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Friday, October 19, 2007

Microsoft Partners Back Unified Communications

Microsoft always augments the release of its software with an avalanche of partner support, and it was no different with Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator 2007. The two combine to form the heart of Microsoft's unified communications (UC) platform, which is made up of many interconnected parts.

Microsoft's partners Tuesday lined up behind the launch of the company's unified communications platform, with Nortel releasing six products to cement its year-long development relationship with the software giant, and vendors such as FaceTime adapting their management wares for Office Communications Server 2007.

More than 50 partners released software, hardware and services to support the new platform. These partners include systems integrators, telephony providers, ISVs and phone/device vendors.

Nortel leads the way

Nortel led the charge by releasing a portfolio of products from infrastructure servers to phone handsets.

The announcements are a logical extension of the Microsoft/Nortel Innovative Communications Alliance (ICA) established in 2006, which incorporates Microsoft's unified communications software and Nortel's Communications Server 1000 IP-PBX.

"We want to lead this transition to unified communications," says Ruchi Prasad, Nortel's vice president and general manager for ICA.

Tuesday, Nortel released Converged Office, which integrates Nortel IP-PBX telephony features with OCS and supports the Office Communicator client as the single end-user interface for all UC functions; Multimedia Conferencing 5.0, which integrates with OCS to support audio conferencing with an option to switch to video conferencing; Secure Router 4134, which now includes a SIP gateway to help users extend UC into branch offices; integration of OCS with Nortel's applications switches and application accelerator hardware; and the IP Phone 8500 Series, which is optimized for use with OCS and Communicator.

Instant messaging management and hygiene vendor FaceTime announced that it has updated its suite of management, security and compliance software to support OCS. The management lets companies control access to IM networks per user, bar communication between specific user groups, and block such actions as file transfers. The software also lets users control IM spam known as SPIM, protect against worms and viruses, and meet compliance needs with logging, auditing and controls to prevent tampering with messages.

And telephony provider NEC announced it will release a USB handset that works with OCS, a middleware server called Univerge OW5000 to connect its PBX to OCS, and the MGW Gateway for Office Communicator to provide PSTN/ISDN interconnection functions to OCS and VoIP connectivity to existing PBX/KTS deployments.

NEC also plans to optimize its voice, video and data technologies to integrate with other Microsoft collaboration tools, including Exchange Server 2007 and SharePoint 2007.

Others releasing products to support OCS included Aculab, Covergence, Dell, Dialogic, EMC, Ericsson, Foundry Networks, Mitel, Palm, PolyCom, Quest Software, Samsung, Tandberg and Unisys.

Microsoft has existing partnerships with Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco Systems and Siemens Communications

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