Friday, April 11, 2008

Microsoft's Unified Communication Solution

Hello Everyone,

Our April 8th, NY Exchange User Group meeting featured Stephen Chirico, Sr. Tech. Solutions Professional presenting the details beyond the technical deployment needs of Microsoft Unified Communications (aka UC, which is Microsoft's VoIP, IM, video conferencing, and more solution).

1 word for the meeting, Wow. That's how I would sum up our last meeting and
"Star Trek visits NYExUG". Also the concept of a "Communicator Call" is definitely forward thinking, see the highlights below for explanations. This meeting is one for the record books. Great topic, great hardware and software demo-ed, and fun.

It really helped in determining what was required for deployment of Microsoft's UC technology. I've listed some highlights from the slides. Stephen did 2 presentations in one (UC Vision & OCS Architecture). So, you'll see 2 PDFs posted online in addition to the sponsor's (Azaleos) presentation. I would recommend you review both in detail if you're interested in UC.

This Presentation and Past Meeting Presentations

Access Edge Proxy - DMZ based server that proxies all traffic. No AD or authentication done on this box unlike an Exchange Edge Server that uses ADAM or a Windows RODC.
PBX Integration Options - 1) PBX supports mediation server w/o gateway (new PBX), 2) use of an Advanced Media Gateway w/existing PBX, or 3) use of an OCS mediation server w/Basic Media Gateway w/existing PBX. Slide 16 explains this. In essence, the Advanced Media Gateway eliminates the needs for a Windows OCS Mediation Server while the other 2 options require that.
Identity and Presence - available, on call, in meeting, etc. Your status available in Office, SharePoint, Live Communicator, etc.
Communicator Call - call's an identity (not a method/location such as mobile, work, home, IM, email, etc).
MOS = Mean Opinion Scores (what a user thinks of the voice quality).
Star Trek and Microsoft's UC - We saw the Star Trekish Round Table in action. It's a 360 degree audio/video conferencing system that mere mortals can afford as opposed to other 360 degree audio/video solutions out there. See Slide 23 for what attendees saw demo-ed. Speaker is shown on video based on triangulation of voice. Very cool.

URLs to assist users with deploying Unified Communications.
Supported gateways:
IP PBX and PBX Support
Office Communication Server 2007 Partners:
Microsoft Unified Communications: Phones and Devices Optimized for Microsoft Office Communicator

Don't miss our next meeting or the following ones... here are the summaries of the upcoming meetings.

May - Microsoft's Behind the Scenes Look at Exchange Hosting Services by Keith Keeler. (fyi: they don't host Exchange). Don't miss this, I expect this to be like our Dogfood lab backup meeting.
June - Technical details between 2003 & 2007 & Why Companies Upgrade. Speaker Keith McCall.

July - Presentation/Sponsor of AppAssure's Replay for Exchange. (fyi: this is a interesting solution that offers the ability to backup direct to a virtualized file format [vmdk].)


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

They are back from the dead... Exchange's next version will "re-emphasis" Public Folders

Hello Exchange Folks,

Microsoft reversed course and now Exchange's Public Folders will stay a major component in Exchange Server. This is good news for all. I was a bit worried about the loss of such and the removal of the GUI for Public Folders management in Exchange 2007. Microsoft fixed this in SP1, adding such functionality. Now, Microsoft outlined the following at the URL below... (fyi: this is the Exchange team blog, and has a wealth of great information).

Use Public Folders Currently?
Document Sharing - SharePoint may be better option.
Calendar Sharing - No need to move
Contact Sharing - No need to move
Discussion Forums - No need to move
Distribution Group Archive - No need to move
Custom Applications - SharePoint may be better option
Organizational Forms - No need to move (or look into use of InfoPath)

From my experience, Public Folders are most frequently used at companies for Calendar Sharing, Contact Sharing, and Distribution Group Archive. So, the need to add SharePoint with it's entire line of support applications (e.g. backup agents [that's plural for SQL and SharePoint], anti-virus, server(s), is a great thing for everyone. Exchange is a great product, so obviously removing and then trying to convince existing users to add more products (e.g. SharePoint) and increase TCO (total cost of ownership) to have the same functionality was a bad idea. Thank you Microsoft for seeing this and making sure Public Folders stayed in Exchange Server.