Microsoft Communications Server 14


Yes that’s right it has finally launched! And note the new name…..that’s going to screw up the #OCS tag on twitter!

So what’s going on then?

Today at VoiceCon in Orlando Gurdeep Singh Pall, Corporate Vice President, Unified Communications Group, Microsoft Corporation announced the next version of the Microsoft Real Time communications platform.

You can watch the keynote here:

So what’s so exciting?

On a personal note it’s great to be able to talk publicly about a product which as an MVP we have seen a fair bit about over the last few months, in particular in February at the MVP Summit. It’s fair to say at the time, the overwhelming opinion was that CS14 was pretty darn good, so it’s great we can now go into a little more detail:

One of the things which really hit me was that Gurdeep mentioned a couple of times that over a total solution CS14 would be around 50% less expensive than a tradition IPPBX system, food for thought indeed. Apparently there was a session later in the day where details were discussed so it would be interesting to see more about that especially when talking about the SME space.

Diving into features, presence is extended to incorporate more detailed location awareness. When outside the corporate network a user is able to specify a location manually, whilst within the network, it is possible to have the location mapped to the building area automatically.

This then ties nicely into another key feature (well for the US market at least) E.911 support. This is the capability of a phone system to notify emergency services of a calls location. IP telephony creates challenges for this in that an IPPBX could be centralised with all calls going out of a central trunk. This way a third party (911 Enable and Intrada) can be notified of the location info via additional signalling info and will then ensure that emergency services are targeted to the correct location.

The next new feature shown really highlights the overall UC platform MSFT can provide when CS14 and Exchange 2010 are put together. In the new Communicator client, you get a type of visual voicemail so you see exactly who has left a message directly in the client. Taking things further there is still a link to view the voicemail in Outlook where you can use the great functions such as text preview and presence awareness.

Something which people will already be familiar with is the new contact card featuring photos and a square presence icon. The key thing is that this is the same across the whole platform, Office, SharePoint, Outlook etc and can be easily added to your apps too!

Again on the theme of a whole UC platform, is another of the key features in the new client. This time it is a window into SharePoint, making use of the indexing and searching facilities to locate key information about peoples’ skills. It allows you to allow you to search on keywords to find all people who have relevant interests expertise and then gradually narrow that down to the people/person you want all the time based on presence! What’s really cool is that SharePoint is clever enough to do a phonetic based search to get around poor spelling!

The last big piece discussed was one of the main features that enterprises expect, Call Admission Control (CAC). This promises to be one of those features which removes a blocker from corporate deployments where network managers are really concerned that although the OCS RTAudio and RTVideo codecs are adaptable, they never the less can still overwhelm a network link given enough calls.

So the CAC functions, enable CS14 to sample the available bandwidth and make decisions based on both type of traffic (voice and video) and number of sessions. It would seem that on various conditions (slow machines, poor camera, low bandwidth etc, a number of decisions can be taken, to either lower video quality (or stop it totally), or to reroute the call over another link.

All in all today’s demo has only scratched the surface of the product, I for one am really looking forward to the first beta drop when we can get hands on with WC14.