Microsofts Unified Communications Ready
to Debut"> Microsoft Exchange provides the core messaging infrastructure from mobile messaging to the unified messaging found in Exchange 2007, which gives users their e-mail, voice mail and faxes in a single inbox. That unified messaging then integrates with components of OCS (Office Communications Server) to give a complete voice solution, while OCS delivers conferencing through audio, video, the Web, IM and the VOIP capabilities.Those users who want to stay with Exchange 2003 will get the same presence, messaging and conferencing experiences, but the pieces that will be missing will be rich voice mail integration and some of the richer functionality around mobile e-mail. "While we do integrate with other voice mail systems, the best experience comes through the integration with Exchange 2007," Akers said. The Microsoft, Nortel VOIP alliance has yielded results. Click here to read more. But Directions on Microsoft analyst Rob Horwitz believes that there is a lot of caution with regard to replacing traditional phones that have a long tradition of reliability with a PC-based system. "In the short term, that will be a tough sell. And, some organizations will be interested in bringing Web conferencing in-house rather than relying on a hoster, for tighter security, user-convenience features and other reasons," he told eWEEK. Using the Microsoft voice and Web conferencing platform also currently requires considerable IT expertise, especially when a user needs to accommodate workers outside the firewall, engineer for fault tolerance through redundancy and integrate with audio conference providers, he said. "For a large organization with tens of thousands of users, were talking about Communications Server implementations that involve several dozen machines. So I think that reality will put a temporary damper on things," Horwitz said. But Ackers says that many customers have also already made the decision to move across to VOIP (voice over IP) and are expected to quickly move into pilots where they can test the software in their environment and against competitive solutions. A lot of customers are also planning to take a phased approach, first installing the messaging and presence infrastructure and then looking at how to enable the rest of unified communications without having to take out their existing PBX infrastructure and, ultimately, deciding what to replace that PBX with, she said. Horwitz agrees with this, noting that when an organization is ready to replace its old PBXs, implementing a new system that runs its voice communications over an IP network is the obvious choice as it eliminates the need to maintain a separate set of telephony-only wiring and makes moving people between offices much easier. To read more about how Microsoft and Cisco are collaborating on IT infrastructure, click here. "With respect to VOIP, Microsoft is certainly the beneficiary of years of concept selling by other telephony providers," he said. But Ackers acknowledges that many customers may have to upgrade their networks so that they can handle the extra load that comes with the Unified Communications functionality. Microsoft has minimum requirement guidelines for the bandwidth needed for customers to get the performance they want, and is working with Cisco and Avaya to help them optimize their network. Page 3: Microsofts Unified Communications Ready to Debut
"So, between those two products, you get the full solution set for UC, which is all built on Active Directory and presence," Akers said. "So, IT departments now no longer have two disparate communications infrastructures, but rather a common set of management tools for provisioning a user, changing plans and the like."