Tag Archives: OCS 2007

MS releases release candidate of Lync

Big news this morning: Microsoft just dropped the release candidate build of Lync. This is the product suite formerly known as Communications Server “14”. I’m glad to see a simpler name, and it looks like the simplified branding also applies to the mobile clients and the Live Meeting desktop (and maybe the service; I can’t tell yet.)

There are a lot of changes in CS14 Lync and I really haven’t had time to dig into them (though I’m really looking forward to PowerShell support!) However, I was already in the process of rebuilding our existing OCS 2007 R2 installation at work, so it might be time to move to Lync instead. All hail Software Assurance! Of course, I’d bet that the RC build of Lync isn’t supported for production use, and I have no indication that there will be a build-to-build upgrade from the RC (as there almost always is for Exchange.) I may have to wait a bit before rolling it out. In the meantime, there are a ton of videos covering new features in Lync that I should probably watch…

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TechEd 2010 wrapup

Executive summary: man, it felt good to be back home. Not literally, of course; I grew up in Houma, which is very unlike New Orleans in most ways, and I haven’t lived in Louisiana for more than 20 years. Though I’ve never lived in New Orleans, I’ve visited it many times and in many different circumstances: going to my dad’s office in the CBD, honeymooning there with my wife, working frantically to finish sessions at MGB when I was first starting 3Sharp, and playing the tourist when going to visit family. The goodness came from being surrounded by the familiar sense of community and place that I think everyone has to some degree, and having that familiarity complemented by the company of some of my very best friends.

I arrived on Monday afternoon. At around 4pm, it was 95° and solid overcast, with probably 80% humidity. In other words, it was a typical June afternoon. After a quick cab ride from the airport, I dropped off my stuff at the Courtyard by Marriott on St Charles Avenue. By happy coincidence, this was right across the street from the Pearl, a restaurant where I ate lunch with my dad pretty much every time I went to visit his office. I picked this hotel because it was inexpensive and because Marriott is running a great promotion, but I was delighted to see such a memorable (to me, anyway) landmark right off the bat. (The hotel was excellent, by the way: clean, comfortable, safe, and convenient.)

I took a few minutes to drop off my stuff, then walked over to the convention center to register and get my TechEd badge. It was a pleasant walk despite the heat and humidity, and once I got registered I spent a few minutes walking around the show floor, where I met up with a gaggle of Windows IT Pro Magazine folks. After a brisk walk back to the hotel, I cleaned up a bit before walking over to Brennan’s Palace Café for dinner.

As you might expect from a restaurant run by a member of the Brennan family, the food was superb. I had an excellent piece of pecan-crusted redfish, a bit of crabmeat cheesecake, and some excellent BBQ shrimp. The crowning touch: bananas Foster, something I hadn’t had in years. The only drawback was that service was, shall we say, leisurely– we sat down about 8pm and didn’t finish dessert until about 11:30! I was sorry that dinner took so long, as there was a separate Exchange Roundtable event that I also wanted to attend.


Tuesday morning I’d set up a group breakfast at Café Beignet on Royal, just a couple of blocks from my hotel. Several Exchange MVPs and assorted other folks showed up; I finally got to meet Jeff Guillet and Tino Donderwinkel in person. Then it was time to walk over to the MVP NDA sessions organized by our most excellent MVP team. While I can’t talk about the specifics of the sessions, I can say that there are some pretty nifty things coming later this year from the Exchange and Communications Server teams– and I’m not just talking about the things they’ve already announced. (Fascinating thing I learned during lunch: dell.com is powered by SharePoint!)

For dinner, I joined fellow MVPs Jason Sherry and Pat Richard at Coop’s Place, right near Central Grocery (another favorite spot of mine). I’d never been there before, but I’ll be there again. The gumbo was OK, but the red beans, rice, and sausage I had was outstanding! I ate until I couldn’t eat any more. Fortunately, that coincided with my plate being empty.

We then walked over to the Aquarium of the Americas for the “community influencer” party. Don’t get me wrong. I love aquariums, and I really love this particular aquarium. However, it was odd being there without the huge crowds I associate with places like this and this. The community-influencer parties are always a bit of a crap shoot because you never know exactly who will show up; I spotted a few other folks I knew but didn’t stay long. Instead I went back to the hotel, wrote my UPDATE column, and watch the hated Lakers beat the Celtics in game 3.

Wednesday, my final day, dawned early; I met Jim McBee for breakfast and we… wait for it… went to an actual TechEd session. I won’t say which one, except that I was very disappointed with it. The speaker wasn’t a very good presenter, his demos didn’t work, he finished more than 30 minutes early, and the part of the presentation that I stayed for was pretty much recycled from the Exchange documentation. Rather than subject ourselves to any further risk of stupidification, we took off for the National World War II Museum.

Wow. I could have spent all day there. We started with Beyond All Boundaries, a movie summarizing World War II in 48 minutes. It moved me to tears several times, not just because of the bravery and sacrifice of those who fought for the Allies but for the needless waste, death, and destruction suffered by civilians on both sides. I never knew that nearly 20 million Chinese died during World War II, nor that the UK suffered more deaths than the US did (and proportionately their losses compared to ours were even greater). We didn’t have time to go through the entire museum because Jim and I both had other engagements, but I will make it a point to go back next time I’m in New Orleans.

In the afternoon, I shot two video interviews with Paul Thurrott: one on Windows Phone 7 and one on Exchange 2010 and Communications Server “14”. This was especially cool because– despite having worked together at Windows IT Pro for years— we’d never met in the flesh. The interviews were fun to do, and I’ll post a link to them once the video folks are done with them.

After that, the trip home was pretty much anti-climactic (except that my cab got buzzed by an F-15 on full burner when we drove past the end of the active runway). Just the way I like it! Tomorrow it’s back to work.

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Exchange Connections Fall 2010 call for sessions

My co-chairs and I are working on assembling this year’s Exchange Connections content, which we’ll be presenting November 1-4 in Las Vegas at good ol’ Mandalay Bay. That’s why I’m posting this call for sessions!

Everything you should need to know is in this document.

The deadline for session proposals is May 6 – hurry, hurry, as usual! Although the deadline is May 6, the sooner you can send in session proposals, the better the odds are we’ll be able to choose your sessions. I’ll try and respond to your submissions on the same business day with any thoughts or requests or tweaks. The conference has a brochure to get out pretty much ASAP if we’re going to get people to show up, so time is – as always – of the essence.

Note that we’ll be co-located, as usual, with dedicated conferences for Visual Studio, ASP.NET, Windows, SharePoint, and goodness knows what else – so for these proposals, stick strictly with Exchange and OCS topics.

If you want to submit sessions, see the call for sessions. If you have questions, you can ask them here or via e-mail.

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New OCS 2007 R2 virtualization white paper

I mentioned this during my TechEd session (which, btw, will also be the topic of a TechNet webcast in August), but I forgot to link to it. There’s a pretty good white paper available explaining the ins and outs of virtualizing OCS 2007 R2. In skimming it I was surprised to find that Microsoft doesn’t support virtualizing the update server; I’ll have a more in-depth analysis once I have a chance to read it more thoroughly.

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TechEd, days 2 and 3

Tuesday, day 2 at TechEd, was one of the busiest days I’ve had in a while. I spent part of the morning preparing for my afternoon Interactive Theater session on Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online offering, then worked a three-hour booth shift, this time in the Protection and Compliance booth. I was a little surprised with the number of questions that centered on Active Directory Rights Management Services; lots of people wanted to know more about Outlook protection rules (the new feature that lets you push a policy to Outlook clients that requires them to apply specific RMS templates to certain messages) and transport rules for RMS application. We also had a few archiving and cross-mailbox-search questions too, although not as many as I expected going in.

In the afternoon, I held UNC01-INT, a live demo and chalk talk on the Business Productivity Online suite. It was fairly well attended; I’d guess that there were about 40 people in the room. Thankfully my demos all went well; I showed the Microsoft Online Customer Portal, which you use for signup, billing, and so on, as well as the “my company” portal and the BPO single-sign-on agent. For the web-based portions of the demo, I used Windows 7 RC with IE8, and it performed flawlessly– a good sign for the stability and utility of the release version.

The Business Productivity Online team scheduled a thank-you dinner at Ciudad for the people who spoke on BPO topics, and they were kind enough to invite me to join them. At my end of the table, I had a former commercial fisherman who was born and raised in Alaska, a man who worked two summers in college as a commercial fisherman in Alaska, and an avid fisherman from Seattle. You can probably guess what we talked about!

Wednesday was the big enchilada: UNC304, my talk on OCS deployment and management. However, before I could do that session, I had another turn of booth duty, this time in the deployment and management booth. I could distill the bulk of the questions I got into two individual queries: Is it true that you can do online mailbox moves in Exchange 2010, and if I’m using Exchange 2003 right now, should I move to Exchange 2007 or Exchange 2010? These were popular enough questions that I’m working on separate posts for them.

The session itself went well, although I was in one of the cavernous 600-seat rooms, so it felt kind of empty. I demoed the OCS 2007 R2 topology planning tool and showed some screen shots of the new device management console (having neglected to bring a real device with me to manage!) Afterwards I got into a long discussion with some folks from the University of Florida about how their helpdesk might use OCS, plus I met Tyler Regas for the first time face-to-face. Following the session, I had to duck out and grab a taxi to the airport to catch my flight home.

One post-show update: in UNC304, I mentioned the client interoperability matrix for using multiple points of presence, or MPOP. Microsoft’s Peter Schmatz was kind enough to send along an updated link to the most recent matrix; it’s here.

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TechEd, day 0: my schedule

Actually, I’m a day late– I should have posted this last night, but I was too tired! I had an uneventful flight from DTW-LAX on a crowded but bearable NW A320, then a remarkably expensive yet reasonably safe taxi ride to the Sheraton Los Angeles downtown.

I’m in Los Angeles for TechEd 2009, where I’m presenting and working in the Exchange booth. Today I’ve got a couple of phone meetings with my 3Sharp posse, then a session in the “Anywhere Access” section of the Exchange booth from 1115 to 1445. Following that, I plan to attend a set of MVP deep-dive sessions that the product group is putting on, then I’ll be able to take a short break before having dinner with some folks from the Exchange product team.

Tomorrow things heat up: I have booth duty (this time in the “Protection and Compliance” area) from 0930 to 1230, followed by a session (UNC01-INT) from 1445-1600 in the Interactive Theater “Yellow 1” area on Microsoft’s Exchange Online offering. I plan to do a bunch of demos there, so if you’re interested in how Exchange Online works, stop by!

Wednesday I have booth duty again (0930-1230 in “Deployment and Management”), after which I’m doing a session (UNC304) on OCS 2007 R2 deployment and management. That should be fun, but I’ll be watching the clock (and trying hard to finish on time, something I rarely do) in order to make my flight home.

If you’re in the area, feel free to stop by and say hello!

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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.


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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Following up on training investment

I got some great feedback via e-mail from my previous post about the value of Microsoft’s MCM training. Shortly after I posted, Devin wrote a long and detailed post on the actual economics of getting an MCM: what it costs vs what you can potentially earn. In conjunction with his argument, I wanted to point out that the OCS MCM class is now on sale for its next two rotations: R2 (April 27-May 16) has a 50% “public beta” discount, and R3 (June 8-27) has a 30% discount. If only I had time to go!


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INTERACT 2009, part 1

Last year, INTERACT was a fantastic physical conference held in San Diego (a hard location to beat!) This year, Microsoft’s changed things up. There are separate, and mostly concurrent, events in Reading, UK, Boston, and Redmond, plus an online virtual event. I flew in yesterday and am now in the middle of an Exchange high availability session. There are two parallel tracks: one covering Exchange 14, and one covering OCS 2007 R2 topics. I’m mostly attending the Exchange sessions, but there are some pretty nifty OCS sessions as well.

The weather’s been weird since I got here; yesterday as I was driving to the Microsoft campus, I drove into a good-sized hailstorm. The hailstones were small, but there were enough of them to perceptibly whiten the ground. Fortunately it stopped hailing before I had to get out of the car!

I’m preparing a series of blog posts on various topics that I’ll post over the next few days. Some of these posts have some really exciting stuff in them that hasn’t been publicly disclosed yet, so stay tuned!

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Unified communication news roundup, March 09 edition

I’ve been collecting bits and pieces of information that were too short to make meaningful posts on their own– now I’ve mashed them together to make a semi-meaningful post.

First, OCS/LCS guru Joe Schurman has a new book out: Microsoft Voice and Unified Communications. As soon as I got Dustin Hannifin’s mail announcing it, I ordered it.

Second, I found that Microsoft has an extensive listing of products that have been certified as supported with OCS 2007 R2 under the Unified Communications Open Interoperability Program. There’s a lot of interesting stuff there (including the fact that I’m a revision behind on my 3300 firmware).

Third, OCS and Speech Server MVP Marshall Harrison launched a new site, GotUC.net. It’s a portal dedicated to the OCS development community. It’s still fairly new, so there isn’t much there, but I expect that to change over time– drop by and say hi.

I also need to write a summary of my MVP Summit experiences, but that will have to wait until later.

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