Some Microsoft partners believe Office Communications Server could double their business, sparking a rush to get up to speed on the new unified communications technology.
To help get VARs up to speed, Techtionary, an online provider of rich media tutorials and technology training, announced the week of Dec. 24 that it will add a Microsoft OCS (Office Communications Server) Virtual Lab component to its existing lineup of OCS courses to help VARs gain hands-on experience with the new technology.
Techtionary CEO Tom Cross said Microsoft partners who've contacted Techtionary to inquire about the training believe OCS could double their revenue, since the technology can provide their customers with a complete office solution that includes telephony, an area Microsoft VARs weren't previously familiar with.
"[OCS] is going to have a very disruptive impact on the technology industry," Cross said. "Microsoft partners are interested and excited because now they can bring an entire computing and telephony solution to their customer."
For Microsoft VARs, the challenge lies in the "unified" part of unified communications, Cross said. Typically, VARs had one dedicated person for each Microsoft server component: one who handled a customer's Exchange server and another who handled its Internet Information Services, for example, Cross said. Since unified communication encompasses nearly all of these Microsoft technologies, VARs are scrambling to get their people up to speed. "They have to pull up yet another chair to an already overcrowded technology table," Cross said.
Cross said Microsoft's recent release of Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1 will increase the demand for OCS training and information, since that release will generate demand for upgrades and maintenance to existing infrastructure. Partners can use that opportunity to up-sell customers to a more holistic OCS solution, Cross said, adding that several large national banks and some VARs that service the financial industry have already expressed a great deal of interest in Techtionary's training.
Microsoft has a lineup of IP PBX partners planning to support OCS 2007. Click here to read more.
Microsoft's OCS release gives it a huge advantage over other players in the unified communications space, Cross said, which is why Techtionary will be focusing exclusively on OCS classes and doesn't plan education offerings on products from other unified communications vendors, including Cisco.
Cross said Cisco has been tight-lipped and extremely possessive of its certification and training materials and requirements around unified communications. Microsoft, on the other hand, offered Techtionary extensive support and assistance in developing its training and course materials, Cross said.
"Cisco could have done this," Cross said, meaning that it could have developed and released an "all-in-one" office productivity and unified communications solution, "But they don't touch the desktop and the end user like Microsoft does," he said.
According to Cross, the lab class can be customized depending on the skill level and needs of VARs, individuals or enterprise customers who take the course. Students can choose training on all aspects of the technology-including OCS, Exchange Server 2007, Active Directory, IIS, SQL Server and more-or can choose only those subjects they feel they need to cover.
Cross said for now, since OCS is so new, most of the inquiries his company has received are from potential students who need comprehensive training.
Microsoft released OCS on Oct. 16. The OCS Virtual Lab complements Techtionary's existing OCS Essentials 101 and OCS Complete 201 courses.
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