Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How the Lync planning tool can really make your day

I have to admit, I was never good at following the planning tool in OCS 2007 R2. The reason? I never felt it gave what I really needed. With Lync 2010 however, that has changed a lot. The planning tool has gone from being a tool which gave me as an implementer very little but a rough draft of the topology, to a very handy tool which can (if used right) almost do all the necessary "configuration" you ever have to do on your infrastructure.

Sure, the 2007 R2 tool gave an insight on how and where. But the 2010 tool is so much more than that. I thought I'ld write this post to let you all in on how this tool can be used as a fundamental baseline for the implementation.

I consider the the use of the planning tool to be a 3-part story. The first part is done by the sales group. The second part is done in a workshop session with the customers technical staff. And the final part is when we make use of it all in the implementation.

Phase 1, The selling the works:
Giving this tool to the product manager for UC communications is the best thing I've ever done. Loaded with a few questions in an initial meeting, the sales representative can quickly create a rough topology overview, and even tell the customer what kind of hardware/software is needed to begin their journey. (I am not going to go through the initial setup, as there are plenty of other posts doing that just fine. Here is one of them:

Phase 2, the prepare-it-all-workshop:
Have you ever tried to save the initial drawing as a topology builder and reicived the following "error" message:

Then the following section is just what you are looking for :)
And this is where I bring the tool with me for a workshop with the customer. I start by going through the initial design, the possibly making final adjustments if this is desired. Then go into details on which names and ip-addresses in use.

If You go to the main site, and "view site", then you should make note of the three new tabs/buttons below the drawing:

You are currently at the "Site typology". Proceed to the "Edge Network Diagram", and a new drawing emerges. Please note that all information here is in red. These are the values the previous "error" messages was referring to:

As you double-click an item, a new dialog-box appears. Enter your (the customers) names and Ip-addresses, and watch the values turn black:

When you've gone through them all, your page should look like this:

Now then, let's go over the really good stuff.
Save your topology, then export it to Excel for further viewing. Also, save your topology as a topology builder file.

Before we move to excel (I would actually encourage you to read through the excel information first. But since we're already in the planning tool, I want to complete the tasks there first), we want to examine (and maybe print) the information on the "Edge Admin Report" tab. In the Edge Admin Report view, you will find a lot interesting information about DNS, certificate requirements, and firewall configuration:

I am not going through all the different tabs of information, as I am confident you will be able to find exactly what you need here. But I am going to make you aware of a bug I have encountered in the Planning Tool RC: Somewhere in it's programming, it is set to use static ip-adresses instead of the ones you've entered into the tool. Just watch here:

Do you see the 63.123.155.x addresses? I have no clue where they come from. Just be aware of them and make the customer aware of them (and the actual addresses you have decided on), and you should be fine.

If you open the file in Excel, you will find three worksheets with very useful information regarding the components you have chosen to implement. Use this information as a guideline on what kind of hardware to buy, and to verify your network will support the traffic you're about to introduce:

Now then, if the customers takes this information with them back to their company, they can really begin preparing for the job you are about to do for them.

You might mention the simple URL's before they run off. These are not a part of the tool, but essential to the deployment. Note: Your certificate for the reverseproxy setup (rp.lyncdemo.demo in my design) must contain not only the rp.lyncdemo.demo name, but also have the simple URL's in the Subject alternate name field.

And your job will become a lot easier if things are prepared before you embark upon the installation.... Moving to "Phase 3: Installation"

Phase 3, Setting up the Lync components:
All you really have to do is this: Bring the previously saved file from from the planning tool. When you open up the Topology builder for the first time, import this file as a base for the entire setup. You'll find almost all off the components already there. A few of them (marked clearly in the TB) will need to be modified (as the planning tool does not keep track of every setting):

But at least every component is there, referencing the right instances. When you're done adding the final touch, publish it to the central management store. And you're ready to install your Lync servers.

As long as your servers meet the requirements (get this from the documentation) and their names and ip-addresses corresponds to the entries you created in the planning tool, just launch the installer and watch it all happen. It's wonderful!

Having said all of this; Don't think you won't make changes in the topology builder. There will be new decisions, and slight changes to the plan as you go along. You might not be using Media Bypass, as in my example. And have to add a mediation server/pool later on.

But in the end, I think the tool will save you a lot of work and a lot of headaches on design decisions. And it will certainly make it easier for you not to configure it wrong.

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