Big Microsoft Communications Server

As TechEd 2010 in New Orleans unfolds this week, I’ll be updating this blog entry with the big announcements and significant developments with the next major release of OCS – code named Microsoft Communications Server (MCS) “14″.  I’ll focus on new announcements (for previously released information on MCS “14″, see this blog entry: Microsoft Announces Microsoft Communications Server “14”).

Summary:

  • The live meeting conferencing functionality will be rolled into Communicator “14″.  There will be one client, Communicator, for all media modalities and the associated features.
  • There will be a new Silverlight-based web client available for those users wanting to joing a web conference, but don’t have the rich Communicator client installed.  This is a new client and not a replacement for Communicator Web Access.
    • When a user clicks to join a meeting from a link, it detects whether the Communicator client is installed. If it is not, you can join via the Silverlight client.
    • Participation via the Silverlight client is anonymous (i.e there is no sign-in required).  This is a powerfull feature that will make it a whole lot easier for external (to your organization) attendees join a meeting.
  • MCS 14 will federate with Windows Live “Wave 4″ and will support Audio and Video with Windows Live Messenger contacts.
  • All MCS 14 features were designed ground-up to work on-premise, cloud, or hybrid:
    • both in terms of supporting a percentage of MCS users on-premise, in the cloud, and,
    • in terms of having some or all Exchange & SharePoint services in the cloud
  • Supported virtualization for all server roles in MCS 14 (with the normal audio and video caveats;  i.e. you must closely follow the virtualization guidelines to support audio and video, and even then it could be more suceptible to jitter and latency)
  • The MCS 14 will support a media bypass feature which will allow a consolidated MCS “14″ front-end server to go direct SIP to a supported IP-PBX’s without having to through a mediation server when the call is going to a locally dialed PSTN number.
    • the Media by-pass, coupled with the branch office survivability will remove the need for Mediation servers in most local or branch sites (in most cases)
  • Multiple SIP Gateways can be connected to one Mediation server.
  • Communicator “14″ will support the G.711 codec and will be able to talk to certified MCS “14″ media Gateways to go out local PSTN access points.
  • The visual Presence circle is changing to a square in Communicator “14″!  :-)

Office Communicator “14″

Management

  • A new Silverlight web-based management console (Communication Server Control Panel) that is built on a new set of Communications Server PowerShell cmdlets.
    • Support for Role Based Access Control administration (similar to Exchange 2010)
    • Support for cut-and-paste in the UI (i.e. easily copy Normalization Rules)
    • Can easily see all the Policies (i.e. Voice, Conferencing, Client) for a particular user in one place
  • A new Central Management Store (CMS)
    • a central database the holds XML documents that describe your deployment
    • all topology changes get written to the CMS, and a read-only copy is pushed to all servers in the topology
    • the topology is pushed out via a file transfer agent and via HTTPS for the the Edge role
  • New tools to help with certificates!
  • New support for ’server maintenance’ – a server can be put into maintenance mode for O/S and hardware maintenance
  • New PowerShell cmdlet’s
    • Everything in the new UI can be done through PowerShell
    • Cmdlets to manage users, configuration, devices, policies
    • Support for synthetic transactions (test phone calls, sip registrations, simple conferencing)

Topology Changes

  • More support for role collocation.  More roles, including the Mediation role and CWA, can be installed with the Front-End
  • A new “Site” topology entity which can be used to represent a geographic boundary such as a center or branch location.  A site contains one or more pools
  • Similar roles as OCS 2007 R2 (i.e. a backend role that defines a pool, Edge Mediation, AV Conferencing, Archiving, Monitoring, Director, Group Chat)
  • The Director role now streamlined and includes a local SQL Express database – removing the need for a separate back-end SQL database.
  • The concept of Standard and Enterprise edition still exists
  • Support for DNS load balancing within a pool
  • New Topology Builder UI which helps you build your topology document

Virtualization

  • Support for the virtualization of almost all roles
  • Client virtualization support is similar to Communicator 2007 R2 (i.e. IM and application sharing but audio/video is not supported)
  • Cannot virtualize the new branch office workload

Monitoring

  • New SCOM 2007 R2 management pack:
    • Support for synthetic transactions (monitor the user experience)
    • Media quality alerts
    • Call failure alerts
    • Actionable alerts
  • Monitoring role can be collocated with the front-end role
  • The ability to ‘heal’ the audio of a particular end-point if the Monitoring role detects degradation in quality.

Office Communications Online

  • Second-half of 2010:
    • Peer-to-Peer Audio/Video and File Transfer across the firewall
    • Communicator Mobile
  • First-half of 2011:
    • Federation and PIC
    • IM Archiving
    • Recording and Playback
    • Application Sharing
    • Unified Voicemail
    • ACP Integration

Additional Information

Stay tuned – much more to come.

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4 comments to Key Microsoft Communications Server “14″ Announcements at TechEd 2010

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