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Partners Rally Around Microsoft Unified Communications Software


Today at the Microsoft Unified Communications launch event, the company announced more than 50 partners are supporting its unified communications platform with new products and services ranging from phones to PCs to professional services. Each of the products in Microsoft’s unified communications software offering, including Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, Microsoft Office Communicator 2007, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Microsoft RoundTable and Microsoft Office Live Meeting, provide a new revenue opportunity for partners to tap into – a market worth an estimated US$45 billion.

Software-based unified communications streamlines the way people work and the structure of IT departments by taking what were once disparate pieces of technologies and unifying them to run through a single server. PressPass spoke with several partners about the benefits that software-based communications will create, and how they are supporting Microsoft’s unified communications platform. The partners include:

Mark Summerson, general manager of Unified Communications for BT Global Services, a global service provider that helps multi-site organizations master the complexity of business communication and collaboration.

Rick Becker, vice president of Software & Solutions in the Enterprise Product Group at Dell, a leading global systems and services company.

Robb Rasmussen, vice president of HP Services at HP, which focuses on simplifying technology experiences for all its customers – from individual consumers to the largest businesses.

Ruchi Prasad, general manager for the Innovative Communications Alliance at Nortel, a global provider of voice, data and networking solutions for enterprises and service providers.

Rob Lopez, group managing director for Solutions at Dimension Data, an IT solutions and services provider that focuses on systems integration.

PressPass: What are you announcing today?

Summerson (BT Global Services): We are expanding our existing Unified Communications and Collaboration portfolio based on Microsoft Exchange 2007 UM and Microsoft Live Communications Server with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007. This will further enhance our position as a trusted partner in the Unified Communications marketplace.

Prasad (Nortel): We’re introducing unified communications solutions compatible with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Communicator 2007. We’re offering customers direct interoperability between our IP-PBX and Office communications Server 2007, delivering richer functionality with less complexity and operations costs.

Lopez (Dimension Data): During today’s launch, we’ll be demonstrating how our Integrated Collaboration solution focuses on integrating Microsoft and Cisco technologies, improving the way individuals and groups interact and perform.

PressPass: Why is your company investing in unified communications?

Becker (Dell): Unified communications is the productivity tool of the next decade. As organizations become more virtual, distributed and global, communication between customers and employees becomes both essential and mission critical. The test of an organization’s agility will be the ability to get the right information into the hands of the right people at the right time to enable a timely decision. Unified communications is the platform to enable that agility.

PressPass: How will your new unified communications and collaboration offerings improve the way people work and solve workplace challenges?

Summerson (BT): Our Microsoft unified communications offerings provide a single communications interface for voice, video, instant messaging, presence awareness, conferencing and collaboration. This is essential for increasing productivity and enhancing collaboration for customers. Our offerings provide a single repository for all forms of messaging, along with quick access to information and collaboration tools, regardless of location and in a consistent format. We also can help customers de-risk and simplify deployments, while protecting existing investment.

Lopez (Dimension Data): Our systems integration solution, Integrated Collaboration, combines desktop-based IP-based telephony and software-based phones with presence, e-mail, conferencing, unified messaging and instant messaging (IM). In fact, one of our clients that deployed this solution reduced the cost of voice communications by approximately 15 percent, and reported productivity gains of between 15 and 30 minutes per user, per day. This client can now complete projects faster because employees can successfully reach their contacts faster and more cost-effectively.

PressPass: What effect has the communications shift from hardware to software had on your business?

Rasmussen (HP): Because of this shift, we’re combining the latest communication software technologies with our IT services experience and expertise, as well as our own industry-standard technologies to design, implement and support messaging and unified communications solutions for enterprise customers. By doing so we want to empower people to work more productively and connect securely and dependably with higher levels of service. The shift to software helps simplify IT by leveraging familiar tools to improve ROI and reduce costs, and it allows businesses to transform and respond faster to new opportunities.

Prasad (Nortel): The shift to software is changing our entire business. Our CEO, Mike Zafirovski, has said that his goal is to transform Nortel into a software and services leader. Our alliance with Microsoft is a big part of that transformation. Businesses want the productivity and cost savings enabled by converging their workplace communications into one simple software platform. But they also need to protect their current network investments and processes. That’s what our alliance with Microsoft focuses on.

PressPass: How do your company’s products complement Microsoft’s unified communications initiative?

Prasad (Nortel): Through our Innovative Communications Alliance with Microsoft, we are melding the capabilities of Office Communications Server 2007 with our IP-PBX portfolio, including the Communication Server 1000 and Communication Server 2100 product lines. Together, these products provide businesses with a true “converged office” solution that provides telephony, e-mail, IM, presence and conferencing through a single interface: Microsoft Office Communicator 2007.

Becker (Dell): Dell servers provide the underlying infrastructure for Office Communications Server 2007 applications, while our client products provide users a comprehensive range of unified communications devices to choose from. Dell Services enable customers to begin utilizing Office Communicator 2007 quickly, through reliable, risk-free deployments.

Lopez (Dimension Data): Our Integrated Collaboration solution works with Office Communications Server 2007 to help workgroups collaborate more efficiently in real time. For example, an information worker who is involved in a project can go into SharePoint Portal Server, open up a document and see the names of people in the same workgroup. If the worker wants to establish a conversation, he can view who has worked on the project and who is available for a discussion -- without exiting the document he’s working on. Furthermore, he can quickly invite others into the discussion by using a combination of instant messaging or a conference call.
Summerson (BT): The £10 billion that we have invested in our 21st Century Network has laid the groundwork for our customers to realize the benefits of BT’s vision for these Convergence Solutions. Office Communications Server 2007 is the first product that truly brings BT’s vision for Convergence Solutions to the desktop. In addition to the customer deployments, BT has deployed Exchange Server 2007 and Office Communications Server 2007 together within the company’s own operations. So, our customers can rest assured that they have a partner that speaks from experience about these Microsoft products.

Rasmussen (HP): HP Services’ Converged Communication Solutions support a broad range of communications -- from e-mail, presence and instant messaging to data and video conferencing – and communications tools, including Microsoft Office Live Meeting and RoundTable. With more than 22,000 Microsoft-trained engineers – including more than 3,600 Microsoft Certified System Engineers and Microsoft Certified Solution Developers -- HP has one of the most specialized forces of consultants and support professionals for Microsoft environments. Additionally, more customers have deployed Exchange Server on HP server platforms than from any other vendor, according to an HP-sponsored research study by Probit in 2006.


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