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Integrated IM and ShoreTel

When it comes to unified communications, it so often feels like it's OCS this and Sametime that. As I've mentioned in other posts, a number of PBX developers have enterprise instant messaging software of their own. Sure, they can integrate their PBXs with Microsoft or maybe IBM ... but if you're not tied to one or the other you don't really need them.ShoreTel, as it turns out, is the latest to fall into this category. Earlier this year the company released integration with Microsoft Live Communications Server 2005. Then ShoreTel extended that integration to Office Communications Server 2007. It's something only mentioned in passing in the ShoreTel press release and completely glossed over in the What's New in ShoreTel 8.1 blog. But here's a bit on how it works. ShoreTel customers cannot actually use Microsoft Office Communicator, the LCS/OCS client. Instead, ShoreTel's Personal Call Manager client is deployed to end users' desktops. IM presence info is then pulled from LCS/OCS, telephony presence is pulled from the ShoreTel voice switches, and both types of presence are aggregated on the Personal Call Manager client. This is similar to a few other OCS integrations out there. So all well and good.

But the new 8.1 software provides yet another IM option. ShoreTel's Converged Conferencing server now has integrated instant messaging services built into it. So instead of deploying enterprise IM software from a third party, ShoreTel customers can stick with ShoreTel products and (hopefully) get a cleaner IM-and-telephony solution.

Granted, ShoreTel is not the first IP PBX company to go down this road. I think Nortel was the first IP PBX company to deliver a corporate IM server, which was (and remains) part of its MCS 5100 offering. Inter-Tel had enterprise IM as part of Unified Communicator, long before its acquisition by Mitel. Cisco's Unified Communications Manager has oddly under-marketed inherent IM services, which will be bolstered with the Jabber technology.

But it's interesting to me that despite all the hullabaloo over Microsoft and IBM integrations, there are in fact plenty of options when it comes to implementing corporate IM into an otherwise voice-centric communications solution.