Virtualization is the Key To OCS Success
Its ability to deliver virtualized solutions allow it to offer a compelling argument to add telephony to existing OCS deployments
In making yet another splash at VoiceCon, Microsoft focused a great deal of attention on its efforts to close the gap between Office Communications Server and enterprise IP-PBX platforms from competitors including Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, NEC, ShoreTel and Siemens, to name a few. As Brian Riggs noted, Microsoft's new features are leading a growing number of end-user organizations to consider ditching their IP-PBXs in favor of an all-OCS UC environment. Preliminary results of our 2010 benchmark show OCS deployments rapidly increasing, though we primarily see drivers for OCS adoption as enterprise instant messaging and conferencing. Microsoft still hasn't gained mindshare among those responsible for telephony. IT architects continue to express a range of concerns around reliability and complexity, Microsoft's lack of experience with highly available phone systems, and a lack of a full Microsoft Office Communicator client for Mac. Few have bought into the vision of replacing telephones with soft-clients due to concerns related to voice quality and the challenges of supporting a phone that competes with other applications for processor cycles.As it tries to match capabilities of competitive IPT phone systems Microsoft actually loses a bit of its competitive edge. Yes, you read that correctly. By delivering such features as dedicated phones, branch gateways, more robust telephony features, and even support for E-911, Microsoft, more than ever before, now resembles the beast it is trying to kill. Meanwhile, Microsoft's competitors have quickly moved to execute on their own vision of software-based telephony via richer desktop clients, mobile integration, and support for both IBM and Microsoft UC dashboards. Customers no longer see OCS as a completely different, software-based platform. Instead, they see it as just another IP-PBX, not far off in architecture from other software-based solutions.
So what's the real "killer-app" for OCS Wave 14 if the lines between it and other IP-PBXs are starting to blur? Virtualization.
Microsoft first announced virtualization support for OCS back in mid-2009, and as Brian wrote, early adopter A.T. Kearney noted that the ability to virtualize OCS servers was a key to the success of its initiatives. By shifting to a virtualized environment Microsoft allows its customers to accomplish two goals: reduce the number of physical servers required to support telephony, thus reducing capital and operating costs; and enable cloud-based services. Our research shows that once companies settle on a cloud-based architecture, they often begin to evaluate the opportunity to shift their private cloud services to a public cloud.
As I noted in my last NoJitter Post, the time is now for IP telephony and UC vendors to virtualize their offerings. Virtualization was critical to Siemens' "Best in VoiceCon" award for its OpenScape UC Server 2010 delivered in partnership with VMWare. Give credit to Siemens as an industry visionary, its introduction of OpenScape defined the unified communications market before it even existed. Mitel also touts its recent partnership with VMWare to virtualize call control. But Mitel and Siemens face the same challenge as other IP telephony/UC vendors; as Microsoft OCS deployments grow, and Microsoft continues to develop features and capabilities that position it to ultimately replace the IP-PBX in the long run; its ability to deliver virtualized solutions allow it to offer a compelling argument to add telephony to existing OCS deployments rather than maintain separate, stand-alone telephony systems.
In a side note, I'd like to congratulate Fred and Eric for yet another successful VoiceCon and a tremendous 20th birthday. It's with a bit of sadness that I bid goodbye to the VoiceCon name, but the time is right. VoiceCon is now Enterprise Connect, reflecting the reality that communications and collaboration are far less about voice, and far more about connecting people across a variety of mediums.Its ability to deliver virtualized solutions allow it to offer a compelling argument to add telephony to existing OCS deployments