I have been using the Office Communicator R2 beta builds internally for a few months and I have to say the OCS product team is doing a fantastic job thus far on it. A couple of things I really like right off the bat from an end-user’s perspective using R2:
1) Share Desktop Feature. This is so nice to be able to share you desktop for an ad-hoc meeting right from the Office Communicator client. No longer do you have to fire up LiveMeeting to do this. Very useful. Greg shared his desktop one time with multiple monitors and they both appeared. Very nice.
You can give control, add in voice, video with this as well.
You can also share your desktop from Communicator Web Access now. Mac and Linux folks can also join shared desktop sessions from their browsers.
Full screen desktop share with Communicator Web Access.
2) Full audio conference bridge capabilities
Directly from the OC client you can multi-select your conference party, right click and pick “Start a Conference Call” with “Communicator”. From the OC client, you can see who has joined your audio conference, you can delegate leaders, mute folks, take notes, etc. Additionally, you can invite others to the audio conference who are not in OCS by selecting “Invite by phone”
Below is your new view of an audio conference. You can see people join from UC endpoints and external PSTN phones and you can also see who is talking with an animated voice icon coming out of the active speaker. You no longer have to role call, per se. Very nice.
You can add non-OCS users to your audio conference bridge, ad-hoc:
This is the new Outlook add-in for R2 that has ‘Schedule a Conference Call”:
The scheduled audio conference invite looks like this:
If you click ‘Join using web browser’ as a Guest, you can use voip and no phone needed. This is a nice feature for international attendees who don’t have an OC client.
From Communicator Web Access, you can also join audio conferences by specifying a phone to call:
The fact OCS R2 has audio conferencing built in now allows schools to get rid of their 3rd party audio bridge which means there is going to be a great ROI for this feature alone. As I stated before, we look to save around $4 million dollars per year in Microsoft by eliminating 3rd party audio conferencing and using just OCS audio conferencing.
3) Improved Audio quality and VGA/HD support, overall fit and polish.
R2 has improved voice audio quality. My UC VOIP calls sound even better now and voice calls connect even faster. It also has better UC device integration.
I also acquired an HD laptop video camera and I can now broadcast video in full HD using the OC client. I wonder if there will be push back like the newscasters who didn’t like broadcasting in HD at first. :)
The overall fit and polish of the R2 communicator client is very nice. You can now have conversations which are shadowed so you can distinguish between your typing and others along with a timestamp with each IM post. You can also see a top level summary of who you are IMing with if you have many IM sessions open at the same time. Very nice.
4) I use the new R2 Communicator Mobile Client (CoMo)
The R2 client here is a nice update as it has vastly improved battery life, the ability to do multiple party IM sessions, and Single Number Reach capabilities:
My XV6900 custom home screen I made with CoMo icon upper right corner:
Single Number Reach:
When you click to call someone from the CoMo client it sends a request to OCS which establishes the call with the endpoint and calls you back in the process. This feature provides one half of the single number reach story, since your UC phone number is listed on the dialed user’s caller ID vs. your mobile phone number. In certain parts of the world (Europe, etc), this process would save cellular minutes used since OCS is calling you and bridging the outbound dialed call.
The other half of single number reach is where you configure inbound OCS calls to simul ring or forward to your cell. One advantage of single number reach is you no longer have to publish your cell phone on business cards or in your email signature for example (I removed mine).
5) Group Chat is going to be heavily used
This feature is just starting use internally but I have a feeling this will change the way we collaborate especially with things such as discussion aliases. To no longer have to subscribe to 100s of emails a day on one technical distro list for example, you would just subscribe to a chat channel, read what you need, search for what you need, and post what you need. This will free up my inbox hopefully.
I hope this gives you a first taste of OCS R2 as I use it thus far. We will have much more R2 goodness coming in future posts.
I get this question from schools around support for Exchange Server 2007 support on VMWARE and our answer used to be it is not supported up until about a month ago. With regards to Hyper-V, Exchange Server 2007 is also supported. Click here to see my Exchange 2007 and Hyper-V post.
As of October 2008, VMWARE has passed the Windows Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP) program for hosting Exchange Server 2007 as a 64-bit guest.
Below are the requirements:
Here is a list of support boundaries and recommendations when running Exchange Server 2007 on virtualization:
Microsoft supports Exchange Server 2007 in production on hardware virtualization software only when all the following conditions are true:
I also recommend you contact VMWARE for additional recommendations prior to deployment of a production Exchange Server 2007.
For more information about the support for Exchange Server 2007 on virtualization, visit the following Microsoft Web site:
For more information on SVVP see here.
For a list of other Microsoft applications supported on virtualization technologies see here.
This is some good news on the IM interop front.
Announced at VoiceCon today:
IBM and Microsoft plan to support interoperability between Sametime and OCS, commencing with Sametime version 8.0.2 and OCS 2007
In other federation news, Cisco announced SIP/SIMPLE based Interdomain Federation with LCS 2005/OCS 2007 as part of their Unified Presence 7.0 in September 2008.
Net: With OCS 2007 you can now Interdomain federate with the following IM systems:
We are working on some other IM interop scenarios to be announced at a later time.
I get this question quite a bit from schools. I found a useful slide that covers the differences:
Is the 250 concurrent attendees per LM session a hard limit with OCS?
No, I have seen schools host OCS LM’s with 300+ attendees before but the product team recommends this as your max size.
Doesn’t OCS LM have Meeting storage?
Yes, you can store meetings to your local desktop or on a designated LM archive server (File share, etc). The chart above reflects storage in the cloud (accessible from the Internet).
Does OCS LM have a web client?
Currently, there is only a LM client for PCs however with R2 you can join desktop sharing sessions (LiveMeeting like) with Communicator Web Access from IE, Safari and Firefox.
Doesn’t OCS have two-way VOIP audio?
Yes, you can use two-way VOIP audio with OCS LM today, using PC audio/mic or UC device, which is a nice way to save on audio conferencing costs since no dial-in bridge needed. With R2, you will also get integrated audio conferencing where you can join an OCS LM audio session from a PSTN or cell if needed.
Screenshot of the OCS LM calendar request with the R2 audio conferencing automatically integrated.
What if I want to use both OCS LM on-prem and LM cloud services?
This is certainly a viable option and you can schedule both from Outlook. Coming in the near future, I have heard there may be a potential for licensing changes when both are used in conjunction.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
Cisco Call Manager 4.x is now supported for integration with Exchange UM. That's right you can now integrate your CCM without upgrading to your infrastructure saving lots of money and including new features like:
Embedded Auto Attendants
IVR for integration with Calendar and Contacts
Single Message Store reducing licensing and infrastructure cost
Single Directory which reduces administration overhead.
For all updated info on integration with Exchange UM check out the Telephony Advisor -
The config notes for configuring Cisco Call Manager and Audiocodes via IP-to-IP SIP Trunking.
from the notes....When Cisco CallManager Version 4.x is implemented alone (i.e., directly interfacing) with Exchange Server 2007, certain Exchange Server 2007 functionalities are not supported such as Auto-Attended, MWI, and T.38 fax transport mode. Therefore, Cisco CallManager version 4.x suffers feature limitations when operating with Exchange Server 2007. Upgrade to Cisco CallManager Version 6.x seems to resolve these issues, but the trade-off is an extremely costly investment.
Voicemail Integration. Some other great features involve the integration with OCS and Exchange 2007. The below screenshot shows how you can call someone's voicemail directly from communicator.
Another screenshot shows the tighter integration with Exchange Unified Messaging (UM). In OCS 2007 RTM Office Communicator has the ability to Call the Voicemail. This is important as the user is already authenticated and doesn't require the VoicePIN to access Voicemail. In R2 we also provide this quick access to the Greetings. This allows the user to change the Voicemail Greetings via this launch button. Great Stuff!!!
Stay tuned as we continue to deliver information about R2.
For years I've used NTBackup to backup Exchange database files. This is no longer possible in Windows 2008. I used this to backup files to disk and then copy these to tape SAN. This is no longer possible on Exchange 2007 SP1 server on Windows 2008 because Windows 2008 has removed the option to take file based backups to disk. NTBackup is able to read and restore data from old backup sets, but is not be able to create new backups.
This is because Windows 2008 has a new Windows Backup utility that performs block-level backups using VSS and can only backup full volumes. Backups are created as an image of the original volumes using VHD files, with VSS used to track and store changes. This means that you cannot store backup sets on the same volume as the original data and that you need to choose an empty volume as the backup target.
When upgrading to Windows 2008 keep this in mind and look at other solutions to backup Exchange including using DPM. Some info on this:
Correction - Thanks to tr!!! The Exchange Team is working on a resolution to this. No date has been set yet but don't expect full parity with the experience with Windows 2003 and NTBackup. http://msexchangeteam.com/archive/2008/06/18/449031.aspx
One of our partners Enabling Technologies was interviewed at VoiceCon by Blair Pleasant of CommFusion and UCStragegies.com. Bill Vollerthum and Christian Stegh of Enabling Technologies discuss unified communications, unified messaging and industry innovations on this podcast.