I’m writing this from the plane on the way from Denver to NYC to spend a week with a customer of ours. This particular customer is in the Enterprise Lighthouse program, which means that they are moving to OCS 2007 R2 as the voice platform for at least 2000 users. In addition to this they are also migrating from Sametime to OCS for IM, presence, and web conferencing for their entire user population (150,000+ users). It’s my second project of this scale for OCS and, from what I can gather from my records, around my 65th OCS project altogether. Of those ~65 projects 52 included voice for at least a subset of the users. The customers have ranged in size from 50 users to 160K users, with most falling in the middle – a bunch of companies in the 3000-20000 user range. I was just sitting here reflecting on these projects and thought I’d capture some of these thoughts. First, a some charts of various data points:
As you can see, we used primarily NET/Quintum gateways, with Direct SIP connections coming in at a close second.
Nothing surprising here, the PBX market leaders are reflected in our implementation stats as well.
I’m curious how our CallManager version integration breakdown matches up to Cisco’s worldwide deployment percentages.
Now, some less data-specific observations. In general we saw faster voice adoption by organizations who a) were running an older PBX and b) had little to no call center staff. This manifested itself in a few ways – expanded pilot group, addition of capacity to voice components, and/or a more accelerated move to production. Not surprisingly smaller organizations were more likely to move towards production, which was typically because those organizations were more nimble and had a more manageable political environment.
As a consulting organization, predictability of the platform is a major consideration for us and has been a strong point of OCS to date. It allowed us to create a standard fixed price model for almost all our services, which in turn reduced customer’s fear in moving to the platform since they knew we stood behind our work and would, if something went awry, share in their pain. Happily for both us and our customers this did not happen – all issues/complications/etc. were properly accounted for in the engagements and covered as expected by our pricing models.
So where does everything stand today? The obvious state of things related to voice is the lack of features as compared to traditional PBXs. This is no secret, and will largely be addressed in the OCS Wave 14 product which we’re expecting to see in about a year. Despite some of these feature deficiencies, there are numerous organizations for whom we’ve helped deploy OCS as a replacement to one or more PBXs. By and large users need to be able to make/receive phone calls and subsequently forward, transfer, or conference those calls. OCS can easily handle all of that and display presence all the while. Reuse of existing telephony endpoints was a showstopper for a number of customers but the introduction of SmartSIP earlier this year had started to break down those deployment barriers.
What’s missing is a better story for geographic redundancy for larger organizations. The recent resiliency white paper attempts to address some of that but the latency requirements are too stringent for most organizations, even those with deep pockets, since global organizations will likely have datacenters that are more than 15ms apart. Luckily I’ve been architecting around those shortfalls since the LCS days so there’s not much we can’t deal with as long as you can handle a ~15 minute outage in the event that one of your datacenters is completely destroyed. So far that has been viewed as a reasonable recovery time. However, I’m hoping that additional work is done to complete this story in Wave 14.
The other major missing items such as Mac/Linux support are already expected in Wave 14 so there’s not much point to hash them out here. One thing I haven’t heard much about but would really like to see is a better story around video integration. The lack of codec support in the MCU today is a severely limiting factor, and the recent announcement of Cisco to purchase Tandberg might make things difficult for Microsoft if Polycom is the only remaining integration partner.
Overall though one of the most difficult concepts to convey is the paradigm shift from “the phone on my desk” to integrated, presence-enabled communication. It’s hugely powerful and Microsoft’s vision and ambition to get there is right on target. The extensibility of the platform dramatically strengthens this vision. Every time we bring on a new customer that does not yet have OCS you realize how much easier your communication with existing OCS-enabled internal, partner, and customer contacts is.