Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Communications Server “14” – TechEd Day 1

Since VoiceCon Orlando 2010, news about the Wave 14 release of Communications Server has been trickling out. At TechEd New Orleans this changed with a number of sessions focused around the Communications Server “14” release.

This also coincided with information being released on the Microsoft Product Pages.

This post will detail the information discussed in the Day 1 sessions, at a high level. My aim is to build on this as more information becomes available.

No dates were given for CS14, only that it would be this Calendar Year, also it is not clear if all the functionality mentioned would be available at RTM or if some would come at a later date.

Communicator:

  • Photos Displayed within Communicator, can be from Active Directory, SharePoint or User Specified URL. Can be restricted by Administrator. Along with the user being able to choose not to show their picture and hide pictures in their contact list.
  • Photos downloaded from AD using a new Web Service Address Book Service Web Query (ABS-WQ) and Cached locally.
  • ABS-WQ used for Distribution List Information and Hierarchy along with an alternative to downloading the Address Book everyday.
  • Option to use Address Book (same as R2) or Web Service, set on per User or Pool Level.
  • Exchange Web Services used over MAPI, functionality such as Conversation History will be via EWS.
  • New Contact Group – Frequent Contacts. Dynamically managed includes 10 most frequent contacts along with Team members and Pinned contacts.
  • New Presence State “Off Work”.
  • Time zone and Location published in Contact Card, Location Publishing can be disabled.
  • Enhanced Privacy, enabled at Pool Level. Only show presence to people on the users contact list. Users can opt out and display presence to all.
  • Ability to place a test call within Communicator.
  • In Call feedback of call Quality.

Devices:

  • Will use ABS-WQ for searches.

SharePoint:

  • Enabled via Inband Provisioning.
  • Client connected directly to SharePoint.
  • SharePoint 2007 or later supported.
  • Provides Expert Search, both specified on a user’s MySite but also inferred based on documents users post etc (Unclear if this is SharePoint 2010 only).
  • Phonetic Search for Users and Skills when using SharePoint (Unclear if this is SharePoint 2010 only).

Architecture:

  • Support for redundancy across Datacenters.

Conferencing:

  • LiveMeeting client is no more, the functionality is built in to Communicator “14”.
  • Attendee Console to provide full fidelity access to conferences by external participants.
  • There will be a Silverlight client to provide access to conferences where participants can not install the Attendee Console. It was inferred that this would not have all of the features of the Attendee Console.
  • Conferences can be recorded, these recordings record everything that happens within the conference, IM, Voice, Video, Sharing.
  • Recording are played back using the Recording Manager and including Handouts.
  • Recordings can be “published”to a WMA file, with the ability to publish all or parts of the recording such as only the Voice and Active Speaker Video for example as well as been able to specify a time window.
  • When creating meetings, options are available to specify who is allowed in automatically and who should be granted access by a Leader. Also settings on who should automatically be granted Leader Status.

Telephony:

  • E911 support, this is provided by routing calls via a SIP Trunk to a PSAP who in turn will route the call to the correct Emergency Call Center based on location of the caller.
  • Branch Office Survivability, if the connection to the OCS Server is lost, calls can be routed via local PSTN Connections.
  • Support for Call Access Control, allows administrators to specify if WAN links can be used for Voice and Video along with limiting the number of concurrent calls.
  • Media Bypass for PSTN calls, allows calls to bypass the Mediation Server if the client can route the RTP traffic direct to the Gateway. It is unclear if this is G711 only or if the Gateways will support RTAudio.

Cloud Support:

  • Communications Server “14” is designed to work in the cloud.
  • Support for some users on site and some in the cloud with shared namespace.
  • Support for Exchange in the Cloud and OCS on site, along with the same support for SharePoint.
  • No dates were provided as to when this will be available only that they are working on it. I also assume it will be staged.
  • Voice in the Cloud will be via Partner Solutions.

Development:

  • Ability to build Silverlight applications in to the “Conversation” Pane. Allowing developers to provide context based information such as Contact Center Functionality to users.

Virtualisation:

  • Supported, but within specified boundaries.
  • Will include support for Voice and Video.

Mobile Client:

  • Improved functionality.
  • Support for more devices.

Federation:

  • Support for Voice and HD Video Federation with Windows Live Messenger.

At a high level, I think I have covered off most of the “New” items, hopefully more information to come.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

NET’s 21st Century Gateway

Network Equipment Technologies (NET) are due to launch a brand new gateway branded as the UX. This gateway will be designed with the 21st Century in mind breaking away from the TDM world gateways are usually found in.

Gateways were originally designed for bridging the TDM world with the IP world for purposes such as:

  • Connecting TDM PBXs together over an IP Network,
  • Providing connections to Software Products such as:
    • Microsoft Exchange
    • Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS).
    • Software Fax Solutions
  • Providing TDM connectivity for  Softswitches.

Today the Telephony landscape has changed, organisations find their Telephony Estates are made up of a mix of PBXs which could be IP or TDM, and usually from a number of different vendors.

This is usually due to acquisitions or different regions doing their own thing. In order to link these together to provide functionality such as PSTN Bypass and Centralised Voicemail third party gateways are often required.

This is due to PBXs supporting different protocols such as H323 or SIP, and some may be pure TDM. Others require more complex number transformation and translation than is possible on the PBX.

The problem with the vast majority of gateways available today is that they were designed for a TDM world and while many have been updated to provide IP to IP Routing, there are still limitations around functionality such as Transcoding.

This is where the UX changes the playing field as it being designed with the new Telephony Landscape in mind.

While the UX will take the best parts from the NET VX and Quintum DX Gateways, it is being built from the ground up and for all intense purposes will be unrecognisable from its predecessors.

The UX is not going to replace the VX or DX which are still excellent gateways; the VX is more scalable and designed for the more complex and usually larger deployments, with the DX being for smaller deployments.

The fit for the UX appears to be branch offices or medium sized deployments.

Looking into the telephony side of the UX it will support two interface modules allowing for a combination of E1\T1 Ports along with FXS ports.

It will provide full support for features such as Any to Any routing, LDAP based routing logic and Transcoding.

The UX will be capable of providing Transcoding capabilities when used as a SIP Demarcation Device due to it not requiring E1\T1 Line Cards to provide this capability.

The UX will also provides the following:

  • Session Border Controller
  • SIP Registrar
  • IP Router and Switch
  • Application Solution Model (ASM)

The ASM will be a module within the gateway and for all intense purposes will be a standalone server based on the latest Intel i7 architecture. This will be an optional module and will not be required for the gateway to function.

The purpose of the ASM will be to provide a platform for Telephony Applications which would usually run on a separate server, this could include:

  • emFast Fax Solutions
  • FMC Solutions from Tango
  • Microsoft Communications Server Survivable Branch Appliance, announced at Voicecon Orlando 2010

Hopefully this gives an insight into what NET are going to provide at a relatively high level. My aim is to provide a more detailed and technical post as and when more information becomes available.