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Unified Communications Magazine July 2007                                                                                                                Volume 1 / Number 1

Wildcats Use Microsoft to Tame Unified Communications

By Erik Linask, Case Study


The school has a set of core applications, including course management software, medical recordkeeping system, and ERP application; the problem is it lacked a common directory service that could simplify and manage users across these and other applications, as well as a common communications system

In fact, the faculty were using Exchange Server 2003 for email, but students were on a different platform; administrators used Lotus Sametime IM, presence, and web conferencing, but students and faculty used a mixture of ICQ, MSN Messenger, and Google Talk; and there was a small contingent of Microsoft LCS 2005 users.

It is easy to see why the existing conglomeration of systems and applications created an inefficient network environment.

"We had a lot of problems with student email last year, and we were at a crossroads for coming up with a common-directory service," says Doyle Friskney, Chief Technology Officer for the University of Kentucky. "Staff and students wanted to be able to access core applications more easily, and my staff wanted to be able to maintain user credentials more easily."

The following year saw Friskney and his staff resigned themselves to improving the schools communications infrastructure, which ultimately included standardizing on the Active Directory service incorporated into Windows Server 2003, upgrading to Exchange Server 2007 and expanding that to the student population (all 41,000 mailboxes on the system, in fact), as well as implementing its unified messaging feature. MS Office 2007 was deployed campus-wide, as was SharePoint Server 2007 for web-based collaboration.

Having stabilized its network infrastructure on Microsoft applications, the team turned to its communications platform to further reduce costs, simplify management, and unlock the potential of a next-generation environment. Among the changes that needed to be made was the consolidation of about ten video conferencing systems and several IM platforms onto a single, unified solution. The IT staff also wanted to extend its communications capabilities to the variety of mobile devices on campus.

Already happy with - and committed to - Microsoft software, the logical move was moving to OCS 2007 for presence, IM, web-based video conferencing, and VoIP. In addition to the flexibility of the platform, its easy integration with UK's other applications and devices, along with the general familiarity with Microsoft products across the board, made it a no-brainer.

"It's familiar to everyone who uses Microsoft Office, and it integrates automatically into Office programs," said Rick Phillips, lead video engineer on the IT staff at UK. He also noted that Microsoft's integrated security features are crucial to the health of the school's infrastructure, protecting confidential information and supporting HIPPA requirements.

UK is already using the web conferencing, presence and IM functions of OCS 2007 (with Office Communicator 2007 as the client), and is still in the process of fully evaluating the VoIP capabilities of the platform as well as the Microsoft RoundTable voice and video conferencing device.

Friskney, however, offers that the RoundTable will allow the UK community to host effective meetings that limit the sense of separation that often is part of video conferences. More importantly, he expects that the integrated nature of the complete Microsoft solution will ease the learning curve, cutting the time it takes to understand and become comfortable with the changes.

The Microsoft Solution will enable the University to increase the value of its existing infrastructure, which already includes more than 115 Polycom video conference systems, Cisco video phones, and Codia Bridges (which enable video connectivity through PCs).

"That's the real beauty of implementing a Microsoft infrastructure," Friskney added. "Every time you add a new capability, you just extend the tools that everyone already knows and uses. There are no integration steps and no security worries. With Office Communications Server 2007, we're able to deliver huge new capabilities with a very small learning investment."

Thus far, the University is piloting Office Communications Server 2007 with a group of 130 users, which it plans to grow to about 1,000 by early next year. The ultimate goal is to have all 41,000 users on the school's network running on the Microsoft Unified Communications platform.

Erik Linask is Associate Editor of INTERNET TELEPHONY, IMS Magazine, and Unified Communications.


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