4-page Case Study
Posted: 2/19/2013
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Sprint Nextel Sprint Nextel Upgrades Communication Solution to Support Ongoing Mobile and Environmental Initiatives

Sprint Nextel is committed to providing the latest mobile tools and technology for employees, in addition to reducing the amount of real estate—and costs, both economic and environmental—to house them. As part of an ongoing effort to reduce its environmental impact, improve employee productivity, and reduce costs and administration for its cumbersome telephony systems, Sprint has long relied on a Microsoft unified communications solution. Sprint recently upgraded that solution with Microsoft Lync Server 2013 to provide enhanced communication, collaboration, and voice capabilities to its 40,000 employees. In addition to experiencing ongoing cost savings from its Lync Server deployment, Sprint believes this latest upgrade can help it to provide better redundancy, more robust conferencing capabilities, and more opportunities to connect with external partners and customers.

Situation
Headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas, Sprint Nextel offers a comprehensive range of wireless and wireline communications services, bringing the freedom of mobility to consumers, businesses, and government users. Sprint Nextel is widely recognized for developing, engineering, and deploying innovative technologies, including two wireless networks serving nearly 56 million customers at the end of the third quarter of 2012 and the first 4G service from a national carrier in the United States; industry-leading mobile data services; instant national and international push-to-talk capabilities; and a global Tier 1 Internet backbone.

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* Lync Server 2013 is an important part of a solution that enables our workforce to work better together virtually anywhere they are. *

Joe Hamblin
Director of Emerging Platforms for Enterprise Services, Sprint Nextel

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Sprint was the first US-based wireless company to establish a clear environmental vision by publishing its long-term environmental goals. As part of its corporate responsibility initiative, Sprint aggressively promotes programs with a positive environmental impact. It has an absolute greenhouse gas reduction goal of 20 percent and a renewable energy goal of 10 percent of its total electrical energy use by 2017. The company currently sources over 5 percent of its electrical energy from renewable sources, including a large wind purchase from an Oklahoma wind farm that provides enough wind power to power all of Sprint’s headquarters campus in Overland Park, as well as all other facilities in the Kansas City area. Sprint currently ranks number 13 on the EPA Fortune 500 partners’ list for green power use. Additionally, Sprint was recently ranked highest among all US telecom companies—number 3 overall out of the 500 largest US businesses on Newsweek’s Green Rankings (in both 2011 and 2012).

A big part of this effort is the company’s “3CS” initiative to promote content, communications, collaboration, and social engagement. Relying on Microsoft technologies including Microsoft Lync Server, Microsoft SharePoint Server, and Microsoft Exchange Server, Sprint is creating an ecosystem to support employees’ ability to be productive anytime, from virtually anywhere. It continues to reduce commute times for employees and to reduce the amount of office space—and power—workers use in order to have real positive impact on the environment. As leases on physical space expire, the Sprint IT team partnered with business units and the real estate group to work together to create smaller, open-area offices with flexible seating. “We wanted to use our technology to allow employees to work virtually anywhere they might imagine, but we also wanted to see a significant drop in real estate costs,” explains Scott Woodrome, Strategy Manager, Sprint Real Estate. “In our largest campus facility, we deployed Wi-Fi throughout, ensured that we had open seating, and implemented a ‘home pavilion’ with multiple areas to sit. We also created customer-friendly areas so employees could bring customers to the office.”

The IT team wanted to replace the traditional private-branch exchange (PBX) systems the company was using. The PBX systems were costly to operate, with ongoing connection charges, on-site maintenance fees, and annual upgrades. Using a software-powered approach from Microsoft with Sprint Global Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and SIP trunking, Sprint took the first step to providing a voice solution beyond what it could provide with a traditional PBX. SIP trunking uses Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP) to pass telephony traffic from the enterprise network directly to a network service provider over an IP connection. Sprint Global MPLS is a network-based IP virtual private network (VPN) available globally across the Sprint global Tier 1 Internet backbone with reach to 165 countries.

In 2010, Sprint upgraded its communications solution with Microsoft Lync Server 2010 for all 40,000 employees. Because its Microsoft enterprise voice solution has enabled Sprint to retire those 489 PBX systems across the United States, 40,000 Sprint employees—19,000 of whom are also enabled for outbound calling—use Lync for voice communication and no longer have desk phones. “In 2006, if you had looked at our network, we had 489 PBXs scattered across the country,” says Joe Hamblin, Director of Emerging Platforms for Enterprise Services, Sprint. “We set out a vision and said we wanted to have all of these PBXs gone from the infrastructure and be left with two data centers—and that is what we have accomplished.”

Sprint has also enabled enterprise voice at its international locations. In Europe, it used its own European SIP trunking service to provide voice connections through Lync. At its offices in Asia and Latin America, Sprint installed survivable branch appliances (SBAs) to provide voice connections. SBAs are cost-effective media gateways hosting the Microsoft Survivable Branch Appliance software package and providing public switched telephone network connectivity in the event of wide area network failure. By using SBAs at these offices, Sprint provides a redundant voice connection in the case of a network outage. Employees can also continue to use the presence and instant messaging capabilities in Lync.

Solution
To take advantage of the latest communications technologies that Microsoft has to offer, Sprint recently upgraded to Microsoft Lync Server 2013. Sprint deployed Lync Server at its primary data center in Kansas City and at a second location in Dallas in an active/active configuration with automatic failover, with each site handling half of the employee base in the United States. It is also using mirrored Microsoft SQL Server databases to provide resilience and help ensure continuous service in the case of an outage. In the event of a failure at one of the sites, employees are automatically transitioned over to the other site to ensure they have continued access to all Lync capabilities. “With Lync deployed at two sites, we have automatic full resilience, and we can practically guarantee employees have full functionality,” says Hamblin.

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* The ability to have automatic failover for our Lync deployment was a big win for our IT department. *

Joe Hamblin
Director of Emerging Platforms for Enterprise Services,
Sprint Nextel

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Sprint is also taking advantage of other architectural changes in Lync Server 2013. The monitoring server is now part of the front-end server, so Sprint can repurpose several of its former Lync servers for its Microsoft SharePoint Server deployment. On the client side, the company is testing the Microsoft Lync 2013 virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) client support to help reduce the processing load on employees’ computers.

Employees are using the latest voice hardware specifically designed for use with Lync Server. “We love the Jabra headsets,” says Hamblin. “The voice quality gets better with each new release. Employees cannot say enough good things about them.” About 80 percent of employees use headsets to place and manage calls and conferences through the Microsoft Lync 2013 client on the desktop. The other 20 percent use Polycom CX600 IP phones that provide capabilities such as directory search and presence information through Lync.

Microsoft Office Web Apps, in conjunction with the unified Lync 2013 client, can help employees collaborate during conferences and online meetings. “Employees can easily share a desktop or an app or work together on a document or spreadsheet during a conference,” says Bill Hoelscher, Unified Communications Architect at Sprint Nextel. With Lync 2013, employees can also use the embedded media in Microsoft PowerPoint during presentations. Another way teams can work better together is through the persistent chat capability in the Lync 2013 client. Employees can join or leave conversations as needed, and they will have an ongoing record of the conversation.

Employees at Sprint with Lync 2013 can use the video gallery in Lync during videoconferences to become more familiar with each other and to strengthen relationships. Because they can view up to five video streams at a time, they can see the reactions of others to information or materials presented during a conference. For its room-based videoconferencing systems, Sprint plans to integrate Lync conferencing with the LifeSize UVC Video Engine for Microsoft Lync offered by Microsoft partner LifeSize. “With Lync and LifeSize, employees can manage everything through a single source,” says Hoelscher.

While Sprint has been a long-time user of Lync federation to communicate and collaborate with outside partners and customers, it believes Microsoft Lync Web App and Skype will open up even more lines of communication. External participants can use Lync Web App to join a meeting and receive full audio, video, and desktop sharing capabilities through most browsers. With Skype integration, Sprint also hopes to enable better communication with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Going forward, Sprint has several long-term strategies that involve using Lync to improve business processes. It will migrate some call center operations to Lync through Contact Center for Lync, which is provided by Altigen, a Microsoft Partner Network member with Gold competencies. The interoperation between Lync Server 2013, SharePoint Server, Exchange Server, and Office Web Apps is especially important to help Sprint support its ongoing 3CS initiative. “Our goal is to provide an entire ecosystem that enables productivity for our remote employees in a seamless way,” explains Hamblin.

Benefits
By implementing Lync Server 2013, Sprint takes a significant step forward in its 3CS and environmental initiatives. The company can now provide additional resilience while continuing to reduce both its operational costs and its environmental impact, in addition to providing a more productive, flexible work environment for its employees.

Reduced Costs
By using Lync as its primary solution for all types of communication—instant messaging, conferencing, and voice—Sprint has continued to experience the ongoing cost savings that began with its very first Microsoft unified communications deployment. Company initiatives supported by Lync, such as 3CS, have resulted in US$30 million a year in net savings simply because the company needs less square footage for office space.

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* By closing the offices for just one week during the holidays and asking people to work from home, we have experienced an additional energy savings and helped the company be a responsible business that supports green initiatives. *

Joe Hamblin
Director of Emerging Platforms for Enterprise Services,
Sprint Nextel

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With its most recent Lync deployment, Sprint continues to save money on solutions that it has replaced with Lync Server, such as its audio conferencing service for large conferences. In addition, by implementing Lync as its primary conferencing service, it saves $4 million in conferencing costs annually.

Sprint has also reduced overall utility costs, because the smaller office spaces require less energy to heat and cool. It has also started closing offices between Christmas and New Year’s Day in the United States. “By closing the offices for just one week during the holidays and asking people to work from home, we have experienced an additional energy savings and helped the company be a responsible business that supports green initiatives,” says Hamblin.

Improved Productivity
When the Lync 2013 unified client is fully deployed, Sprint employees can be even more productive than before. Through persistent chat, they can easily join ongoing group discussions to help make informed decisions. By using the latest video conferencing capabilities, they can also strengthen working relationships by actually viewing how people react to presentations and other content during meetings. With Lync Web App, they can interact more easily with colleagues outside the company, and Skype integration opens up even more avenues of communication. Most importantly, all of these capabilities are part of a larger solution that drives the company’s 3CS initiative. “Lync Server 2013 is an important part of a solution that enables our workforce to work better together virtually anywhere they are,” says Hamblin. “With a true Microsoft unified communications solution that ties in with other Microsoft technologies, we can take the next step in our journey to supporting a virtual workplace.”

Improved Administration and Support
With its Lync Server 2013 deployment, Sprint was able to change its Lync configuration to help ensure continuous service. “The ability to have automatic failover for our Lync deployment was a big win for our IT department,” says Hamblin. “Now they do not have to worry about trying to move people over in case of an outage. They can focus on fixing the problems, and employees can keep working without knowing that anything has happened.”

By deploying Lync enterprise voice and retiring its PBX systems, Sprint changed its internal help-desk and support models to reflect its unified communications model. Taking a cross-platform approach, it has 22 employees to help manage all aspects of its unified communications solution that includes Lync Server, Exchange Server, and SharePoint Server. It used to have 30 engineers just to maintain its voice solution alone.

With organizational changes to the voice and server support staff in addition to Lync capabilities such as Role Based Access Control (RBAC), the IT team has improved support across the organization. Hamblin adds, “With the administrative capabilities in Lync, we feel more comfortable blending teams with different expertise to get the best of both worlds. That way, we can manage and troubleshoot based on the end user experience instead of silos of expertise.”

Microsoft Lync Server 2013
Microsoft Lync Server 2013 ushers in a new connected user experience that transforms every communication into an interaction that is more collaborative and engaging—and that is accessible from anywhere. For IT, the benefits are equally powerful, with a highly secure and reliable communications system that works with existing tools and systems for easier management, lower cost of ownership, smoother deployment and migration, and greater choice and flexibility.

For more information about Microsoft Lync Server 2013, go to:
www.microsoft.com/lync

For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about Sprint Nextel products and services visit the website at:
www.sprint.com

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 40000 employees

Organization Profile

Sprint Nextel is a principal provider of wireless and wireline communications services. Headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas, Sprint has approximately 40,000 employees located around the globe.


Business Situation

Sprint wanted to provide a total ecosystem of Microsoft technologies to support an empowered virtual workforce.


Solution

By deploying Microsoft Lync Server 2013, Sprint took the next step to free its mobile workforce from their desks and make it possible for them to work virtually anywhere.


Benefits
  • Reduced costs
  • Improved productivity
  • Improved administration and support

Third Party Software
  • AltiGen MaxACD for Microsoft Lync
  • LifeSize UVC Video Engine for Microsoft Lync

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Lync Server 2013
  • Microsoft Lync 2013
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2013
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012

Vertical Industries
Communications and Network Service Providers

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
  • Business Productivity
  • Unified Communications

IT Issue
Personal Productivity

Languages
English

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