Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Office 2010 Beta (OCS Integration)

At PDC they announced the release of the Office 2010 Beta, MSDN and TechNet first followed by General Download a day later; a lot of people were expecting this is be announced at TechEd EMEA but we had to be content with the Exchange 2010 Launch.

After using the CTP of Office 2010 since it became available I couldn’t wait to move to the Beta; but feared the process of having to uninstall and install all of the 2010 application suite. I could see hours being spent configuring it how I wanted and syncing all of my SharePoint Workspace (Groove), Spaces.

To my amazement I had none of this pain, everything was configured, SharePoint Workspaces had all of my Spaces configured and up to date along with Outlook being fully configured.

So after the joy of not been able to deal with emails for 30 minutes, I went to work through the backlog and noticed a few things have changed for the worse and some changes are just interesting.

The light grey on the folder list is now dark grey making it hard to read some of the greyed out text, I will have to work out how to fix (change) that one.

In the CTP the office icon was used for the File Menu this has now changed to the word File and looks a bit lost in the box; I have shown the CTP and Beta one below, personally I prefer the CTP one:

CTP:               CTP File Icon

Beta:              Beta File Image

Moving on the surprising part is the change to the OCS Integration, the Presence Icons have changed from being Circular to a Square along with the changes to the Contact Card.

This is a change between CTP and the Beta and completely different to OCS and Exchange OWA. The new Contact Card is shown below; this was in the CTP and has been commented on by several people.

Contact Card

The differences I want to look at is the presence bar on the left hand side of the photo and the smaller presence icons that appear next to a persons name in Email, the Quick Contacts Pane etc; incidentally the photo is retrieved from SharePoint .

The new presence icons are shown below:

State Contact Card Presence Icon
Unknown Unknown CC New Unknown New
Offline Offline CC New Offline New
Available Available CC New Available New
Away Away CC New Away New
Busy Busy CC New Busy New
Do Not Disturb DND CC New DND New

I do find it hard to tell the difference between the Unknown and Offline for the Presence Icon, but apart from that the Icons look functional and do seem to flow a bit better than the current ones.

So the question is, is this the future of the OCS Presence Icons or is it just the Office Product Group doing what they want.

If we take a look at another of the Wave 14 Products, Exchange 2010, the presence icons shown in OWA are the same as OCS 2007 R2. This is to be expected since they utilise the UCMA API, which is released by the OCS Product Group.

I would have assumed that Office would use the Communicator APIs, if they are, they either have a better relationship with the OCS Product Group than the Exchange Product Group or they use their own Icons.

So is this the product groups doing their own thing or just that Office is further ahead in their Wave 14 development, I guess we will only find out when OCS Wave 14 is released be it Beta or RTM.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

OCS 2007 R2 Updates

As part of the October update to OCS R2, Microsoft released the Server Update Installer. This application allows an administrator to install all of the updates applicable to a specific machine rather than needing to locate and install each one separately.

The application provides a useful middle ground between the updates being released for manual installation and them being released via Windows Update (If they are at all).

The Update Installer is simple to run and details of how to run it are provided within this Microsoft Knowledge Base Article.

Personally I would like to see the Server Update Installer progress into something more, something that is integrated in with OCS in a similar way to the way client updates can be pushed out via the Front Ends.

When Client Updates fist came out I was critical of them and even more so when one of the QFEs broke the update mechanism. The Client Update require the logged in user to be a local administrator which in the majority of organisations they are not. There are also numerous tools to deploy the updates such as WSUS and SCCM.

The same is true for Server Updates they can be deployed using standard tools such as SCCM; the area where tools such as SCCM are lacking is that they are not aware of what OCS is doing. At a set time they will push out and install the updates and then reboot the machine; this is done irrelevant of if an MCU on a Front End is hosting a conference or if a Mediation Server currently has a call in progress.

The only way for an administrator to overcome these issues is to remove servers in rotation from Load Balancers, modify Voice Routes to take Mediation Servers out of service; all of this is very time consuming for something as simple as installing an update that takes 5 minutes to install.

Therefore I would like something built into OCS that takes all of this hassle out of my hands. I give OCS a Server Update Package to install and it goes away and does it all for me, identifies which servers need to be updated, and one by one takes the servers out of service, waits for resources to no longer be used (or migrate sessions to another server), install the updates, reboot and brought back into service.

This may sound like overkill but it means that the expensive HA solution that I have installed continues to operate and my users do not notice; all they see is new functionality coming online.

Maybe something like this will appear in future releases as the management tools improve, methods such as Remote PowerShell would make processes like this easier to implement, at least from my very simplistic view.