Lync Online & VoIP


Microsoft are readying Office 365, the new version of their Online Services offering, to be released within the next 3-4 months and one of the new features over it’s previous iteration, BPOS, is the inclusion of VoIP (Voice over IP) Audio.

However, due to certain licensing restrictions, it isn’t currently available in all countries that can use the Office 365 service. Below is a table showing the current standing for VOIP availability across the range of countries who have the beta.

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I assume this is down to specific country laws as to what services you can provide before you’re classed as a Telecommunications Provider…surely an area MS don’t want to get into!

I have to say I’m surprised it will be available in the UK Smile

Microsoft BPOS: More new features


Microsoft BPOS has, yet again, been something of a star of the Worldwide Partner Conference and a bunch of new features have been confirmed/announced. They are:

Exchange Online:

  • Voice mail with Unified Messaging
  • Integrated archiving
  • Retention policies and legal hold
  • Transport rules
  • Multi-mailbox search
  • Conversation View
  • MailTips
  • Enhanced Web-based administration
  • Role-Based Access Control
  • Remote PowerShell
  • Free/busy between cloud and on-premises
  • Cross-premises management
  • Native migration tools

     

    Sharepoint Online:

     

  • Portal site templates
  • Extranet access
  • Anonymous Access
  • Multi-Lingual UI
  • Office 2010 integration
  • Tagging, Rating, Tag Cloud
  • Activity Feed, Social Networking, Note Board
  • Improved Wikis & Blogs
  • Content publishing
  • Navigation controls
  • Cross site-collection search
  • Phonetic search
  • People search
  • Visio Services
  • Excel Services
  • Sandboxed Solutions
  • Improved workflows
  • Improved SharePoint Designer 2010
  • Access Services
  • Better controls of FQDNs

     

    Office Communications Online:

     

  • P2P A/V across firewall
  • File transfer across firewall
  • Presence with pictures
  • Federation
  • IM with Windows Live

     

    Platform Updates:

     

  • Free/Busy co-existence
  • Single Sign On
  • Identity federation
  • Redesigned admin interface
  • More administration and access control

    There are some really awesome additions here, which will make BPOS hugely more attractive and credible to users in the mid-market segment. Some of the game changes are, in my opinion,:

    Exchange Online:

    • Transport Rules
    • Legal Hold
    • Unified Messaging
    • Remote Powershell

    Sharepoint Online:

    Extranet & Anonymous Access

    Cross Site Collection Search

    Visio, Access & Excel Services

    Office Communications Online:

    Federation.

     

    These new features bring Microsoft’s Online Services so much closer to feature parity with their existing on-premise brethren which is what I, and most people, have been waiting/asking/pleading/clamouring for. The number of times I’ve had a customer opportunity collapse due to BPOS missing a standard and relatively basic feature isn’t funny!

    This is a very positive move from Microsoft which will make the world of Online Services a much better place for Microsoft, it’s partners and our customers 🙂

  • BPOS 2010 aka Wave 14


    BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), Microsoft’s Online Services offering has been somewhat successful over the last year or so, but it is about to become a much more robust platform. Over the next few months the “Wave 14” rollout will begin, with an aim to being completed by the end of 2010.

    The biggest update is that the products will match the versions that are available to purchase “on-site”. That is, BPOS will offer Exchange 2010 and Sharepoint 2010 with near feature parity; removing one of the biggest hurdles to BPOS adoption…at least in my experience.

    However, there are a number of other additions and improvements coming…

    Identity and authentication has been an issue for many people, as this whole area is quite clunky & “un-modern”. As Program Manager Dan Kershaw says:

    “the password policy isn’t configurable, you can’t use the same credentials used inside the company for single sign-on with BPOS so admins have to maintain separate credentials, there’s no two-factor authentication and no role-based administration”.

    The fact that Microsoft recognise these limitations is great as that means they’re also working on fixes. The update will bring:

    • Password Policy controls
    • Five admin roles
    • Federated ID’s w/ 2 factor authentication for single sign-on
    • New Admin Console
    • Service connector for managing Pcs & apps.

     

    Powershell is definitely the way forward for 21st century system admins and, while it can be used for certain things with the current iteration of BPOS, more is coming soon.

    I covered off some of the new features of Sharepoint Online 2010 in this post but now there is more information on what’s coming for Office Communications Online (OCO) over the next year.

    Currently OCO gives IM and presence, along with peer to peer video, only within the customer’s domain. One of it’s biggest limitations is the inability to “federate” with on-premise OCS servers…this slightly puzzling block will be removed with Wave 14.

    It’s said there will be “full integration” with Exchange & Sharepoint, both on-site and online.

    This will lead to:

    • using the calendars on Exchange/Sharepoint to determine someone’s IM availability
    • voicemail in Exchange Online
    • IM functionality in OWA 2010.

    One of the biggest questions people have is whether Office Comms Online will have VOIP/Voice capabilities.

    "it might be more than a year later," says Ziv Fass, Senior Product Manager in the OCS team "but it won’t be years".

    From a reseller AND a customer point of view, the updated versions of Microsoft’s Online Services will be a real benefit to us all.

    Office Communications Server (OCS) 14


    Microsoft have given the first public views of Office Communications Server (OCS) 14 and it seems to be following the social networking/integration path of Office & Sharepoint 2010.

    One thing that I like the look of is:

    Skill Search

    Employees enter their skills/interests into their Sharepoint profile and these are then searchable from OCS 14.

    This really ties into how a lot of people use OCS/Communicator most of the time, especially Microsoft employees. Say I ask a question about Sharepoint 2010 and my contact doesn’t know, they jump into Communicator and ping a quick IM to the relevant person. For a major product like Sharepoint, it’s quite likely that they’ll know who they need to speak to…

    But let’s say I ask a question about co-authoring in Live Web Apps or configuring shared mailboxes in Exchange Online, there’s a good chance that they won’t know who they need to talk to:

    image

    Do a quick search for “BPOS”, “Live”, “web apps” etc and bada-boom…person found 🙂

    The Office Wave 14 products are all aimed at making collaboration a much easier, attractive proposition to users with Sharepoint as the Central hub (save to Sharepoint, Office Web Apps etc). One of the other key tenets is increasing productivity and Skill Search fits into that perfectly 🙂

    There’s no mention of if/when a public beta of OCS 14/2010 will be released but MS did reveal that the Technical Adoption Program (TAP) kicked off “days ago”.

    OCS 2007 R2 did a good job of introducing a lot of the features that users had asked for, and it seems that OCS 2010 is bringing it in line with Web 2.0 and Social Media…which now is definitely what users want.

    Info and picture courtesy of ZDNet

    MS BPOS Connectivity Test


    The Microsoft Online (BPOS) team have released an excellent tool, which measures the upload/download speeds of your connection to show how it would fare with using BPOS services.

    This tests the speed of your connection:

    image

    This looks at the routes:

    image

    This analyses the capacity:

    image

    Details:

    This tool helps you understand the quality of the Internet connection between your environment and Microsoft Online Services. It does not measure your environment compatibility with Microsoft Online Services. The tool performs three tests:

    • Speed: This test measures your actual download and upload speeds, quality of data, and TCP efficiency. It uses TCP/20000 for download testing and TCP/20001 for upload testing.
    • Route: This test validates your connection quality, including packet loss, latency, round trip, and ISP peering points. It uses Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP).
    • Capacity: This test measures your potential maximum download and upload speeds. It uses UDP/8090.

     

    Thoughts:

    Potentially this is going to be very useful when speaking to customers about BPOS, as one of the big worries that many people have is there connection not being good enough. They worry that suddenly throwing all their internal email, as well as Sharepoint uploads/downloads could be too much for their existing networks; this could be an easy way of showing exactly what it can and can’t handle. The reason I say “potentially” and “could” is this:

    image

    The results seem to be aimed solely at VOIP traffic for using Office Communications Online (OCO). However, it still shows them that their bandwidth etc is, so it’s definitely useful but it would be nice if it had a separate answer for each of the products.

    That said, the above does point towards something else…currently OCO only contains the Presence and Instant Message (IM) features. I’ve heard on the grapevine that VOIP calls will be coming to OCO but this is the first definite sign that this is underway 🙂

    Being able to use Office Comms Online for Voice calls will be a huge selling point for customers as the on-site version (Office Communications Server (OCS)) can be quite tricky to install and get running correctly. Normally I’d guess we’ll see this in the US first and not here for a while but the URL for this tool is:

    http://speedtest.emea.microsoftonline.com/

    Note the EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa) part…looks like we’ll be getting it pretty soon too…I’ll see what further info I can find out from MS 😉

    As Paul from Worktivity points out in the comments, if you’re outside of EMEA the links you need are:

    For the APAC region: http://speedtest.apac.microsoftonline.com/
    For America’s region: http://speedtest.microsoftonline.com/

    Thanks to @worktivity who’s tweet alerted me to this…

    Microsoft OCS & Roundtable


    I had a great Live Meeting with a customer day where we discussed how Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and the MS Roundtable device is helping them in their organization…and I have to say it was one of the most positive chats I’ve had with a customer for quite a while!

    They are a very large international organization with operations on pretty much every continent (save Antarctica I believe) with 100’000s of users across 100’s of countries. As you can imagine, that means there are a lot of meetings to be had and thus a lot of flights to be made and hotels to be stayed (in). There international travel costs come to 1,000’000’s of Euro’s a year and that is something they wanted/needed to cut-especially in the recent climate.

    Using Live Meeting and Roundtable for Video Conferencing means some individual sites are saving over £1,000 per week in travel costs alone! Certain people were flying to Europe 3 times a month and that has now been reduced to once every 2 months at the most…as well as the cost savings, the reduction in carbon emissions is phenomenal 🙂 Since it’s installation, OCS has been used for 12,000,000 minutes of remote conversation!!!

    The customer termed Live Meeting/OCS & Roundtable as “the dog’s bollocks” 😉

    Live Meeting’s ability to share desktops and applications as well as Powerpoint slide shows makes it the perfect medium for showing remote workers how to use a new system, showing technicians the error you’re experiencing as well as standard presentations etc. Also, the fact that you can take control of a remote desktop means Helpdesk’s can use it to quickly see and solve user’s issues. The Roundtable, with it’s full 360 degree panoramic display helps remote users feel more connected to the information being delivered and the people delivering it!

    One situation where Video Conferencing comes in very handy is with pregnancy. Both us internally and the customer I was talking to have got staff who’s wives are very close to giving birth…but there are also important European meetings close on the horizon…”ruh roh” as Scooby may say! Usually the choice would be:

      • Don’t go
      • Go and risk missing the birth

    Neither of these are brilliant solutions, so Video Conferencing gives us a 3rd option:

      • Stay here and conference in with full video and VOIP audio.

    That way the user can still make their contributions as well as learn from everyone else, while being close enough to home to dash off to the hospital at a moment’s notice!

    Office Communicator Mobile for Java


    Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile for Java is a new enterprise messaging client built on the Java Platform Micro Edition. Thanks to John Westworth for the heads up on this.

     When deployed together with Office Communications Server 2007 R2, Communicator Mobile for Java enables several mobile phones that are otherwise not supported by native clients but have the capability to run Java applications to function as unified communications endpoints, providing instant messaging (IM), presence, and telephony to create a familiar experience for users of Microsoft Office Communicator.

    Like Office Communicator users, Communicator Mobile for Java users can:

    • View Contact List and click to call.
    • View contacts’ presence.
    • Search enterprise directory and click to call.
    • Directly dial enterprise-routed calls from a mobile phone.
    • Benefit from Single Number Reach, where a user can be reached on the mobile phone like all other endpoints when contacted through one phone number assigned to the user.
    • Control incoming enterprise-routed cellular voice calls and choose to redirect them to Unified Enterprise Voice Mail.
    • Receive notifications of unread voice mail count and respond by calling voice mail (on selected models).
    • Initiate IM conversations with individuals and also add more participants to escalate conversations to IM Conferences.
    • Retrieve the phone book contacts from the phone into Communicator Mobile for Java and call those numbers from Communicator Mobile for Java

    The following are prerequisites for installing the Communicator Mobile for Java client.

    • Nokia S60
    • Nokia S40
    • Motorola RAZR V3xx

    Each of the mobile phones must also meet the following prerequisites:

    • Capable of running Java applications greater than 512 KB, and with a heap size of 2 MB.
    • Mobile Information Device Profile 2.0 (MIDP 2.0).
    • Connected Limited Device Configuration 1.1 (CLDC 1.1).
    • Screen resolution:
      240×320 for Nokia S40 and Motorola RAZR V3xx phones.
      240X 320 or 320×240 for Nokia S60 phones.
    • Data-connection-enabled (GPRS, Edge, or 3G connection) mobile device. Subscription to an unlimited data plan on the mobile device is recommended, because the client and server will be exchanging messages even when they are in an idle state.

    More info can be found on Technet here.

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