It’s great to see the high interest with which partners, customers, and even competitors are anticipating the launch of Communications Server “14.” Thousands of people in our early Technology Adopter Program, or TAP, already rely on “14” to provide their phone, conferencing, messaging, and other communications, many of them since February. This number will increase dramatically when we make the release candidate (RC) software available in a few days. Of course, thousands of customers already rely on the currently shipping version of Communications Server for mission critical operations: for example, I just read a recap of a customer case study that highlight how a national police force replaced Cisco IP telephony and cellular phones for 18,000 officers with OCS 2007 R2, because it, in their words, “..helps our IT department do its job better and faster, just as it does for our police officers.” Even Cisco is “interested” in “14” – they posted a web page last week critiquing it, despite the fact that it is not even generally available yet.
Communications Server “14” is the fifth major release of our product that combines presence, instant messaging, conferencing, and voice in a single system. One system for customers to purchase, manage, and secure, instead of separate systems for presence, IM, conferencing, and voice/telephony. As a result, the investments of Microsoft and our customers in scalability, security, and high availability apply to all the ways people communicate, not just voice. Communications Server “14” customers can take advantage of redundancy within a data center to survive server failures, failover scenarios across data centers to survive data center disasters, and appliances for branch offices that provide telephony and instant messaging in the case of WAN outages. Customers like Royal Dutch Shell and Intel take advantage of our highly available and scalable technology to serve tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of users every day.
Note: If you want to learn more about our architecture for high availability, survivable branch communications, our support for QoS and call admission control, our new planning and deployment tools, and a host of other “14” innovations, you can view all of our Tech Ed presentations online. Just search for “Communications Server.” You’ll be set for a fast start with the RC bits.
Having a single system, rather than multiple systems, simplifies deployment and operations. We see it over and over again with customers. Sprint is replacing 489 PBX systems spread across the United States with a centralized Communications Server deployment, and projects annual savings of more than $9 million. Already, nearly 20,000 Sprint employees use Communicator instead of a PBX phone. Another good example is A. T. Kearney. They considered adding additional Cisco UC technology to their existing Cisco VoIP system, but chose to add Communications Server instead. In the words of Kevin Rice, Global Network Architect at A.T. Kearney, “A big advantage for us was cost avoidance. With Office Communications Server, everything comes in one package, and we could set up conferencing and VoIP without incurring additional costs.” I’ll repeat it for emphasis: A.T. Kearney found that it is more cost effective to enhance an existing Cisco VoIP system with Microsoft Communications Server than to add Cisco UC technology. And, by doing so, they have the option to replace it altogether in the future when appropriate based on amortization schedules and other factors. (Read this post from my colleague, Jamie Stark, to learn more about replacing or enhancing your existing IP PBX.)
By choosing Communications Server as the single system to provide their unified communications, customers get an even bigger benefit: higher user productivity, inside and outside the office. Realizing return on Investment (ROI) requires that people adopt and use a system, which in turn depends heavily on ease of use. Communications Server delivers ease of use through a single client that provides all modes of communication, and by making communications available in the applications people use most, including Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint. This short video illustrating the difference between configuring mobile phone integration on Communications Server and Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager shows the difference a well-designed user interface can make – features only matter if people can figure out how to use them. Of course, our customers experience the difference our great user experience makes. As Joe Hamblin, Manager of Unified Communications at Sprint, said, “…People are excited. They’re enthusiastic… They go back and share their excitement with their peers, and this type of “viral acceptance” facilitates the implementation. Right now, I have more demand than I can keep up with”.
Sprint, A.T. Kearney, Royal Dutch Shell, and many other customers share something beyond a need for a great user experience delivered a single highly available and secure communications platform: enabling remote work outside the corporate network is a business necessity. Communications Server is designed to enable all end user functions to work identically inside or outside the organization, and to work seamlessly across office, home, client, and on-the-road scenarios without requiring additional network hardware, smart-cards, or other VPN access. The A.T. Kearney case study, for example, highlights the value of Communications Server to their bread-and-butter: consultants working at client sites. All Microsoft employees around the world use Communications Server as well, and more than 75,000 no longer need or have a PBX phone.
What comes next? Twelve companies announced compatible products and services at VoiceCon in March, and I expect more than twice that many to announce beta versions of their “14” compatible products in the coming weeks. These partners provide traditional solutions include IP telephones and contact centers, and an entirely new class of applications that integrate communications deeply within business applications and processes. The choice and value that Communications Server “14” and partner companies provide to customers is simply not available to buyers of proprietary, vertically integrated solutions, and is proof that real interoperability and openness has finally arrived in the communications market. The proof is in the numbers – just look at the chart from VoiceCon showing system level pricing information provided by Microsoft and other vendors here – the list price of a Microsoft-based system capable of full unified communications is less expensive than the discounted price of IP PBX systems from Cisco, Avaya, and others.
Communications Server Product Management
For further info visit: http://www.microsoft.com/communicationsserver/cs14/en/us/default.aspx