Office Communications Server Wave 14 is awesome. It delivers a single, manageable, and highly available voice, video, messaging, conferencing, and collaboration platform.
As a user of Office Communications Server 2007 R2 as my primary PBX, I'm excited to see how Wave 14 brings new capabilities to OCS that allow it to serve as a primary voice solution for companies with even stringent voice requirements. I'd summarize these in the following areas:
Core Voice Capabilities:
- Core voice capabilities for even the most complex voice solutions. Check out the pseudo RFP response that Microsoft created for VoiceCon this year.
- E911 (including dynamic location based)
The E911 capabilities in OCS Wave 14 include intelligent E911 information, including the location of the individual. This information is dynamically tracked based upon network location, or can be manually set based upon the user. This allows for emergency personnel to have information about an individual's location, not only for a site, but to a specific location within a site based upon network.
- Branch Office Resiliency (integration with branch office appliances)
- Extensive SIP phone support
Wave 14 includes a complete set of voice devices, including a good number of new SIP phones from Polycom, Astra, and other companies. The addition of new voice endpoints will allow OCS to serve many different voice customer types through the out-of-box product. Check out these phone devices:
- Additional QoS and COS features
Wave 14 includes additional QoS and COS capabilities. This includes controls like call admission control.
- Conferencing and IVR
The features of conferencing has been extended, especially as relates to setting conferencing permissions (like who can start the conference), IVR, as well as the features built right into communicator.
Communicator is now the single tool used for all communication from the standpoint of voice, video, conferencing, messaging, and presence. Live Meeting features are now part of communicator.
The OCS Wave 14 product brings a new version of communicator, which eliminates the secondary live meeting client. The advantage of this is it eliminates the confusion between the two products. The cool thing is that you can start with an IM and end up with a full collaborative conference call, all without leaving the Communicator tool.
- Communicator features are functional through Silverlight.
- User-centric collaboration, with control over end-points, and integration into AD / SharePoint identity
- Historical conversation views
- UI improvements like Integrated pictures, consolidation of address book entries, and frequent contacts
- Improved integration with Windows 7 through super-bar and toast notifications
- Virtualization support for any role
Virtualization has long been unsupported with Microsoft voice technologies. This is changing with OCS Wave 14!! The capabilities of virtualization have now been extended to even voice roles within OCS Wave 14. Of course, it will be necessary to ensure voice workloads are supported by the necessary server resources. That said, this shows how even the most resource intensive applications (such as voice) are moving toward virtualization.
- Greater consolidation of roles for smaller implementations
The OCS topologies have been improved from the standpoint that you can consolidate roles where the capacity requirements allow. This is awesome, as this allows IT administrators to deploy only the hardware resources necessary to support their users and in the topologies which match that need. Of course, virtualization will be a huge asset here as well.
- Better centralized management for enterprise environments
You'll find the management capabilities in OCS Wave 14 greatly improved, especially in respect to centrally managing all OCS nodes. This is important, as in the past IT administrators had to use many different consoles to manage different OCS roles.
- Extensive capability to extend communicator for business applications
- Great for integration with web sites, especially for finding individuals with specific skills
- Capability to build in technologies like targeted call recording, product pictures, inventory lookup, and the list goes on...
- Built on the capabilities that exist in OCS 2007 R2
- Live Messenger voice and video federation is going to be a capability in OCS Wave 14.
This is important, as imagine how an OCS integrated help desk could work with end users at home, or a person could use communicator to open up an audio call with his Live Messenger at home.
- Systems management is now fully integrated through PowerShell
- The management experience is now centralized and web enabled.
- Enhanced control over voice endpoints (for administrators and users), as well as end user options.
- Control everything. A key message is that almost everything in OCS Wave 14 can be selectively turned on, or turned off. This is important because some companies may not want a feature like Live Messenger video conferencing, or might not want their office location shared. Features can be controlled by the administrator, or end users can control what kinds of information they want to share.
Microsoft's Office Communications Server Wave 14 platform is a single tool which provides many different communications capabilities, including voice, video, messaging, and collaboration. It can replace a existing voice solution or integrate with it. It provides clear productivity gains. It is extremely manageable and highly available. Wow.