OCS is RTM

July 31, 2007

Microsoft’s office Communications Server takes the next step forward

I know I’m a bit late, I’ve been well beaten by Arthur,  Johann, James and Eileen but I’ve had the cricket to think about and recover from and despair about  but anyway….  

It’s out – well sort of, both Office Communications Server 2007 and it’s Uber client office communicator 2007 have been released to manufacturing ( RTM). expect full MSDN versions over the next few weeks and full availability by the autumn.

the release includes :

  • Office Communicator 2007 : the soon to be ubiquitous client
  • Office Communications Server 2007 : the core server product  
  • Office Live Meeting Console 2007 :  The web collaboration and presentation tool
  • Communicator Web Access 2007 : think of this as OWA is to outlook CWA is to Office communicator 2007
  • Microsoft RoundTable 2007 : Microsoft’s innovative 360° video and audio conferencing tool
  • Office Communications Server 2007 Speech Server : Microsoft’s IVR server suite

there have also been some disclosures about likely pricing  as well over on the Microsoft Presspass site Gurdeep Singh Pall VP of the UC groups is quoted :

As with Live Communications Server, the predecessor to Office Communications Server, customers need both server and client access licenses (CALs). There are two types of Office Communications Server CALs: Standard and Enterprise. The Standard CAL has the IM and presence capabilities including new group IM and rich presence features and costs roughly $21 for the average enterprise. The new Enterprise CAL provides all of the new conferencing and VoIP call management features and costs roughly $97 for the average enterprise. The Office Communications Server Standard and Enterprise CALs will also be included as part of the Microsoft Enterprise CAL Suite, a bundle of several Microsoft server CALs available at a discount.

the approach is very much one of evolution rather than revolution and that the average enterprise needn’t replace that aging TDM PBX to realise the advantages that  Unified Communications can bring. I’ve still to digest the interop white paper so I can’t really comment in too much detail on the practicalities of this.

This is the phoney war before the battle that will rage between traditional telecoms providers, the IP vendors (notably Cisco) and Microsoft. things are going to get really interesting over the next few months.

This is the biggy… Communication is so much more emotional and important than the choice of browser you make. There’s a whole lot more money to be made and lost ($45 Bn by 2010)  and it’s Microsoft Pitching into a Market that it’s relatively new to with a lot of established vendors who have their share of the billions to protect. 

I’m hoping that the customer is in a win-win situation however I am a bit wary that this period of upheaval is going to lead to a bit of blood letting and I hope  the collateral damage is kept to a minimum.


E650 update

July 17, 2007

the continuing saga of Living with the Orange SPV E650

OK I’ve had the E650 for a few months now and I’m way way past the honeymoon period so I thought I’d give you a quick catch up on my current feelings on the device.

do I still love it ? well yes …… mostly

will I part with it ? not if I can help it

are there any problems with it ?   yes a couple

go on what are they then ?

well the biggest problem I’ve come across is the fact that any screen grabbing notifications such as low battery warnings disconnect your Bluetooth sessions, a royal pain when you are driving and involved in a conversation on your headset.  I have no idea why this happens it’s just a really bugging bug.

the second problem is purely aesthetic, remember the flappy flaps, they’re made of pretty soft plastic and  with use they deform and refuse to sit cleanly in their aperture. this is a real problem for the flap that hides the extUSB connector  which annoyingly is on the bottom of the phone and is in use a lot for charging, it now refuses to sit cleanly and really spoils the lines of the device. it’s going to come off when I get round to it.

Neither of these are major problems but they are worthy of mention as they are particularly annoying in a device that is otherwise so well designed.

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Orange Unique and Blackberry

July 11, 2007

Orange to launch the BlackBerry 8820 – UMA and email in a single device

8820

Orange have announced that they will be launching the  BlackBerry 8820 will be at the end of July which   will replace the BlackBerry 8800 in Orange’s portfolio.

The 8820 is a revamped 8800 that offers all the  functionality of the 8800  and combines it with UMA  (The ability to use WiFi VoIP and Cellular in the same device). The 8820 therefor supports Orange’s  Unique offering where home workers can roam onto Orange’s Unique VoIP service via the Internet through their Orange Broadband connection when in their home location.

email on the go and UMA is a great feature, HP have combined the options in the iPAQ 514 Voice Communicator (still waiting HP!!) on the Windows Mobile 6 Platform so it’s good to see RIM following suite for those Blackberry users out there

Interestingly Orange Caveat the Unique service as follows  

Please note that the Unique/Homeworker proposition offers users the ability to continue to make voice calls when in the home, irrespective of GSM coverage, using WiFi/Orange Broadband. It may however be subject to busy periods as with all broadband connections. Customers are therefore advised to trial the solution before committing to large rollouts.

Which hints that they might be having capacity problems, I don’t use the service myself but would be interested in any Orange customer experiences of problems in this service.

I think the jury is still out on the whether UMA or Pico Cells will be the best technology to provide local roaming so any user experiences are of great interest to me.

remember Rabbit anyone ?

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open Source VoIP and Microsoft Unified Messaging

July 10, 2007

How to get Asterisk working with Exchange 2007

I’d alluded before about my dabbling with Asterisk as an open source SIP PBX and how I hadn’t mustered the energy to try and get Exchange 2007 which uses SIP over TCP to talk to Asterisk which uses SIP over UDP. at the time I was considering a patch,  well with one thing and another I still haven’t got round to it but I do get a emails  asking about it and I recently was directed to a very useful post by Ryan an antipodean IT pro who’s reluctantly dipping his data toe in the voice water. I came across Ryan’s post through Dennis over at MSGoodies.

The key is to use sipX which happily eventually acts as an intermediary with SIP over both UDP and TCP in it’s lexicon.  Ryan gives an excellent account of setting the whole infrastructure up within VMware so you can familiarise yourself with some of those novel VoIP protocols

maybe, just maybe, I’ll get round to trying it soon


Extended interoperability for Office Communications Server 2007

June 1, 2007

Traditional telecoms players align themselves with Microsoft to provide integration

this from the Unified Communications Group Team Blog Russell Bennett the UC senior program manager has promoted an alliance between Microsoft and just about everyone worth mentioning to provide interoperability between OCS and existing PABXs

no comment from Mark as yet but I’d hope to see a UK perspective soon.

this is a commitment by some major major players of the telecoms world to provide seamless ( well as seamless as possible) interoperability with Microsoft Office Communications server.

you’d think as we’re all talking SIP these days this would be a given however as always interoperability is not always so straightforward, for instance OCS uses the SIP standard over TCP and a fair proportion of other equipment uses SIP over UDP to communicate. this isn’t an insurmountable problem however it is not conducive to an easy out of the box experience.

What these manufacturers are actually supporting is Microsoft’s interoperability specification for OCS 2007 which extends the basic interoperability afforded by SIP to include transparent support  of key features found in OCS  across platforms.

we should see the ability to transparently provide

  • a common intuitive user experience
  • multi media interoperation of voice, video, text messaging, web collaboration
  • Ad-hoc multi-party, multi-modal conferencing  ( this will be a challenge I am sure)
  • Integration with business applications
  • Rich Presence, so full multi modal state information shared across platforms 
  • Mobility
  • Enhanced security

the  main press release includes pithy statements from the big players worthy of mention

  • Alcatel-Lucent
  • Avaya.
  • Cisco.
  • Ericsson.
  • Genesys.
  • Mitel.
  • NEC.
  • Nortel Networks.
  • Siemens

Which is how Microsoft reach the the 80% figure of the installed base, I think this is too optimistic for me  the installed base is a notoriously treacherous place to make promises in, Cisco found that in the early days using trad telephony protocols like DPNSS   ( having had bitter experience of interoperability or lack thereof in the past we could be chasing wild geese for months).  On the brighter side native support of the interop spec is to be extended by the use of IP gateways from AudioCodes, Dialogic and Quintum although I am skeptical about gateway traversal of a lot of proprietary systems.

I’m sure these companies can provide interoperability moving forward but I’d expect existing kit to require upgrades ( usually costly) or those gateways’s already mentioned remember PBXs last for years, the established replacement cycle  was always 7 and sometimes longer years which is way way before SIP or even mainstream IP adoption so the chances of older kit being up to scratch is slim.

I am still unsure as to what the outcome of all this is as as I’ve said before OCS is potentially a direct competitor for a great deal of the high, value added applications that the trad telecom companies rely on for big chunk of their revenue, interop seems to open the door for third party developers to get in there with niche apps, I’d expect entry level costs to plummet.

I guess for most of these companies ( with the possible exception of Cisco) it’s  a case of having to offer interoperability or be left behind at the moment and assess the impact of the erosion of core revenues. I’m pretty sure most of the players concerned couldn’t take on Microsoft so I can see them rapidly moving to call routing applications that use the OCS core as a base for their own applications.

One of the most interesting aspects is the potential for vicarious interoperability between established systems using OCS as a mediator, although I am sure this will be a licensing minefield.

exciting times ahead….


Exchange 2007 and Windows Mobile 6 feature matrix

May 30, 2007

Windows Mobile 5.0 & 6 with exchange 2007 from an Exchange perspective

This Deep Dive into Windows Mobile 6.0 and Exchange Server 2007 from the exchange team blog is essentially a rehash of the Jason’s earlier post  but from an exchange perspective ( of course ).

The post has the benefit of showing just the WM6 and Exchange 2007 synergies and also of actually showing the comparative glory of HTML mail on a WM5.0, a  WM 6 and an Outlook client which is a useful illustration.

The biggest message to take away is that the deployment of an Exchange 2007 server in the Client Access Server (CAS) role (what we used to call a front end server)  is not enough to enable the advanced functionality.

The WM6 functionality is dependent on the version of exchange the mailbox server is running not the front end server. This is different from the Exchange 2000 / 2003 mixed environment.

Be very careful here as I also hear from our deployment teams that the Exchange 2007 CAS in an Exchange 2003 environment is over complex and doesn’t quite do what it says on the tin, at least not without a bit of tweaking.

there seems to be an error as I can definitely make use of Fetchmail ( inline message fetch ) to download the remainder of the message from within the message on my E650 which is connecting to a Exchange 2003 production environment.

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Microsoft and Orange Announce Software as a Service collaboration

May 22, 2007

innovative SAAS  (or is it CAAS) service for hosted Unified Communications and Collaboration

                France Telecom

this announced by France Telecom today (Monday) a service in which Microsoft and Orange Business Services have teamed up to provide unified communications and collaboration tools to multinationals:

the full transcript :

Orange Business Services and Microsoft today announced “Business Together with Microsoft”, an innovative collaborative solution to accelerate the use of unified communications in companies. “Business Together with Microsoft” also helps companies keep up with the latest market requirements for fast communication, constant contact with colleagues, customers and partners, and efficient information sharing.

“Business Together with Microsoft” lets companies radically improve the communication habits of their employees. It gives access to a range of tools that they can use either when mobile or from their workstation. They can take advantage of new services, with total security, from any terminal that is equipped with a compatible web browser. Through a single Windows Outlook interface, they can access their mailbox, view voice messages as emails, read faxes, make voice over IP calls, and access their contacts and calendar. They can also communicate in real time through audio, video, web conferencing or instant messaging.  In addition, they can also manage and share documents and calendars. An encrypted link to their mailbox gives them access to powerful search functions.

Orange Business Services tailors “Business Together with Microsoft” to meet individual customer needs. The complete range of services includes consulting and audits, migration to IP, integration, managed IT infrastructure and applications services, and outsourcing.

“There is a huge demand for collaborative solutions in today’s working environment,” says Laurent Kocher, vice president, Global Services, Orange Business Services. “Cooperative work between employees in different locations across time zones is expected to make up more than half of a typical office employee’s work time by 2015. Companies need to provide staff with the tools to respond quickly to constant demands for attention and an efficient way to manage multiple types of contact”.

“Business Together with Microsoft” is currently available for multinational companies across the world, and is based on the complementary nature of the new generation of software launched recently by Microsoft: Office Communications Server 2007, Exchange Server 2007, Forefront and Office SharePoint Server.

“Business Together with Microsoft” leverages the complementary skills and expertise of the two companies: Orange Business Services in the area of messaging, IP convergence and network-related services; Microsoft in unified communications and collaboration solutions.

It’s an interesting alliance, Microsoft and Orange have been working closely together for some time and this is the first public tangible product to appear.

Reading between the lines it appears to be an Outlook Web Access portal providing access to Sharepoint for collaboration and the UC features of Exchange 2007 with Office Communications Server 2007 providing a VoIP portal, I suspect to Orange SIP trunks.

A packaged unified communications Inbox with Presence, Instant messaging, collaboration  and VoIP calls from wherever you can get access to a browser a very useful suite of applications

An interesting and maybe risky combination as OCS 2007 is still in beta, nevertheless an interesting proposition for the multinational with many mobile workers.

We are going to see a lot more of this,  in my opinion SAAS is about to explode.

I think it’ll have more impact and be much more interesting amongst the smaller business community, imagine if you could have access to all this big company technology with small company agility and no headaches of management……. watch this space…….

I’d  be very interested to see the appetite for managed hosted services out there amongst the smaller business community, if you have an opinion why not share it?

Is SAAS finally coming of age?

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