Building a scalable communications platform with Microsoft Lync & KEMP

TalkTalk Business

“KEMP is a trusted product. It works 100% of the time. It’s Lync certified, the price point is right and we stake our reputation on it.” - Paul Rodgerson, Lync Product Manager, TalkTalk Business

Executive Summary

TalkTalk Business is one of the UK's fastest growing B2B operators. For over 20 years, the company has been providing scalable technology and dedicated support services to more than 180,000 large and small to medium enterprises (SMEs). TalkTalk Business uses the TalkTalk Group’s extensive Next Generation Network to power its business-grade SIP and next generation voice products at landmark prices, reducing cost and management time for all businesses

Business Needs

A large majority of TalkTalk Business’s customers are replacing legacy PBX systems with modern solutions such as Microsoft Lync.  TalkTalk Business Lync offerings require load balancing to ensure high performance and availability of integrated data services, IM, video, web conferencing and collaboration.

Prior to Microsoft Lync, TalkTalk Business customers were operating on Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2003 and 2005 and Office Communications Server 2007 and 2007 R2. With the release of the Lync Server 2010, load balancing quickly became a priority.  The challenge was finding a strategic business partner that could focus on TalkTalk’s business growth while providing a load-balancing product to support the Microsoft Lync communications platform. The solution had to be affordable as well as easy to deploy and manage.

TalkTalk Business’s Lync Product Manager, Paul Rodgerson, began researching load balancing vendors via the internet and noticed a lot of positive buzz about KEMP Technologies. He reached out to a few other Microsoft-certified vendors, but rather than assessing his requirements personally, they simply directed him to their websites.  While a few vendors demanded what Rodgerson considered "unrealistic" product purchase commitments up front, KEMP did not.  Some vendors also required that TalkTalk purchase an evaluation unit for its lab, which KEMP provided free of charge. 

During the evaluation phase, several load balancing products proved difficult to configure and deploy.  Worse, it was obvious that some were not designed for the Microsoft stack.  When Rodgerson contacted product managers to discuss these issues, they claimed any missing functionality was “on the way.”  Because the company would be reselling the products as part of the TalkTalk Business Lync Solution, it needed assurance that whatever product it selected performed as intended. Only the KEMP LoadMaster products did exactly that.

Solution

With KEMP LoadMasters, traffic can be distributed across Lync servers. If a server becomes slow or inaccessible, KEMP LoadMasters dynamically reroute and reconnect users to other functioning servers. The result is guaranteed application uptime and optimized user experiences.

TalkTalk Business selected the KEMP LoadMaster because its scale and price point were ideally suited to the Lync solutions TalkTalk offers. Also, the LoadMaster’s performance was both predictable and reliable.  While the LM-2200 continues to run in TalkTalk Business’s customer lab, TalkTalk has also integrated a newer generation KEMP LoadMaster product into end-customer solutions.

KEMP proved itself to be a responsive business partner that was committed to growing with TalkTalk.  “KEMP was willing to help us get off the ground, which was a key starting point,” said Rodgerson.  “We wanted a vendor that would help us start from zero, one who understood what we wanted to do, and who was happy to support us in developing the business. Unlike other vendors, KEMP provided a Lync-specific configuration template and a deployment guide that saved us time and unnecessary technical work. “

Most of TalkTalk’s business customers are Microsoft application centric or they are in the process of migrating from another platform to Microsoft solutions.  Some are using Microsoft Lync and Exchange, while others are just using Lync.  Lync’s easy integration with the Microsoft stack makes it attractive to businesses that are using other Microsoft solutions. 

Lync combines instant messaging, Voice over IP (VOIP) and videoconferencing capabilities. It also enables real-time, multi-client collaboration that allows users to share documents, applications and desktop screens with each other. Users can collectively add text, drawings and graphical annotations to documents as well as organize polls.

TalkTalk Business is utlizing KEMP LoadMasters to do a number of things, including reverse proxy. Many of their customers were using the Microsoft Forefront Threat Management Gateway (TMG) 2010. Since TMG has come to end-of-sale, Microsoft will soon discontinue its support of the product. KEMP LoadMasters fill the role of reverse proxy in the absence of TMG for securely publishing Lync services.

Because today’s business customers are extremely tech-savvy, Rodgerson said that more of them want to know that the solutions they purchase are standardized and they often ask TalkTalk why it chooses a particular vendor. In KEMP’s case, LoadMasters have proven to work 100% of the time, providing high availability at a very reasonable price.

Results

TalkTalk Business uses KEMP LoadMasters in its Lync Lab to perform customer test scenarios and related development work.  It also integrates KEMP LoadMasters into its business customer environments as part of its TalkTalk Business Lync solutions to ensure high-performance and availability of integrated voice and data services, IM, video, web conferencing and collaboration. 

TalkTalk Business’s relationship with KEMP has grown as the number of Lync installations requiring load balancing continues to increase. KEMP LoadMasters are ideally suited to the company’s business grade customers who typically have in excess of 150 Lync seats. KEMP has even helped TalkTalk Business expand its Lync customer base.  In fact, KEMP is now TalkTalk Business’s exclusive load balancing partner, with a typical deal size offering a KEMP unit now about £80k - £100k GBP.

Although TalkTalk Business selected the LoadMaster for it Business Lync solutions, all KEMP hardware, virtual, cloud and bare metal LoadMasters are capable of simplifying the rapid deployment of critical server roles and protocols used by Microsoft Lync. The addition of load balancing allows the customer’s IT  environment to easily scale as client traffic grows. All KEMP LoadMasters are certified by Microsoft for Lync and Exchange.

“KEMP is a trusted product.  It works 100% of the time,” stated Rodgerson in closing. “It’s Lync certified, the price point is right and we stake our reputation on it.”

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