In my customer conversations, several people have told me that Microsoft Lync has become their phone system. They no longer have a PBX. They use Lync 2010 for all their voice calls, with the Lync client hosted on XenDesktop 5.5/5.6 or VDI-in-a-Box and accessed from the Citrix Receiver.

A partner in the Nordics told me they’ve noticed this trend especially in the SMB space. Last month I spoke with a managed IT provider doing this here in the U.S., using the Citrix Receiver for Mac 11.4 and the Citrix Receiver for Windows. They installed Plantronics Spokes™ software on the VDA to work with their Bluetooth headsets, and are enjoying good voice quality even on wireless network connections.

But I’ve also spoken with very large corporations making this shift. For example, one major communications services provider has eliminated phone systems in all of their headquarters buildings. (By the way, they commented that the voice quality with XenDesktop 5.5 and Citrix Receiver 3.x is even better than their previous phone sets!) And one of the big computer hardware vendors told me all of their new office buildings are opening up without a PBX; they’re using Lync as their phone system.

All of this seems to substantiate the bold claims that Microsoft made when Lync was launched in November 2010. Articles with headlines such as The PBX era is over announced that Lync 2010 was “ready to replace corporate PBXs, generating savings by centralizing call control and other phone features to reduce the number of devices that need to be maintained.”

On the other hand, the call center market is still squarely in the PBX camp. Furthermore, Dave Michels notes in his article Microsoft Lync telephony: Ready to be a PBX replacement? that “Lync requires quality, reliable and inexpensive broadband, which isn’t always available.” So some customers prefer to use Lync in conjunction with their existing PBX, a mode of operation that is in fact facilitated by integration features in Lync 2010.

XenDesktop provides comprehensive support for Lync today, and additional optimizations are now in beta. Some of the innovative features for Lync support in our currently shipping software include:

  • Optimized-for-speech codec technology, featuring fast encode and low bandwidth utilization
  • Webcam Video Compression in the Citrix Receivers for Windows and Linux, offering excellent bandwidth efficiency and network latency tolerance
  • Jitter buffering in the Citrix Receiver for Windows to ensure smooth audio even when network latency is variable, and Echo Cancellation when using a microphone and speakers instead of a headset
  • Audio plug-n-play
  • Audio device routing (e.g. ringtone can be directed to speakers but voice to a headset)
  • Support for Polycom USB phones via isochronous USB redirection
  • Multi-stream ICA transport for full QoS support
  • UDP/RTP audio option on XenDesktop VDI for high tolerance of network congestion and packet loss
  • DSCP packet tagging for RTP packets (Layer 3)
  • WMM tagging for Wi-Fi
  • Branch Repeater support for QoS and multi-stream ICA, including UDP

To learn about the new enhancements for delivering Microsoft Lync that are now in beta, don’t miss my seminar at our upcoming Synergy conference in San Francisco. I’ll be speaking on the topic What’s New With HDX? (SYN121) on Thursday, May 10th, at 11:30am PT.

What are your company’s plans for voice and video communications? Are you seeing Unified Communications products like Microsoft Lync overtaking the PBX as the new phone system?

Derek Thorslund
Director of Product Management, HDX