has placed considerable emphasis on its unified communications (UC)
strategy in Exchange Server 2010. Microsoft is positioning several
products as solutions to the various types of communications that
knowledge workers use, such as phone, email, instant messaging,
videoconferencing, and voice mail. By default, Exchange Server 2010
includes built-in support for email, voice mail, and limited voice
capabilities through the Unified Messaging server role and Mailbox role.
Instant messaging, enterprise voice, data, and audio and
videoconferencing, however, require the addition of Office
Communications Server 2007 R2.
Server 2007 R2 works closely with Exchange Server 2010 to further
extend the capabilities of the environment and to further improve the
efficiencies gained when communications barriers are broken down in an
Outlining the History of the Unified Communications Products
Microsoft has made
several forays into the videoconferencing and instant messaging space,
which have eventually led to the current state of the product today.
What we now know as the Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 R2
product was originally part of the Exchange 2000 Beta Program (Platinum)
but was removed from the application before it went to market. It was
then licensed as a separate product named Mobile Information Server
(MIS) 2000. MIS has some serious shortcomings, however, and adoption was
Microsoft rebranded the
application upon the release of Exchange Server 2003 by naming it Live
Communications Server (LCS) 2003. This version was deployed much more
extensively than the previous versions, but still suffered from limited
integration with Exchange Server.
The LCS product was
updated two years later as Live Communications Server 2005, with an SP1
version coming later that added some additional functionality. This
version of the product was widely deployed, and was the most solid
implementation to date.
Timed to release with
Exchange Server 2007, the new version of LCS was named the Office
Communications Server (OCS) 2007. This version marked the ascension of
the technology as a core component to many organizations’ collaboration
Two years later, Microsoft
released Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 R2. This enhanced the
voice and data functionality of OCS 2007 and became the first product to
seriously be considered as a PBX replacement. It also became the first
true, single platform, unified communications solution on the market.
The adoption rate is high and should continue to increase with the
adoption of Exchange Server 2010.
Exploring the Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 R2 Product Suite
2007 builds upon some impressive capabilities of its predecessors,
while at the same time adding additional functionality. The following
key features of the application exist:
OCS has the capability to centrally conference multiple users into a
single virtual web conference, allowing for capabilities such as
whiteboard, chat, and application sharing. In addition, these
conferences can be set up and scheduled from within the users’ Outlook
clients. OCS utilizes the Microsoft Live Meeting client to connect to
web conferences; however, the transition between clients is seamless.
OCS added audio conferencing in the R2 release of the product. Tightly
integrated with Outlook 2007/2010, it enables users to schedule
conference calls from Outlook or have ad-hoc meetings based on a meeting
code and PIN.
In addition to standard web conferencing, OCS allows for
videoconferencing between members of a conference. It also enables
interoperability with other platforms such as Tandberg videoconference
rooms and HP Halo Telepresence rooms. OCS 2007 R2 introduced support for
HD-quality video on the desktop.
The OCS server also acts as an instant messaging server, providing for
centralized IM capabilities as well as the ability to archive IM traffic
and to filter it for specific information. OCS allows an organization
to gain more control over the instant messaging traffic that is being
Tied into the instant messaging functionality of OCS is the ability of
the software to provide presence information for users. For example,
within Outlook, a user can determine whether the sender of the message
is online by hovering over their name.
Public IM Connectivity—
Microsoft, Yahoo!, and AOL recently agreed to make it easier to
interoperate between their various IM tools. In response to this
agreement, Microsoft made it possible to integrate a corporate IM
platform on OCS with external private IM clients on the MSN, Yahoo!, or
AOL platforms. The way that OCS does this is through the concept of a
Public IM Connectivity (PIC) license.
OCS also has the ability to tie a corporate IM environment into the OCS
or LCS environment at another organization, through a process known as
IM federation. A federation proxy running on the edge server role is
used to mediate secure communications between federation partners.
Contact management— OCS integrates Exchange Server contacts with IM contacts, providing the ability to integrate them into a common list.
OCS now offers the ability for the IM functionality to be tied into the
Free/Busy and Out of the Office functionality of Outlook and Exchange Server
2010. This allows users to determine the status of a user directly from
the IM client and the client to auto-update presence status based on
The product is available in the following two versions:
The Standard Edition of OCS 2007 R2 allows for a single server to be
deployed using a Microsoft SQL Express database. It supports up to 5,000
The Enterprise Edition allows for pools of servers connected to a
common SQL Server database to be utilized, allowing for up to 300,000
users. Enterprise Edition can be deployed in a consolidated manner
similar to Standard Edition; however, it also enables the flexibility to
split the functional roles out onto separate servers for additional
scalability. Multiple Enterprise Edition front-end servers can be
members of the same pool.
Server roles are
defined for OCS servers, just as Exchange Server 2010 defines server
roles. A single server can hold multiple roles, and multiple servers can
be deployed with a single role, as necessary. The following server
roles exist in OCS:
The default server role for OCS handles presence, IM,
audio/web/videoconferencing, and voice routing for either Standard
edition or a consolidated enterprise edition deployment.
Communicator Web Access server—
Enables users to log in to OCS using a web client instead of the full
Microsoft Office Communicator (MOC) client. Although presence, IM, and
desktop sharing are available, voice and video are not supported using
the web client.
Archiving server— An OCS Archiving server archives instant messages and specific usage information and stores it in a SQL database.
The Monitoring server collects performance and CDR information related
to voice calls. It records information for both PC2PC and PSTN calls.
The server role requires a SQL database and SQL reporting services.
The Mediation server proxies communication between the OCS pool and
either a PBX or a media gateway out to the PSTN. It converts voice
communications from RTAudio to a traditional codec like G.711 and passes
it along to the next hop following configurable routing rules.
An OCS Edge server creates an encrypted, trusted connection point for
traffic to and from the Internet. It serves as a method of protecting
internal servers from direct exposure and is often placed into a
demilitarized zone (DMZ) of a firewall. It also enables users to connect
to OCS from outside the trusted network, extending phone, video, and
collaboration functionality to wherever a user might be. The Edge server
can create encrypted connections to partner through federation enabling
product is central to Microsoft’s unified communications strategy, as it
serves as a mechanism to unite the various products such as Exchange
Server and SharePoint by providing information about when a user is online, and providing ideal mechanisms to communicate with them.
Viewing the Communicator 2007 Client
On the client side of the
unified communications equation, Microsoft has released a new version of
the corporate instant messaging client. This version is known as
Microsoft Office Communicator (MOC) 2007. The Communicator client
provides the end user with a mechanism to conduct instant messaging
conversations with users, to share their desktop or an application with
another user or with a group of users, and to transfer files and conduct
The Communicator client
serves as a replacement for free Internet instant messaging clients,
which can serve as a conduit for viruses and spyware. In addition, the
Communicator client does not include any type of advertising in its
console, as do the public IM clients for MSN, Yahoo!, and AOL.
Exploring the Office Live Meeting Client
The same Microsoft
Live Meeting client that is used for the Microsoft-hosted service can
also be used to connect to the web conferencing portion of Office
Communications Server 2007 R2. The connection information is usually
included in the meeting invitation so that the client requires no
configuration to switch between on-premise and off-premise services.