Marquette University is the largest private college in the state of Wisconsin. Founded in 1881, the nationally ranked university provides education for 11,500 undergraduate and graduate students. In 2006, the university embarked on a plan to replace its aging telephony system and provide a more comprehensive communications solution for faculty, staff, and students. After piloting a voice over IP solution from Cisco, the university ultimately settled on a communications solution from Microsoft. In November 2010, Marquette deployed Microsoft Lync Server 2010 to upgrade its enterprise voice service and to provide enhanced presence, instant messaging, and conferencing capabilities. With its Microsoft solution in place, the university has substantially reduced telephony costs and created programs and applications that help it offer better service to students.Situation
Founded in 1881, Marquette University is a private, coeducational university with 11,500 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at its campus near downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It also employs 2,500 faculty, staff, and administrators. The university includes 11 schools and colleges, and it has been ranked highly on several nationally recognized college ranking sources, including U.S. News and World Report.
A centralized IT Services department manages the communications infrastructure used by the university faculty, staff, administrators, and students. Communication is critical at Marquette both to help run the business of the university and to support interaction between faculty and students. Over the last several years, IT Services has pursued a more comprehensive communications solution for the university. In 2006, Marquette upgraded to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, which it used with the Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 messaging and collaboration client to provide email messaging for faculty, staff, and students. In 2007, it followed that deployment with Exchange Unified Messaging to provide more flexible communication and to replace the existing voice-mail solution it used with its private-branch exchange (PBX) telephone system.
||At the time, with the Cisco solution, all we got was the phone. What opened our eyes was that with the Microsoft solution on the desktop and the interoperation with Outlook, we got so much more.
Senior Director of IT Services, Marquette University
One of the drivers behind selecting Exchange Unified Messaging as a voice-mail solution was the university’s interest in migrating to a voice over IP (VoIP) solution to provide voice service across campus and to replace its aging Siemens PBX. The school also planned to add three new buildings—a law school, engineering school, and an administration building—and it wanted to avoid the cost of running copper lines for telephony in addition to data lines. “Our network infrastructure was all Cisco-based, so we assumed we would go with a Cisco solution,” says Dan Smith, Senior Director of IT Services at Marquette University. “We set up a pilot program for Cisco Call Manager, even though we felt the licensing costs for a large deployment would be very expensive. And then we heard about a voice solution from Microsoft.”
The solution the school learned about was Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2, which provides presence, instant messaging (IM), conferencing, and enterprise voice capabilities. “We essentially changed direction in the middle of our Cisco pilot,” says Smith. “We set up Office Communications Server and enabled some people for voice. Overall, with the interoperation between Office Communications Server and Exchange, we felt it was a better fit for our environment.”
IT Services decided to deploy Office Communications Server 2007 R2 as the primary voice solution in its new administration building and provided voice capabilities for more than 300 users in addition to 30,000 accounts for instant messaging and presence capabilities. “At the time, with the Cisco solution, all we got was the phone,” explains Smith. “What opened our eyes was that with the Microsoft solution on the desktop and the interoperation with Outlook, we got so much more.”
Faculty, staff, and administration members can use the Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2 client on the desktop to place calls, hold audio or web conferences, or send instant messages to colleagues. They can also view presence information, start an instant messaging session, or call a colleague with one click through Microsoft Office Outlook. Students can access email, view presence, or send instant messages through Microsoft Outlook Web App.
Although it progressed in terms of providing a more comprehensive, cost-effective solution for communications, the university still faced some challenges. It had not been able to retire its PBX system because approximately 11 percent of people on campus use Apple computers, and those people still relied primarily on analog phones for voice communication. In addition, all of the university’s common area and conferencing phones were analog phones. The university also faced a challenge in terms of culture: People were sometimes using instant messaging to communicate, but they still relied mainly on the phone and email. The school wanted a way to make people more comfortable with the instant messaging—and conferencing—capabilities available through its Microsoft solution.Solution
Marquette decided to upgrade its communications solution by deploying Microsoft Lync Server 2010. Lync Server provides enhanced versions of the communications capabilities provided by Office Communications Server 2007 R2—presence, instant messaging, robust conferencing, and enterprise voice—as well as improvements in topology, deployment, and management tools. As of November 2010, the school has enabled over 800 users for enterprise voice with Lync Server. It will also enable all 30,000 user accounts for Lync Server instant messaging and presence capabilities.
IT Services deployed Lync Server in a single enterprise pool at its main data center. “The architecture of Lync Server is more flexible, so we were able to consolidate our deployment to one enterprise pool, instead of a standard pool and an enterprise pool,” says Victor Martinez, Windows Team Lead at Marquette University. “The deployment is much more efficient, and we were able to plan for better redundancy.”
||The architecture of Lync Server is more flexible…. The deployment is much more efficient, and we were able to plan for better redundancy.
Windows Team Lead, Marquette University
The highly available configuration consists of two front-end servers with collocated Mediation servers. It deployed two audio/video conferencing servers in addition to two edge servers, which enable it to federate external users who also use Lync Server or earlier versions of Microsoft communications software, or with users communicating through public IM clients. The university used a session-initiation protocol (SIP) trunk to connect Lync Server to the public-switched telephone network. SIP trunking uses the session-initiation protocol and real-time transport protocol (RTP) to pass network traffic from Lync Server directly to a network service provider over an IP connection.
For auditing and reporting, IT Services also deployed a Monitoring server, which collects call detail reports (CDRs); usage information related to VoIP calls; instant messages, audio and video conversations, meetings, application sharing, and file transfers; numerical data describing the media quality on the network and endpoints; and call error and troubleshooting information for failed calls. “The reports offer useful information presented in a beneficial way,” says Smith. “We had some issues with dropped calls. Using the reports, we determined employees using our wireless network were more susceptible to the problem. With this information we were in a much better position to address the issue.”
With the availability of more cost-effective endpoints optimized to work with Lync Server, the university can provide replacements for its analog phones across campus, so that it can retire its PBX. For new faculty and staff members and for Apple users, it plans to issue Polycom CX600 IP desk phones, which provide directory search capabilities and presence information. The school is also deploying the Polycom CX3000 conferencing phone, which is easy to use and provides great voice quality.
Because Marquette recently upgraded to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010, it can take advantage of the interoperation between Lync Server, Exchange Server, and Outlook. Faculty, staff, and administration can view and respond to voice mail messages through a tab in the unified Microsoft Lync 2010 client interface. They can also easily escalate an instant messaging session to a conference or desktop sharing session with one click. “Some professors have expressed an interest in using web or video conferencing in the classroom as well,” says Martinez. “That will be a growth area for us.”
With presence and instant messaging capabilities available to everyone, the university has changed its model for how it provides services to students. “At our administration building, we created a program called Marquette Central that is like a ‘one-stop shop’ for students. When they have a question about financial aid or tuition or course credit, they go to one person who uses presence and instant messaging to locate the right person to answer their questions,” explains Smith. The program was well-received, so IT Services looked for other ways it could use the technology to provide better service. Currently, it is planning to implement a service called Help Desk Bot that will enable students, faculty, and staff to send an instant message through Outlook Web App or the Lync client to the help desk when they experience technical issues. The instant message is automatically routed to an available help-desk agent.
||We use PowerShell on a daily basis to create scripts and perform routine maintenance. The parity across products makes the whole solution easier to manage.
Windows Team Lead, Marquette University
With Lync Server, IT Services also has better tools to provide service behind the scenes. To ensure the best deployment for the university’s environment, IT Services used the Topology Builder to define all the parameters required to design the installation. Topology Builder then communicated with the servers to install the correct configuration. The group will use the Windows PowerShell command-line interface and the web-based management console to manage Lync Server. With PowerShell, they can easily automate repetitive tasks, or add or edit user settings for groups. The web-based management console gives them the flexibility to access and manage the Lync Server deployment from any location, without the need to install administrative software.
Going forward, the university plans to upgrade to Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 so that users can take advantage of the interoperation with Lync Server. By 2012, it plans to have Lync Server fully deployed across campus, which will enable it to retire its PBX system. When the deployment is complete, it will have almost 4,000 devices enabled for enterprise voice, including common area and conferencing phones.Benefits
With its deployment of Lync Server 2010, Marquette can maximize its investment in its communications infrastructure and extend enterprise voice across the university.
Reduced Telephony Costs
Marquette has reduced its telephony costs in several areas. By using SIP trunking for its enterprise voice calls, the university has significantly reduced costs for phone service. “Our traditional telephone bill was about $240,000 a year, and we cut it down to $120,000,” says Smith. Professors who are on sabbatical or otherwise travelling are also saving on their phone bills by using Lync to make calls back to the university.
As it continues to transition its voice solution to Lync Server and away from its PBX system, the university expects to see even larger cost savings. IT Services estimates the university will save U.S.$31 per line each year in maintenance costs. “For just the student administration building, our annual savings is $12,000 because we no longer have to maintain the PBX for those phones,” says Smith.
With Lync Server, Marquette also has more cost-effective options for phones. “When we implemented Microsoft enterprise voice in our new administration building, we avoided a $44,000 endpoint cost we would have experienced with a Cisco solution,” says Smith. “With the options available for Lync Server, we will continue to save 40 to 60 percent on endpoint devices.”Simplified Administration
The more flexible architecture and streamlined management tools in Lync Server will help simplify administration for IT Services. By deploying a single enterprise pool, IT Services eased management and provided more redundancy. With the web-based management console, administrators can log on from any computer with a browser and a network connection to manage Lync Server. They no longer need to install special tools on a machine to perform administrative tasks. IT Services also appreciates the enhanced capabilities of Windows PowerShell that were a part of Exchange Server 2010 and have been added to Lync Server. “We use PowerShell on a daily basis to create scripts and perform routine maintenance,” says Martinez. “The parity across products makes the whole solution easier to manage.”
With the new reporting capabilities of the Monitoring server, the IT team can more easily track and resolve issues. “Before, we only had the client log and server trace, but now we can create custom reports to help us diagnose issues on the network,” says Smith.
Managing the phone system is also much easier. “People on campus change offices frequently,” explains Smith. “Our problems with adds, moves, and changes have disappeared. When people move, their laptop goes with them.”Provided Better Service for Students
With the capabilities of its Microsoft communications solution, the university has developed innovative ways to provide better service for its students. With Marquette Central, students can go to one building and find all the answers they need. “If you have ever been to Milwaukee in February, you know you do not want to go from building to building looking for answers,” says Smith. “Now students can go to one building to find the right person, and we can resolve their issues much more quickly.”
The university continues to think of ways to use the technology in Lync Server to help students. When the Help Desk Bot is available, students will have quick access to technical help at any time of day. If the program is successful, it will build a similar application for the administrative staff that it could make available through the university’s website to answer questions for prospective students.
Microsoft Lync Server 2010
Microsoft Lync Server 2010 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 2010, go to: For More Information
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