Everybody’s Talking about Communications Server “14”

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. 


 Better user experience, better operations and management, better value.  And we’re just getting started.


BJ Haberkorn

Communications Server Product Management


For further info visit: http://www.microsoft.com/communicationsserver/cs14/en/us/default.aspx


Comments (9)

  1. Graham Gosling says:

    This is brilliant but when are we going to see it. I have a relatively small multi-site installation to do and I'm not going to deploy the current version if this is waiting in the wings.

  2. Jim Smithfield says:

    As someone who has been down this road with Microsoft, I can clearly tell you that 'free' is not free.  There are many many major charges that come under the covers in the guise of license upgrades or maintenance costs.  After doing a cost analysis, we still decided to move forward with the Microsoft voice installation – primarily because they were the incumbent.

    After months of continuing problems during the attempted installation and many hours watching Microsoft partners and 'experts' scratching their heads – we discontinued the project.  We have since gone entirely Cisco for collaboration – including the desktop, are very happy, and have never looked back.  A very expensive lesson for us.  Make SURE if you are entertaining any thoughts of Microsoft as a collaboration / voice provider that you do a full analysis, get references of customers similar in size and configuration to your business, and have a solid contingency plan.


  3. Chris Norman says:

    Sorry to hear of your issues Jim. I have had quite the opposite experience not just with working with numerous customers but also as a customer myself working in one of the world’s largest Cisco environments. The complexity and management required for a Cisco full UC experience was not only going to be costly but also going to be impossible to manage with all the different Cisco platforms required for full Cisco UC experience. When you take a closer look at all the moving pieces that Cisco require you to deploy the story falls apart especially for large scale deployments which is why they choose Microsoft for UC.

  4. Joe Schurman says:

    Chiming in as a Microsoft Partner that has deployed over 50+ UC installations and provides customization of the platform through CEBP development within Microsoft Visual Studio.  While we have seen our fair share of UC related integration stories, we have always been able to complete a project successfully and the customer has always been happy at the end of the project.  Not knowing your specific issues within your environment, it's hard to decipher what the remedy would be and I can tell you that the cost and difficulty from the Cisco side of the house is much, much worse when deployment hits a snag.  I, personally, have spent years with my team in deploying combined Cisco/Microsoft RTC and UC solutions inclusive of gateway deployments and Direct SIP access and whenever we hit an issue it was related to connectivity issues, SIP to SIP translation issues, or gateway related issues.  Yes, there have been bugs and updates required with the Microsoft LCS and OCS platform, but this is normal for any software application.  The difference is that the fixes are provided within 24-48 hours not weeks later halting all production and voice calls.  I was actually asked by Nortel, before they became Avaya to develop a case study comparison where we installed Cisco, Nortel and Microsoft side by side in our data center at Level 3.  Mike Stacy was the lead engineer on this project and what we found was outside of the enourmous cost difference, the lack of innovation, features, and the absolute archaic nature of the configuration.  The final report is located via http://www.evangelyze.net/…/nortelciscostudy.pdf.

    Speaking to your comparison of Cisco vs Microsoft, there is no comparison.  No other UC solution in the marketplace today combines the voice, collaboration, and communication capabilities that Microsoft provides.  On top of this, the ability to create Line of Business applications that leverage UC modalities is only possible with the flexibility of the Microsoft CEBP architecture and development platform through Visual Studio.  Our developers have created applications such as our SmartChat product that now allow companies to stop having to use third party, disconnected, and expensive contact center and customer service applications.  That is massive ROI that is provided back to the customer instantaneously as well as on a monthly basis.  Not to mention the consolidation of management efforts for the platform as well.  For more detailed information you can read my blog via http://www.networkworld.com/…/8631.

    In summary, while it's disheartnening to hear about your experience, it would have been great to have had a chance to help and steer your organization to a more reliable and flexible platform that doesn't only concentrate on voice, but provides so much more in the form of collaboration, mobility, conferencing, and line of business application development.  These are the things that save money on the bottom line, increase stock value, and connect your users like never before which in turn highlight and feature your unique business processes as a company and set you apart from the competition.

  5. Adam Jacobs says:

    From my perspective I can honestly say that Microsoft UC within our organisation has been a resounding success. We first deployed 2007 R1, then recently upgraded to R2 (immediately saving £50k per annum on conference call charges) with both integrated with what we thought was an end of life Nortel CS1000 – by deploying OCS we are getting a lot more out of our original telephony investment.

    I look forward to making the next step to CS14!

  6. Aamer Kaleem says:

    Like Chris I am also sorry to hear about your experience. But I would like to point out that I have similar experiences in my past with many renowned vendors including Cisco, which does not mean that their solutions have any major defects or flaws.

    As far Microsoft UC stack is concerned there are many examples of success stories as mentioned by BJ in his blog.

    However, I am surprised about your comments wrt costs related to Microsoft UC solution versus Cisco. Have you seen Allan Sulkin’s Voicecon IP Telephony RFP results? This RFP is essentially for “dial-tone over IP” only, which is a sub-feature of Enterprise Voice that itself is just a capability under Unified Communications. It clearly shows that Microsoft solution is far less expensive than Cisco IP Telephony solution, not counting missing UC capabilities like Conferencing, Collaboration, IM/Chat, presence etc on  Cisco’s side.

    Cost of Cisco solution may go up many folds if remaining UC capabilities are added to their Voicecon proposal, which may require things like MeetingPlace, CUPS, CUVA, CUAE etc.

    IMHO, most experts in industry along with overwhelming majority of enterprise customers would agree that no one comes close to Microsoft UC desktop user experience so I will invite you to have a fresh look at Communications Server 14.

  7. LK says:

    Saw some posts on new name for OCS 2010 ………..and looks new name for Office communication server 2010 is Microsoft Lync Server 2010??

    Is it correct or rumour???

  8. Kreedo says:

    I would agree with the majority here.  We are running both OCS and Cisco and suprisingly the Cisco infrastructure is much more complex.  While Cisco has more "features" OCS is solving more of our business problems as they appear to focus much more on what customers actually need.  Our Cisco infrastructure has more hidden costs, support fees and is just a both on products purchased over time by seperate companies at appear to be duct taped together and sold under UC.   Microsoft OCS is a single system designed all to work as one.

  9. Aamer Kaleem says:

    Hi LK – Yes, code name "Communications Server 14" got its officially brand name from Microsoft yesterday, called Microsoft Lync 2010 Server. I think it is a combination of terms "Link" and "Synch".

    For more information, please see following URL:




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