Microsoft Beta Testing New VoIP Server

The successor to Live Communications Server 2005, the component of Microsoft's Office System that handles communication between office workers, has entered private beta testing. Now simply called Office Communications Server 2007, the software integrates voice over IP calling with traditional phone setups.

While VoIP telephony has started to gain traction in the enterprise, the largest barrier to entry has remained the initial cost of migrating current systems. In addition, while businesses may save on calls themselves, the associated hardware costs are still sky high.

Microsoft is attempting to alleviate this problem with Office Communications Server 2007. The software, like its predecessor, links up to Office Communicator to provide seamless integration with the tools employees use on a regular basis. Workers can initiative phone calls or Web conferences directly from Word, Outlook, or even Communicator itself.

Built-in presence support makes it easy to quickly IM a colleague if they are on the computer, or automatically call their appropriate phone number if they have stepped away from the desk. When implemented with Exchange 2007, users can receive their voicemail and e-mail in the same inbox, complete with an auto-attendant for answering and routing inbound calls.

In addition, Microsoft has partnered with Nortel, Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco, LG-Nortel, Mitel, NEC Philips Unified Solutions, Polycom, and Siemens to ensure Office Communicator 2007 supports existing desktop phones and TDM or IP-based PDXs. Customers can also use phone software on their PC to make calls without purchasing extra equipment.

"Some of the capabilities available in the private beta of Office Communications Server 2007 are placing and receiving voice calls; advanced call routing; streamlined integration with the new unified messaging capabilities in Exchange Server 2007; multiparty conferencing; call holding, forwarding and transferring; and compliance capabilities, all while working in concert with existing telephony infrastructure," Microsoft said.

The final version of OCS 2007 is not expected until the second quarter of 2007, but all Technology Adoption Program (TAP) members will receive access to the beta bits.

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