Microsoft IP PBX still needs to grow up

Microsoft's VoIP offering has potential but is far from perfect

In addition to improving communications, Fuqua hopes OCS will save some money, too. OCS will make it possible to get rid of some desktop phones and have workers use their softphones exclusively. "That will allow cost avoidance of upgrading existing handsets as well as help the user to stay focused within their own application," he says.

While Global Crossing is a service provider, it is using OCS 2007 to support its internal business processes, not as an element of the services it offers to business customers. But the company hopes to extend use of OCS to wholesale customers coming to its Web portal.

If a visitor to the portal site needs help and has IM capabilities or an OCS client, they could click on an icon within the portal to connect to a person within the company, he says. OCS would give these customers presence information for a limited set of Global Crossing employees that are trained to handle these customers, Fuqua says.

While these specific plans will take awhile to implement, Fuqua is also deploying OCS strategically in the hopes of generating more ideas about how it can be used. He is trying to enlist the help of managers about how it might be used within specific departments. "If I'm embedding OCS in an application you use, it starts you thinking about its capabilities," Fuqua says. "If this is going to be in my group, how will I use it?"

As use of OCS expands and the company becomes dependent on it, Fuqua has to make sure the platform is reliable. "When you look at e-mail, if it's not working, it causes disruption in the business day," he says. "When you look at the OCS platform, you're going down the same path." Users have to be careful therefore that OCS doesn't crash.

He recommends looking at high-availability network architectures that leave no single points of failure and distributing servers to support separate user communities so a crash doesn't bring down the entire company.

Deploying OCS raises the same turf issues that deploying VOIP does, Fuqua says. It requires getting what are perhaps separate IT, telecom and e-mail staffs working together. "The telecom guy will say, 'You're taking away my environment,' which you are," Fuqua says. "But it's to bring down economic costs and improve efficiency."

Even though OCS 2007 doesn't ship until July, Fuqua has a wish list for future features. These include biometric identification of users to Active Directory, so their presence information can be advertised to appropriate applications even when they log in from borrowed machines. So a worker could log in from a thin-client PC and pull up all their applications from their current point of access.

He'd also like to see support for speech recognition, so users could speak commands to their applications and trigger OCS communications channels.

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Tim Greene

Network World

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