Overview of Lync Server 2010 setup

Recently I volunteered to set up Microsoft Lync Server 2010 as a simple instant messaging system to replace Novell Messenger. Now, Lync and its earlier iterations of Office Communicator Server (OCS) can be a bear to frighteningly complex if you’re configuring all the Unified Messaging features, but our Standard User CALs license only allows us to use the Standard Edition server and basic IM and presence functionality—so that simplifies it quite a bit. Furthermore, we’re not making any connections to the outside world, so there’s no fussing with firewall or reverse proxy settings. All told, I was able to get the server up and running in a day, and still have time left to work on other tasks. (Note that this involves getting the server running with a couple desktop clients—trying to get Lync integrated into our Exchange 2010 Outlook Web App (OWA) caused us much more trouble; but I won’t get into that today.)

I’m not going to write a step-by-step explanation here; there are already a handful of such guides available on the ‘Net. I will however share the couple of articles which I found most useful in my installation:

First off, I’ll say that the Lync installation is not going to be like any setup program you’ve seen from Microsoft before. You know the usual drill: run the setup, choose from the tree of optional components, run the install, then configure everything? The Lync install is almost the oposite of that. Here’s an outline of the steps:

  1. First, you must install the management tools. Really.
  2. Next you prepare Active Directory with schema updates, groups, etc. much like your first Exchange install. (Okay, you probably could’ve done this first.)
  3. Then, assuming you’re going to install the Standard Edition server like I did, you “prepare” your first Standard Edition Server—which really means you install SQL 2008 Express Edition and instantiate some databases.
  4. Next, you are going to do a huge chunk of your configuration. Notice that we haven’t installed any Lync servers yet! But you need to configure things like what domains Lync will support, and what DNS names and URLs your Lync server will host, and more, all in a program called the Topology Builder.
  5. When you think your topology configuration is good, then you publish it to Active Directory. (Again, notice that we still don’t have a Lync server to use it!)
  6. Finally, you get to install something—or rather, Lync will install itself for you. It’s pretty much hands-off, and you won’t be asked anything about what components to install, because Lync will get it from the topology you already published. Sit back and relax while the files are copied and the services setup.
  7. There’s one more install step now: you need to fetch your SSL certificates (Lync won’t work without them). This too has come a long way from earlier Microsoft products; anyone lost their temper trying to make an SSL request in Exchange 2007 shell? For the most part, Lync already knows the Subject Alternate Names (SANs) you’ll need from the topology, so you can make the request with ease, and even submit it to your internal certificate authority (CA). (Of course, if you expect to have public Internet connections, you’ll probably want a certificate from a good trusted third-party CA; but for us, our only connections are from domain members who already trust our internal CA.)

Now you see how this works?: Build your topology → Publish it to AD → Setup installs the files. It’ll be the same process when you need to add another server, support a new domain, or change which features you offer.

I do want to note that the OCSpedia step-by-step neglects to mention a bit about creating the first “pool”, but the Topology Builder will prompt you about it, so go ahead and make it when it asks; the settings are fairly self-explanatory, mainly just the FQDN of your central (or only) Lync server.

Another aspect of Lync that differs from previous products is the logging. This part I’m not sure I’m crazy about, but it is what it is. Many of the commands that you run in the Topology Builder or the PowerShell console will output nice formatted HTML files which you can view in IE. However, there are a couple of annoyances: first, usually the program or shell will just print out the long path and filename showing you where the file is buried in your temp directory—and which file is it, because there will be a mess of them. So I get annoyed having to copy the file name, open it, accept IE’s trust warnings about embedded scripts, then click all the plus-signs to expand each section so I can actually see the content. On the plus side, any errors or warnings will be highlighted in bright colors so they stand out.

Lync introduces yet another new way of doing things with regards to patching and updates. You can still push out Lync updates with WSUS or SCCM, or manually pull them in Windows Update, or download and apply each update individually—but there’s also a new way, which I really like. If you go to Microsoft’s page entitled Updates for Lync Server 2010, you can download a single executable (called LyncServerUpdateInstaller.exe) that has all the latest cumulative patches, which when executed will give you a clear view of which components are up-to-date and which are not; then of course you can install them in one swoop, and the setup log files will be kept in the same directory for easy access. Like with Exchange 2007 and 2010, you don’t need to worry about stopping services or rebooting, because the patch program will temporarily stop any services it needs to during the install, and start ’em right back up when it’s finished. But don’t neglect to read the instruction page carefully, because (at the time of this writing, at least) you need to run a PowerShell command to update the database files after the patches have been installed.

A few more things I’d like to note regarding how you manage Lync. For any configuration which wasn’t already done in the Topology Builder, you’ll use the Lync Control Panel—which, in another departure from Microsoft’s years of MSC-based server consoles, is only served up as a website. In the Lync Control Panel you can enable or disable many of Lync’s features; in my case, I’ve disabled everything except the core features of IM and presence which our users are licensed for. You might be interested to know that you may be able to buy enterprise-level CALs for some users who need to use the more extensive features like hosting webinars; talk with your Microsoft licensing expert to figure it out, as I can’t advise on that!

Also, much like Exchange 2007/2010, you need to individually activate your AD user accounts to be able to use the service. You could use the Control Panel, or PowerShell (also like Exchange). Beware that for any users, possibly even you yourself, who are Domain Admins, you must use the PowerShell commands to activate the users, as the Control Panel can’t do it. If you’ve used PowerShell before, it should all be familiar to you; and if you haven’t, you’d better start learning because it’s not going away!

I intend to write a couple more articles that follow up this one. The first will explain the various hang-ups we encountered during the installation, and how we solved each of them. Then I’ll tell you about how we installed the Lync IM integration with Exchange OWA, which is awfully messy and frequently complicated by conflicting recommendations and a general lack of useful error messages—but it can be done! If you found this useful, stay tuned for more—maybe follow my RSS feed, or bookmark this page and I’ll add the links when the new posts are available. Good luck with your Lync installation!

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  • Antone Badamo

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