Microsoft, Partners Take VoIP And Unified Communications To PBX Systems

By combining technologies from Microsoft and its partners, businesses won't need to rip out and replace an existing phone system to add new capabilities.
Microsoft on Tuesday said a dozen companies have agreed to implement the software maker's interoperability specification for Office Communications Server 2007, making it possible to leverage Microsoft's software to add VoIP and unified communications to PBX systems.

By combining technologies from Microsoft and any of its partners, companies won't need to "rip and replace" an existing phone system to add the newer capabilities, Microsoft said. The alternative covers about 90% of existing PBX systems.

Telephony and networking companies that have agreed to interoperate with Office Communications Server include Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco Systems, Ericsson, Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, Mitel Networks, NEC, Nortel Networks, and Siemens Enterprise Communications. Three gateway providers, AudioCodes, Dialogic, and Quintum Technologies, also have agreed to implement the spec. These companies provide technology for connecting PBX systems from different vendors, a need that arises during mergers and acquisitions. The gateways would make it possible to integrate the systems and connect them to Communications Server.

"As the traditional business telecommunications model evolves, businesses are seeking guidance for the best way to leverage their existing assets as they deploy unified communications," Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate VP of the unified communications group at Microsoft, said in a statement released at Interop in Las Vegas.

Microsoft president Jeff Raikes launched the public beta of Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator 2007 at VoiceCon in Orlando, Fla., in March. Raikes at the time promised the product would allow users to make an easy transition from PBX systems, networks, and desk phones to add VoIP and unified communications without ripping out and replacing existing infrastructure. Since their beta release, the two products have been downloaded 50,000 times, according to Microsoft.

Office Communications Server provides capabilities such as voice over IP, presence, instant messaging, and conferencing. Microsoft also offers Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 for e-mail, calendaring, and unified messaging.

Last week, Microsoft and a group of device and mobile phone makers introduced at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Los Angeles 15 products that connect to Communications Server. The companies included Asustek Computer, GN, LG-Nortel, NEC, Plantronics, Polycom, Samsung, Tatung, and ViTELiX.