Yes ... I know it’s been a while since I posted something but I have been out and about talking with customers and partners about RTC and helping them understand why it’s something they should get involved in :-).
At both IT Forum and the Gartner Symposium I have seen a lot more interest in RTC technology than in previous years. Whereas previously you had to convincing them to listen to your 'pitch' for 5 minute, I am now finding partner and customers genuinely want to have a conversation with you to understand what it can do for them. More importantly the analysts, in this case Gartner, also agree that Real Time Collaboration is something decision makers within companies should be looking at over the next 12 months so I would expect to see more interest in this area from your customers.
But that’s not all that has happened over the last month or so. During this time we have acquired Media-Streams and also made an announcement around efforts to solve the ever present NAT traversal problem. More details below :-)
On November 2nd we announced the acquisition of Media Steams AG, more information at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2005/nov05/11-02MSHanoverPR.mspx. I had the pleasure of talking with these guys at IT Forum, in particular Steffen Bewersdorf, and I must say that they a) have a superb integrated telephony solution and b) are generally a great bunch of guys and girls. I probably won’t do it justice but I would summarise their solution as an IP PBX that enables integration into Outlook with notifications of missed calls, dialling straight from Outlook as well as being a replacement for a PBX.
As you can imagine, this causes concern with our telephony partners that think we are looking to go head-to-head in the PBX market and possibly negate the need for our gateway partners. I don’t think this is that case for a number of reasons but in particular you should remember that a) The cost of a PBX is normally split over 10+ years in some companies so they are not going to be in a position to rip out their current PBX and replace it with the Media Stream solution and b) there may be features they require a PBX to have that this solution won’t cover. I would instead look at it as a quick win solution to get PBX and LCS integration with a minimum of fuss but only where appropriate.
Welcome Media Steams !
Microsoft and Cisco working on ICE
One of the big problems with most collaboration technologies is something called NAT Traversal. Put simply, when two people try to collaborate e.g. voice/video/app sharing, and both of their machines have been NAT'ed i.e. they are both working at home behind personal routers/firewalls, we sometimes find that the return address for the collaboration is not valid and therefore the collaboration cannot occur. There are a number of ways to get around this, Skype use something called 'supernodeing' and MSN uses a third part file server for transferring files, but in the end its sometimes just too complicated for the technology at either end to deal with.
In order to solve this problem, Microsoft and Cisco are working with the IETF to back the Interactive Connectivity Establishment (ICE) methodology. This will put in place both the standards, software and hardware to allow communication between two clients that are NAT'ed.
For more information take a look at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2005/nov05/11-09ICENATPR.mspx