCodes, in partnership with Microsoft Payment Solutions, can bundle all the hardware and incremental software license fees into a single per user per month fee.
By way of illustration AudioCodes provided this “Full end-to-end 100 user solution” example for just over $37,000, which included:
- One Box 365 (1 E1/T1, 4FXS)
- 100 - One Box User Licenses
- 90 Lync Qualified IP Phones (420HD)
- 10 Lync Qualified Premium IP Phones (440HD)
- Remote installation services
- 9-to-5 Support (1st year)
Bundling in the required Lync Server license and extending 9-to-5 support for three years, AudioCodes suggested this could be financed for $14.91 user/month, apparently over three years.
Given that many organizations selecting Lync do not choose to deploy Lync IP sets for all users, a 100 user One Box solution may be available at even a lower price point in specific circumstances.
According to Gartner, Microsoft Lync as a voice solution grew 106% in 2013. As Lync voice and UC grows, the Lync ecosystem continues to expand, and it is encouraging to see creative solutions such as the AudioCodes One Box 365 emerge. One Box potentially allows more organizations to consider the benefits of Lync voice and UC in an easier to deploy and manage bundle. For resellers, One Box may provide an incremental revenue stream that increases in pace with the continued growth of Lync voice.
Certainly AudioCodes One Box is a new solution and we will need time to evaluate how well the hardware performs under real-world scenarios, how truly integrated the management software is and the level of installation and on-going support provided by AudioCodes and its developing reseller channel. While there is still more investigation needed related to the overall One Box execution, it does appear that AudioCodes has conceptually crafted a very solid solution.
This paper is sponsored by AudioCodes.