Virtual machines are great for building labs and testing different scenarios. For example, if a business would like to test how its on-premises systems integrate with the Office 365 environment, a virtual machine test lab hosting on-premises solutions such as Lync, Exchange and SharePoint would be ideal.
In terms of Lync 2010, one of the challenges with testing and experimenting, is that audio and video are required to do any serious work. In this case, you have three options:
- Use some old physical hosts
- Use VMware workstation with it's audio visual USB pass-through
- Use a virtual/emulated sound card and webcam
Let's look at each option more closely:
If you happen to have some old desktops/laptops kicking about you can use them along with a virtual lab. You can't really beat this for real world testing, but it will cost you extra power, space and of course budget.
VMware Workstation offers unique features. When using VMWare Workstation, it allows the host's soundcard to be passed through to the guest. You can even pass through multiple different USB webcams to different VM's on the same single machine, although the webcams seem to need to be different brands/versions.
Virtual/emulated sound card and webcam
This is an interesting option. In my office, I use a Microsoft Hyper-V Server for most of my lab setups. Using Hyper-V Server enables me to have multiple Windows 7 machines set up with virtual sound cards and webcams, so that they can receive audio and video calls. Let me walk you through my setup.
By default you will get the following setup in a Hyper-V VM (virtual machine) for audio and video.
As you can see from the screenshot, the host webcam cannot be detected, which is not much use for any testing with Lync 2010.
Enter e2eSoft's VCam and Virtual Sound Card (VSC). What these applications do is emulate a webcam and sound card (with microphone), which a virtualised Lync 2010 will recognise as audio and video options. Both of these applications can be downloaded as a free trial.
When you install the software, a dialog box will ask to install the virtual devices, which you must do in order for Lync 2010 to detect the devices.
Once the e2eSoft applications have installed, you will then be able to see and select the devices in Lync 2010. These can be set up when you click on the Audio Device and Video Device in the Lync - Options dialog box below:
Once set up, the e2eSoft VCam will play any media file loaded into it on a continous loop. If you don't have any video media available, there is a handy HD wildlife video that comes as part of the Windows 7 operating system that fits the bill nicely (but might look a little odd to passers-by).
The sound card loops the sound from the machine to the mic and is really a tool to let you broadcast any and all system sounds, but it stops Lync complaining about having no audio options.
Once you have installed the e2eSoft Vcam and Virtual Sound Card software and set the devices up in the Lync 2010 server, you can now make audio and video calls from the Hyper-V virtual machine (VM), or from VM to VM as you can see in the Lync client video communication in the screenshot below.
For those who do a lot of testing using Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machines and wish to test out the Lync 2010 capabilities, the e2esoft Vcam and Virtual Sound Card applications are inexpensive utilities that can make all the difference when audio and video is involved.