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October 16, 2007

BlueNote: Microsoft Entering Enterprise Voice Communications Market with Launch of OCS 2007

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Associate Editor


With Microsoft (News - Alert) officially launching its Office Communications Server 2007, many analysts of the IP communications industry are holding their breath to see how the new solution impacts both unified communications vendors and VoIP providers. Not just a messaging solution, OCS 2007 also represents Microsoft’s first steps into the VoIP/IP communications arena.
 
One company that already has a pretty good idea how its solutions will complement Microsoft’s is BlueNote Networks (News - Alert). SessionSuite, BlueNote’s family of software-based communications solutions, let enterprises embed voice as an application into their business systems and online services. The company’s solutions are already used by enterprises in conjunction with Microsoft products, and this relationship will continue after the launch of OCS 2007.
 
TMCnet asked Alan Rosenberg, director of product management at BlueNote, to share his perspective about how the launch of OCS 2007 will affect the unified communications broadly and BlueNote’s initiatives specifically.
 
TMCnet: How would you define ‘unified communications’?
 
AR: Unified communications promises to improve user productivity by bringing together multiple forms of communications (voice, video and text) in a manner independent of device (PC, mobile phone, PDA), location (office, home, road) or access method (fixed, wireless). Unified communications also promises to make business processes more efficient by embedding real-time communications directly into business applications.
 
TMCnet: How would you describe the current state of the unified communications industry?
 
AR: While incumbent vendors are heavily marketing unified communications, the reality is that many of the solutions available on the market today are immature.  Many of today’s solutions have evolved from previously individually-packaged applications, resulting in fragmented offerings from multiple vendors with different core competencies, (e.g. PBX, e-mail/calendaring, voicemail, conferencing/collaboration, IM/presence, call center and other business applications). As a result, most enterprises are still in the early stages of formulating their UC strategies and evaluating potential solutions.
 
TMCnet: What is Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007?
 
AR: OCS 2007 is the successor to Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005.  It addresses deployment and management deficiencies found in LCS plus adds richer presence support, new conferencing features and basic VoIP capabilities.
 
TMCnet: How is Microsoft OCS 2007 significant for the IP communications industry?
 
AR: By delivering a software-based VoIP solution Microsoft is indicating to the industry that it intends to enter the enterprise voice communications market and over time is likely to compete directly with traditional PBX (News - Alert) manufacturers. 
 
TMCnet: In what ways will the release of Microsoft OCS 2007 affect BlueNote Networks’ market strategy?
 
AR: OCS 2007 validates BlueNote Network’s market strategy.  Since our inception, BlueNote has delivered real-time communications as a software-based service in an enterprise IT architecture. Our SessionSuite product family, which was initially introduced to the market in the first quarter of 2006, complements and extends OCS 2007.
 
TMCnet: In what capacity, if any, does BlueNote current partner with Microsoft? How, if at all, will this change after the release of Microsoft OCS 2007?
 
AR: BlueNote products are designed to interoperate with and add value to Microsoft solutions. We leverage Microsoft Active Directory for user authentication, we interoperate with Microsoft LCS today, and we support integrated telephony from Microsoft Outlook, Explorer, Word and other desktop applications.  We’ll continue to complement Microsoft solutions going forward, including Microsoft OCS 2007.
 
TMCnet: What is BlueNote’s flagship product and how does it relate to Microsoft OCS 2007?
 
AR: SessionSuite from BlueNote Networks complements and enhances OCS, by extending OCS VoIP and presence capabilities beyond Microsoft software clients, such as MS Communicator, to business processes and customer-written or third-party software applications. As part of an application or business process, an enterprise can exploit SessionSuite to route calls automatically to the OCS user best suited to answer a call based on availability, activity, role, skill set, spoken language or any other enterprise-defined criteria.
 
TMCnet: How does the release of Microsoft OCS 2007 affect enterprises? Small businesses?
 
AR: In the near term enterprises are most likely to consider OCS 2007 for instant messaging, presence and conferencing capabilities. Enterprises are not likely to find in OCS the full complement of telephony features, availability, security and resiliency capabilities, and call quality and control functions required in an enterprise-class communications solution.  Small businesses may be inclined to choose another Microsoft voice offering—Microsoft Response Point, a VoIP solution aimed specifically at businesses with 50 or fewer employees.
 
TMCnet: In your opinion, what is the most significant aspect of Microsoft OCS 2007?
 
AR: By embracing the notion of a software-based approach to interactive communications, Microsoft is validating a concept we at BlueNote have promoted since our inception, while at the same time creating a larger ecosystem for our products and services. In fact, BlueNote Networks has been shipping platforms supporting Internet-based telephony software since the first quarter of 2006.
 
TMCnet: What are some of BlueNote’s current unified communications-related initiatives?
 
AR: BlueNote delivers SIP-based voice, video, presence and other real-time communications services as an integral part of an enterprise IT applications architecture.  We provide the features, services and tools necessary for delivering unified communications to software applications and business processes through standard Web services. By incorporating unified communications into business applications, enterprises can enjoy improved employee productivity, increased product and services revenues, and increased customer satisfaction and retention.
 
TMCnet: What else do people need to know about Microsoft OCS 2007 and BlueNote?
 
AR: SessionSuite enables enterprises to extract additional value from OCS investments, by extending OCS to other software applications and business processes.  By introducing SessionSuite, businesses can improve communications, boost worker productivity, and increase customer satisfaction.
 
To learn more about unified communications and how it relates to SOA environments, please visit the SOA/Web Services channel on TMCnet.com, brought to you by BlueNote Networks.
 
Mae Kowalke previously wrote for Cleveland Magazine in Ohio and The Burlington Free Press in Vermont. To see more of her articles, please visit Mae Kowalke’s columnist page. Also check out her Wireless Mobility blog.


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