A brief rundown on Microsoft Office Communicator Server

FAQs about Microsoft's forthcoming Office Communicator Server

Microsoft released the public beta for its Office Communicator Server 2007 this week. Here are some key facts about the product.

What is OCS?

OCS 2007 is the centerpiece of Microsoft's unified communications strategy to bring together e-mail, instant messaging, presence, voice and video. It is a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based server that routes and switches IP-based voice traffic, as well as instant messaging and Web conferencing sessions. With Microsoft's Office Communicator client technology front-ending the server, the need for an IP-PBX is radically diminished.

What are Microsoft's goals?

As usual, they are grand. Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's business group, said last week, "Within three years, more than 100 million people will be able to make phone calls from Microsoft Outlook, SharePoint, and other Microsoft Office Systems applications; and customers will be able to gain this value with VoIP solutions that are half the cost of what they are today." Of course, he didn't say users will be making those calls, only that they will be able to, but you get the picture.

What is the big deal?

Software like OCS represents a revolution in the telephony space in terms of infrastructure. It is a move away from the PBX and even the IP-PBX to a platform where voice traffic is handled completely in software and not on big, dedicated boxes. On the user-experience side, the unified communications supported by that infrastructure means streamlining of business processes, as well as communications that will give users information about their colleagues' whereabouts and how best to contact them.

What are piece parts?

Microsoft loves to build foundations for partners to build on, and OCS is no different. Not only does Microsoft have a number of pieces it is offering -- from such Office applications as Word, Excel and Communicator, to SharePoint and Exchange -- it has partners, such as Nortel, Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco, Mitel Networks, NEC Philips Unified Solutions, Polycom and Siemens Communications.

What do partners and competitors say?

Cisco, as you might guess, thinks telephony is a network-layer issue and that Microsoft will show up only as middleware and client software. Nortel, on the other hand, is betting that telephony is going completely to software, and is eyeing a short-term future of integrated infrastructure and a long-term play for adding vertical applications and scalability enhancements on top of the Microsoft platform.

What are the challenges Microsoft faces?

Experts say time, reputation and cross-platform support are the big three. How fast can Microsoft release all the pieces needed to implement a unified communications infrastructure, and will it happen before users make strategic choices on Cisco, Nortel, Avaya and others? Microsoft also will be fighting its reputation for less-than reliable software, and the big question on customers' minds will be, "Do I want to turn my telephony infrastructure over to Microsoft?"

In addition, large organizations with heterogeneous environments will be asking for support of a similar user experience across Linux, Apple and device platforms.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Cooney

Network World
Show Comments



Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >

Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?