INTERACT 2009 keynote recap

Moz Hussein, Rajesh Jha, and Gurdeep Singh Pall delivered the INTERACT 2009 keynote. (I was liveblogging it, but couldn’t post it until after the event, then I forgot.)

Rajesh: software + services is a “very pragmatic, and I think in some ways, inevitable, part of every organization’s array of things to think about.” Every org has to decide what’s best for it based on constraints, goals, compliance requirements, etc. S+S means “no technology ultimatum” imposed by the vendor: you can move workload between the cloud and premises in whatever mix makes sense for you. “We think about 40% of organizations don’t offer e-mail or advanced communication services to their employees”– target for Deskless Worker Services. Experiences from running Exchange 2010 dogfood for Exchange Labs has provided great feedback, including accelerated innovation and stability.

Gurdeep: what’s OCS doing around services? “First and foremost, we’re letting Exchange go in and figure out our problems!” (this got a big laugh.) IM and presence being offered starting 15 April for Office Communications Online standard edition customers.

Rajesh: Consumer technologies aren’t manageable, but consumerization of IT is real– it’s happening. Every university, college, high school student is used to gigabyte mailboxes. Technology that works for the older generation may not be what you need to attract and retain the newer generation.

Gurdeep: “I’ll never forgive marketing folks for changing the INTERACT format.” (chuckles) Lots of change and transformation in the voice market, all going on with the backdrop of “the biggest economic event we’ll see in our lifetimes.” It’s both concerning and a great opportunity.

Moz: what does the economy mean for IT pros?

Gurdeep: a lot of things are out of our control. People deal with that in different ways. Within Microsoft, we discussed how to deal with this. Researched the Great Depression, including figuring out how many of the Fortune 100 survived and/or grew. Common thread: innovation and transformation (e.g. Sears transformed from exclusive mail-order to rural customers to a mix of mail-order and retail). Things to do: manage costs “like you’ve never done before”, but be careful not to eat away muscle– during a rebound, that’s when you’ll fail. #1 step typically is changing how you do things.

Moz: what does “unified” really mean?

Gurdeep: NYC is an amazing city. Latest discovery: you can buy great, amazing brand-name bags right on the street for real cheap! (laughs) What’s interesting: those were cheap imitations. Problem in this industry: we have expensive imitations in the UC space. After intro of UC technology, benefits have driven wide adoption of “unified” as a moniker, but lots of so-called UC systems are the results of acquisitions– multiple user experiences, multiple back-ends, complicated provisioning. Important for buyers to be savvy about what’s unified and what isn’t. Don’t be fooled by checkbox comparisons. How many distinct user experiences are users going to be subjected to? Video conferencing systems are semi-widespread, but why aren’t they used more? They’re too hard to use! MS focus on single directory, single set of components, single management experience provides a true unified experience. How did a billion people get on the Internet? Self-driven– you couldn’t intentionally train a billion people to do anything if you wanted to.

Moz: how are Exchange and OCS getting closer together?

Gurdeep: we’re already tied together in many ways: directory, common contacts, etc. “If you have Exchange 2007 deployed, then adding OCS 2007 R2, is much easier now than it has been in the past.” Still some areas of mismatch (like Powershell; Powershell support coming to OCS in the next release). As we move forward, we’re looking at other integration points, but “you cannot push this too far”– handling for different content types like voice and e-mail are fundamentally different.

Rajesh: my favorite OCS feature is that they’re going to be adding PowerShell, “giving everyone a unified way to manage. That’s a great example where we’re working towards giving you more common tools across workloads.”

Gurdeep: my favorite Exchange feature: 70% IOPS reduction from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2007, then a further 50% reduction from 2007 to Exchange 2010.

Moz: how should people be approaching the architecture for UC?

Gurdeep: I have all these disparate systems for conferencing, video, etc. I made disparate decisions to buy them because they’re separate silos. Microsoft’s UC vision unifies all these things, but you can’t just throw away what you already have. First priority: develop an overall UC architecture vision to get a “magnetic north”. If you’re ready to resign your expensive contract for audioconferencing service, having an architecture helps you consider rolling out OCS for that– and once the infrastructure is in place, you can easily and quickly add new capabilities. IM and presence are core features that are easy to get up and running. For many of your users, ask the question: is that desk phone still necessary? Would you rather buy a $300 netbook or a $300 IP phone? Lifetime costs for phones are baked into the system– you have to discover and eliminate them. Simple rule: if you can get down to 1 of anything, likely you’ll be paying less for it. PBX industry is a lot like the mainframe industry: vertically integrated, single source. Once they sold you the mainframe, they had you! “Don’t buy the mainframe!” The decisions you make now will lock you in for the next 5-6 years. Don’t get locked in, and be savvy about the cost and changes that are there.

Moz: as you think about the role of the IT pro, what’s the to-do list for prospering in the current situation?

Rajesh: Very important to have a vision of where you want to go. Economic environment imposes constraints. Resource constraints can be a huge clarifying factor: we force ourselves to impose constraints and use them to make progress on longer-term plans. Admins lead by understanding their organizational goals and technologies, then driving changes.

Gurdeep: no one ever calls telecom managers to ask them to help move solutions forward– they call to yell that phones are down. Change in roles: have to figure out how to get ahead and move the business forward. Many examples: if the economic situation stays like this, companies will have to ask whether it makes sense to have expensive real estate.

Moz: we’re announcing Exchange 14 tomorrow. What 3 things do you most want to talk about?

Rajesh: Let me do 4! Super-excited about Exchange 2010. Available in public beta on 15 April. First key investment: important for us to keep the end user in mind. What we do to make them productive translates into cost savings. $650 billion/yr lost to e-mail interruptions (based on Basex): 25% of IW workday is responding to e-mail. We give you access from broad range of mobile phones and browsers, but we also provide tools to manage information overload. MailTips, voice mail preview, “ignore conversation”. Archiving and compliance improvements.

Gurdeep: having IM contacts built into OWA is a very cool feature too.

Q&A

What are some of the developer opportunities for this combined platform?

Gurdeep: taking a software-centric approach opens up a lot of opportunities. Developer opportunity really isn’t there on traditional PBX systems.Single biggest opportunity for transformation isn’t replacing voice with OCS– it’s to allow you to think across all the software in your enterprise with communications-enabled business processes (CEBP). A word of caution: enterprise developers speak a different language! Example: “MSExpense is a tool that we use so that when you spend money we cause you pain.” We’re working with the internal app developers to IM and presence-enable MSExpense so the app can use presence status to alert people and make routing decisions.

Rajesh: Mac Business Unit moving to Exchange Web Services for Entourage. We’re also trying to get RIM to move their services over to EWS instead of MAPI.

How is Microsoft using software + services?

Rajesh: We’re moving some of our internal users over to the services platform. We’re using the high availability and DAS work that we’ve been doing for customers internally as a proving ground.

What are some of the biggest blockers to software + services?

Gurdeep: go back to 1997– knowing what you know now, would you buy a mainframe? There are industries where software as an application can become a blocker.

Rajesh: if you have a good sense of where you want to be a few years out, that helps inform what you should do now.

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