Thursday, October 16, 2008

Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2

Well it has been publicly released.....well maybe not yet....but Microsoft has given us a glimpse into the next version of their next version of OCS 2007.

Highlights of OCS 2007 R2:
  • All server roles will be based on 64-bit code meaning you will be able to scale to more users and more roles per server with less hardware.
  • Conference bridge capability! This will allow an internal or remote user to call an OCS conference bridge resulting in a substantial cost savings. To expand on this more, Microsoft has done a fantastic job of making the experience easy to use and seamless to the end user.
  • A new version of the MOC client will allow application (and desktop) sharing which is similar to MSN Messenger today. This is a welcome feature as the previous version required you to install the Live Meeting 2007 client to share apps/etc.
  • Support for Mac/Linux via web interface
  • A completely new feature is the ability to set up and participate in "Persistent Group Chat" sessions. These seem somewhat similar to IRC-style chat sessions where you can invite others and collaborate in a persistent real-time chat environment. This could be perfect for those "SWAT" teams that get called together in critical situations to solve a production issue (both IT and non-IT staff). The chat sessions are searchable and can be filtered as well.
  • For those people who manage incoming calls such as administrative assistants a new "Attendant Console" gives the power of call routing, managing conferences, and setting up workflows for high volume call environments.
  • Direct "SIP Trunking" is a long awaited feature which eliminates the need for a physical voice gateway. In my blog I talk about using a similar SIP trunk connection for my software PBX and OCS but this is officially supported now. Apparently there won't be a method for authentication so the SIP trunks would typically be for organizations who have a dedicated MPLS link to a telco. This opens up new possibilities for branch survivability in that you could route traffic through an ISP in case a site VPN link went down.
  • A long awaited feature is the ability to define "hunt groups" and set basic call routing features for a collection of users. This is called a "Response Group" in OCS 2007 R2. This feature is similar in nature to an ACD in a legacy PBX. Basic features should include Music on Hold, ring-no-answer to voice mail (Exchange UM/etc), and call routing/escalation. I've heard they have included the same Microsoft Speech Server engine in Exchange UM into OCS R2.
  • If you're a Nokia, Motorola, or Blackberry user you may now be in luck when it comes to the Office Communicator Mobile client. Support for these phone manufacturers is coming with a new "single number reach" feature. More on this to come...

So that's it for now....there is even more to come but I can't say much other than this!



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