Microsoft Cloud Connector and Sonus Cloud Link

August 4th, 2016

A few years ago, I blogged about my experience with Microsoft Lync (as it was then known) and the benefits it provided. While I generally consider myself a Luddite, any technology that can make my life easier is a win in my book!

Skype for Business (as it is NOW known) has evolved rapidly in that time, and Microsoft has sold enough licenses to grow into a top 3 vendor (in terms of market share) in the global Unified Communications market. Now part of the Office 365 suite, Skype for Business Online – sometimes referred to as Cloud PBX – will drive further integration with productivity apps such as Microsoft Office, which in turn will accelerate penetration and adoption of Skype for Business as an enterprise voice platform.

However, enterprises still perceive barriers to transitioning to a hosted UC solution, including what to do with existing PBX infrastructure and PSTN access. It simply doesn’t make a lot of sense for businesses to “forklift” a solution that is fully depreciated, especially if it works and serves that business well. Capital is a precious commodity, and enterprises will do whatever they can to leverage existing assets. While hosted platforms have predictable costs which alleviates businesses from major capital expenditures, these enterprises want to migrate to a hosted platform at their own pace while minimizing any upfront capital expenditures for the migration. Microsoft is keenly aware of this and demonstrated as much with the launch of Cloud Connector Edition (“CCE”).

CCE is software that essentially allows enterprises to leverage their on-premises PSTN connectivity to use with Office 365. The software (which is free of charge and downloadable from Microsoft) comes as a packaged set of 4 virtual machines (Domain Controller, Central Management Store, Mediation and Edge server) intended to be installed on a COTS hardware running Windows Server 2012 R2 with sufficient licenses to run these virtual machines in Hyper-V. And while there are no Skype for Business functions such as IM or conferencing instantiated locally, it does allow users to make and receive Skype calls across the local PSTN connection and conduct intra-office calling with the on-premises PBX extensions – up to 500 concurrent calls if the server meets specific requirements.

The good news is that enterprises get to preserve their investment in existing infrastructure. The potentially “not so good news” is that they still need to source a server, the required software, AND have qualified technicians do the installation (which isn’t a trivial activity, estimated around 8 hours to get CCE up and running). And don’t forget, Microsoft strongly recommends a session border controller (such as the Sonus SBC 1000 or SBC 2000) be deployed for security, dial plan integration, and interworking between the PBX and Skype for Business endpoints. And that doesn’t even account for the hardening and on-going security patching required to keep your business safe let alone bring in a team of security experts to ensure the solution you’re deploying is secure – So much for reducing the capital spend!

What’s an enterprise to do? Sonus has an answer – the recently announced Sonus Cloud Link solution integrates Microsoft CCE directly on our enterprise SBCs – an “all-in-one” appliance that is easy to install and lowers the total cost of ownership (TCO). Sonus Cloud Link significantly reduces the CCE installation time by up to 90%, and supports up to 500 concurrent Skype for Business Online / Cloud PBX calls on a single appliance.

Figure 1: Sonus Cloud Link

Sonus Cloud Link extends the Sonus SBC 1000 and SBC 2000 GUI and Easy Setup Wizard utilized for our Microsoft SBA (Survivable Branch Appliance) to the CCE world. The Sonus Cloud Link CCE Setup Wizard reduces the investment of time and resources from more than a day to as little as 1 hour, and the UI is simple enough that an enterprise’s IT staff could manage the installation (saving not only time, but money). No additional hardware, software, or licensing is needed!

Another way Sonus Cloud Link lowers the TCO is by minimizing the number of appliances required to scale. As noted earlier, Microsoft’s maximum throughput is 500 concurrent calls per CCE instance / server. Sonus Cloud Link scales to the same capacity – 500 concurrent calls in a single appliance. If the appliance you’re looking to deploy can’t scale to the 500 concurrent call capacity, this may require your business to double the investment to meet your enterprise’s growth trajectory and demands. Alternatively, you’ll be forced to go the route of an external COTS server and the complexity and “gotchas” required with that option to meet the growth expectations of your business.

Sonus Cloud Link takes advantage of the latest in processor technology – an Intel® Xeon® 5th generation, 8-core chip that meets Microsoft’s minimum requirements for a CCE deployment on a COTS server (and is up to 60% more energy efficient). Of course, Sonus Cloud Link is based on our award-winning SBC 1000 and SBC 2000, so you get comprehensive SIP trunking, ISDN PRI, and analog (FXS/FXO) interworking support for Cloud PBX. Enterprises can maintain POTS lines, fax machines, elevator phones, courtesy phones, paging systems, and emergency lines – even present a single call back number regardless of which Cloud PBX user is making a call.

That’s a lot of value to an enterprise that may still be “on the fence” about Cloud PBX. Sonus Cloud Link is a game-changing appliance, purpose-built for SIP Trunking, and Microsoft Cloud PBX environments.

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