James O'Neill's Blog

November 1, 2010

Thinking about the cloud – part 2, Office 365

Filed under: Azure / Cloud Services,Exchange,Office,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 3:03 pm

In my previous post I was talking in general terms about why BPOS was a sound idea. The recent announcement of Ray Ozzie’s retirement set people quoting his mantra “Three screens and a cloud” – the three screens being Computer, Mobile device, and TV.  The unwritten part of “Three screens” is recognising their diversity: people should interact with the best possible client – which means adapting to the specifics of each “screen”; it’s not “any browser and a cloud”: many phone apps do something which PCs do in the browser, they only exist because of the need to give a different experience on a different kind of screen. Instead of seeing a monolithic website (which in reality probably wasn’t monolithic) we see an app which consumes a service (probably the same service which was behind the web site).

But there was more than publishing stuff using services instead of HTML pages; more even than the likes of Groove or Live Meeting which used the cloud to enable new things.  From Ozzie’s vision, famously expressed in 2005, came a realization that services already used by business PCs and devices would increasingly be in the cloud, instead of on an organizations own servers. That was the cue to provide Exchange as a service, SharePoint as a service and so on. We’ve tried to make a distinction between “Software as a Service” – which in some people’s minds is “Any browser and a cloud” and “Software PLUS Services” – which covers a plethora of client software: from multi-player games on Xbox to iTunes to Outlook talking to an Exchange server. But when Office Outlook on a PC accesses Exchange-Online , Exchange is software and it is provided as a service –it just isn’t accessed using a browser: I haven’t yet seen a successful way to make the distinction between the two kinds of “Software as a service” just understand it has different meanings depending on who is speaking.

I don’t know if it was planned but it seemed fitting that we should announce the next generation of BPOS on the day after Ray’s announcement.  I prefer the new name Office 365. Mary Jo Foley posted something headed “This is not Office in the cloud” – in which she says “this was not some out-of-the-blue change in Microsoft’s business model. Microsoft is still pushing Office first and foremost as a PC-based software package.” Which is spot on: if you need office in a browser, Office Web App is there but it is not a replacement. I wrote in the previous post about the challenges of providing SharePoint, Exchange and so on, it is not Office but the services behind Office which are in the cloud. The key points of Office 365 are these:

  • At it’s core are the latest versions of the Server Software (Lync replaces Office Communications Server and provides Live Meeting functionality, and both Exchange and SharePoint are updated).  The FAQ page has a link to explain what happens to existing BPOS customers (and there are plenty of them – sending 167 million e-mails a day).
  • The ability to create a Public website (previously part of Office Live Small Business) has moved into Office 365 (Again the FAQ page explains what will happen to Office Live Small Business)
  • The update to SharePoint 2010 enables us to offer Office Web Apps – so documents can be viewed in high fidelity and edited from the browser.
  • Despite the the presence of Office Web Apps the main client will be Office on Desktop computers : Office Professional Plus for the desktop is now available as a part of the package on the same monthly subscription basis
  • There is a-la-carte pricing for individual parts of the suite and bundles known as plans targeted at different market segments.

I think the a-la-carte pricing option is a good thing – though some are bound to say “Microsoft are offering too many options”. The plans are just the combinations of cloud services we think will be popular; services can be added to a plan or bought standalone – for example “Kiosk” workers can get on the company e-mail system with Outlook web access from $2.  We’ve announced that the plans will cost between $4 to $27 per month,  that one of the enterprise plans closely mirrors the current BPOS at the same $10/user/month, and that there will be $6 plan with the features we think small business will need. In the run up to the launch I did see some details of different plans and options but I haven’t seen all of these in the announcements and it is not impossible that they will be fine tuned before the system goes fully live.  When will that be? The launch has a beta programme (sign-up is at http://office365.microsoft.com) , Mary-Jo said back in July that the plan was for full launch was early 2011 which sounds about right – it’s also necessarily vague, because a beta might reveal a lot of unexpected work to be done: if you want a more precise date I always say in these cases those who know won’t talk, and those who talk don’t know.

We’ve positioned Office 365 as helping small businesses to think big and big business to act fast – the link gives examples which range from the Starwood hotel chain to a single independent restaurant – it’s worth taking time to work out what it might mean to the organization(s) you work in/with: the cloud might be right for you, it might not – but if it isn’t I’d want to be able to explain why not and not have people think an opportunity was being missed through inertia.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

October 19, 2010

Thinking about the cloud (part 1).

Filed under: Azure / Cloud Services,Exchange,Office,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 5:49 pm

I was telling someone recently that before I joined Microsoft I spent the late 1990s running a small training company. The number of employees varied, averaging out at a dozen or so. I delivered training, did the business management, helped the win over customers and I looked after the IT. It was like doing two or three jobs.

I’ve been quite reticent about our  “Business Productivity Online Service“partly because it takes a long and closely argued post to cover why, from an IT professional’s point of view, getting rid of your servers isn’t abdicating. (This is not going to be that post). But as chance would have it I was looking at BPOS again with my old job in my thoughts.  B-POS sounds like it should be something… ”points of sale”, but it is Exchange,Communications server and Sharepoint provided as Pay-monthly “Cloud services”

In the training company we ran all our own IT services, but there’s no way I’d host my own web-server today: the sense of using a hosting company was clear before I left for Microsoft.  The launch of BPOS gave businesses a way to get hosted Mail (Exchange), Presence & IM (OCS) and Collaboration & Document management (Sharepoint) for $10 US per month – or in round numbers £80 annually – per user. Comparing that with the cost of server hardware and software and especially the time that in-house systems took up, if I were running that business today, my head would say get rid of the servers.  You can mix in-house and in-cloud servers; users keep the same desktop software which is crucial: you don’t give up Outlook to move your mailboxes to the cloud.

It needs a change of attitude to give up the server. If my head argued costs and figures,  my heart might have come back with benefits like “You are master of your own destiny with the servers in-house”. But are you ? Back then we couldn’t justify clustering our servers, so if hardware failed – work would stop until it was repaired. Paying for a service in a Microsoft datacentre means it runs on clustered hardware, which someone else maintains. Microsoft’s datacentre is a bigger target for attack, but the sheer scale of the operation allows investment in tiers of defence. Small businesses tend not to worry about these things until something goes wrong, and you can always tell yourself that the risk is OK if you’re getting a better service in-house. But the truth is you’re probably not getting  better service.  As a Microsoft employee I’m used to having access to my mail and calendar from anything that connect to the internet – laptop at home, or on the move, any PC with web access, or Sync’d to a phone. I doubt if I would have set that up for the training company but it’s part of BPOS – even to the extent of supporting iPhones and Blackberries.   Getting rid of servers could not only save money but give users a better set of tools to use in their jobs – an easier thing to accept now that I don’t run servers for a business.

Now if you’ve come across the idea of the HypeCycle (see Wikipedia if not) – I agree with Gartner that cloud technologies somewhere near “peak of inflated expectations”  – in other words people are talking up “the cloud” beyond it’s true capabilities, and if things follow a normal course there will be a “trough of disillusionment” before things find their true level. I don’t buy into the idea that in the future scarcely any business will bother with keeping their own server, any more than they would generate their own electricity.  Nor do I buy into the polar opposite – that very few organisations, and none with any sense, will keep critical services in the cloud – that idea seems just as implausible to me. So the truth must lie in between: the method of delivering services to users won’t change from one foregone conclusion (the in-house server) to another foregone conclusion (the service in the cloud), like so many things it will be a question of businesses asking “does it make sense to do this in-house”, and I think IT professionals will want to avoid depending on that question being answered one way.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

November 18, 2009

Saving the world, and your sanity, one gadget at a time.

Filed under: Real Time Collaboration,Windows 7 — jamesone111 @ 7:42 am

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For as long as we have been talking about “Green IT” I’ve thought the opportunity to save carbon emissions by using IT to reduce travel was far greater than the opportunity to reduce the carbon emissions of IT itself. That’s not an excuse for leaving your monitor on or not using the Power saving features of Windows 7 (and Vista) or Server 2008-R2, but a recognition that the savings that be made by reducing the amount we fly or drive to where we do business – and maintaining less office space when we get there are greater than the savings that would be made if we turned all the IT off.


As a high tech company you’d expect Microsoft to be further down the track of using this technology than most doubly so as we produce some of the technology which makes it possible. While I was at tech-ed in Berlin we had an “environment day” where web-cams were handed out for all who wanted them. We already try encourage flexible working – in my old role in consulting things couldn’t be all that flexible, but in evangelism I work from home a day or two most weeks. I’m more productive without the hubbub of the office, and cutting out the journey doesn’t just save carbon. I get between 40 minutes and an hour back at each end of the day when it is of most value to me.


We have a web page about what Microsoft UK is doing environmentally , everything setting a ceiling on the C02 emissions allowed for new company cars and lowering it each year, to a “proximity printing” system which cuts down the amount left unclaimed on printers and which is credited with saving us 50,000 sheets of paper per month  Think of it as a tree a week.


I picked up the web cam on when I got back from Berlin. I don’t do many video calls – I find our RoundTable video conferencing useful because I can see a group (and it seems rude not to let them see me), but 40 odd years of using the phone has proved to me that 1:1 doesn’t need video calling, so I don’t now how much use it will get It’s a Life-Cam show , and it has a clever way mounting on a stand, laptop lid or monitor. Both front and back have the socket part of a ball and socket joint and then the stand and clip provided have the ball part, which is magnetic. The joint means the camera angle can be adjusted easily, and if you need to attach to anything else the “ball” part of the is provided separately with a self adhesive backing. Image quality seems pretty decent even in low light– it has a 2MP sensor which it samples down to 800×600 for moving pictures, and up to 8MP for stills. Sadly it doesn’t seem to support WIA, and given what I’ve just said about the environment, our packaging police could find ways to reduce the packaging. Fortunately the packing includes a case so the lens doesn’t get scratched to bits in a laptop bag. It comes with a CD and it tells says install the software first. This is where Windows 7 gets clever. 


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Oh darn – it knows this software won’t work – quite rare for Vista software not to work on 7 and knowing what will fail is quite clever in itself, but not new – Vista did that. But I don’t remember Vista ever offering the next step – knowing the signature of things which don’t work you can check in a database and see if a fix has been logged and guide the user to it. Like this.


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And Hey presto everything is installed. Since I don’t use Windows Live messenger – only office communicator, I dug out the details of how to make the button on the camera activate communicator. Now lets see how much use it gets….


 Update. I pasted in the wrong link for “how to activate communicator”  – thanks to David for pointing that out.


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

September 28, 2009

Hello Exchange 2010

Filed under: Exchange,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 3:52 pm

Inside Microsoft we have this custom of “dog-fooding” new software, and Exchange 2010 is now at the point where Microsoft IT feel they can run it outside of North America. So a few days ago I got a mail saying my mail box was going to be moved to a new server “using the new Exchange 2010 Online Mailbox Move feature, which means your mailbox should not experience any downtime during the migration.” It’s 3 years since I moved away from being an Exchange consultant and so I’ve not kept track of exactly how it handles storage better, but it does, so the move to 2010 is giving us 4.5 GB mailboxes instead of the current 1GB, so I shouldn’t need to empty my deleted items folder before the end of the year.

Before leaving for the office this morning I checked my calendar with Outlook Web Access and I was still on 2007. I got to work and Outlook told me to log off and log on again because of a change, and there was a mail saying my Voice mail had a new PIN a new access number for 2010. Outlook 2010 has a little status box in the corner telling me how near to full my mail box is, that was still reporting that I was down to the last of my space. Then at a few minutes past 11 I noticed that box had gone. I re-enabled it and woo-hoo I had a 4.5 GB mail box. As a user the Online Mailbox Move lived up to its billing. Something might have hidden some downtime from me, but the move didn’t appear to happen while I was driving into work and I didn’t see any down time. When things go badly with our internal IT, “Microsoft IT” gets a lot of flack: when things go this well, they look like heroes.

2010 gives me an update to the Unified communications bits, notably it transcribes voice mail – the jury is still out on how well it will do that overall, but you if you pick up mail on a mobile device you get some sense of the message without having  to dial in or download the sound file. With Exchange 2007 I’ve grown used to being able to call in and get my e-mail read to me and I’ll be interested to see  if 2010 copes better with bad mobile phone connections and still does some of the slightly comical translations of  internal abbreviations “MS” becomes Manuscript, and “Technical Sales Professionals”, TSPs in Microsoft speak were teaspoons. Someone whose initials are SJ let us know that this got translated to “Society Of Jesus”. 

This morning we also got chatting in the office about our use of the full unified communications suite. This means we have our own voice conferencing system based on Office Communications Server (so no need to spend money on 3rd party dial up conferencing services), and we can use Communicator as a soft-phone when travelling or working from home. The former means cheap calls from abroad, and the latter give me a workround or the patchy phone signal I get at home. I love UCs call routing abilities – or perhaps I should say I hate putting people through the dilemmas of “Do I call this number or that number” and “If I get voice mail, should I redial on another number”. So I give out one number: UC will simultaneously “ring” on my PC and on my mobile and I can answer from either. If I’m at my PC I can steer the call to a different number or to voice mail, and it’s easier to forward the call if need be (even forwarding it to my mobile so I can shut the PC down and walk and talk). The only caution here is setting communicator to “Do not disturb” routes all calls straight to voice mail: forget to take communicator off DND you get voice mails without the phone ringing.  I need to educate people “Yes you can have my mobile number to text me, but if I don’t answer on the landline number, there is no point ringing the mobile.” , “If you do ring the mobile and get no answer you’ll will have to ring the land-line to leave a message”.  No-one seems to have got a good way to tell who is more easily contacted by mobile for whom the “one number” is not the desk one but the mobile: everyone assumes the numbers they give out themselves are the best numbers to give out for other people.

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

March 12, 2009

My enduring love for OCS .. and a Nice windows 7 feature

My job as an evangelist focuses on Windows platform (client and Server OS), including management (i.e. PowerShell) and Virtualization. But there are other Microsoft products which from my day to day use of them I feel evangelical about. One is Windows Live Writer which is the best tool for composing blog posts that I’ve found. Word can do blog posts, but somehow writer feels better suited to the task.

I used to do a lot with office Communications server (and I’ve written sections for both of its resource kits), but it’s a long time since I wrote about it here. I’ve been using the voice parts of it for well over  a year. I use it from home (and it’s spooky making calls from communicator to communicator with, for example , Eileen – because you hear the background sounds and acoustics). But I’ve never used it from outside the UK…

I started putting this post together at the end of a scuba holiday: one of the best value live-aboard boats I know sails from the Bahamas and I used up my air miles for the flight – the family stayed at home and left me to it. Orange don’t even list the Bahamas on their roaming page and, although my phone can see the Cell phone provider for the islands It won’t join the network. Yes, I call home from abroad using my company issued phone – the idea being the old one of work/life balance: each intrudes on each other but not unreasonably so. A couple of quid on a short phone call to say the sharks didn’t eat me in exchange for giving up holiday/family time to clear the backlog of mail is part of that balance. Still. I had no phone here, just free internet access. “OK…” I though lets give communicator a try. It works as well as phoning from inside the office; which was a surprise given that the internet connection was none too fantastic.

This gave me a chance to fire up the new Windows 7 resource monitor and have a look at exactly what communicator was doing. The 131 network address is Redmond and handles all the SIP traffic (call set up, and Instant Messaging) and the 213 address is in Dublin and carrying voice, although decent call quality is supposed to need latency of less than 100ms I was finding 200ms on a transatlantic call pretty darn good. And the bandwidth , averaged over a minute it’s about 2KB per second send and receive. I did a double take at that, but that’s bytes, so 16 Kbits per sec, which doesn’t require top notch broad band.

 

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

December 2, 2008

PowerShell Verbs Vs Nouns

Filed under: Powershell,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 11:54 am

The first big PowerShell project I worked on was to produce the scripts in the OCS resource Kit. With OCS R2 announced, it won’t come as a great surprised that we’re working on the Reskit again and I’ve gone back to my scripts. Boy oh Boy have I learnt some stuff in the last year.

  • PowerShell nouns are written in the singular. (I had a mix of singular and plural)
  • Be consistent with Nouns (don’t have “usage” in one place and “OCSPhoneRouteUsage” in another)
  • Avoid creating new verbs. (I’d written LIST-, when Get- would have done, LINK- for Add)
  • Try to allow the user to pipe things into commands, pass an object or a name to fetch the object
  • Allow Wildcards in names where possible. Allow people to use * even when if queries prefer %

The list goes on. I had already produced a table of verbs to nouns for the first release and I had this post of Jeffrey’s rattling round in my head. Rather than use his code I put my own together, using my new favourite PowerShell cmdlet, Select-String.

Function Get-VerbNounMatrix
{Param ($scriptName)

$Functions=Select-String -Pattern "^function|^filter" -path $scriptName | % {$_.line.split(" ")[1]}

$Verbs=($functions | forEach {$_.split("-")[0]} | sort -unique)

$Nouns=($functions | forEach {$_.split("-")[1]} | sort -unique)

$(foreach ($n in $Nouns){

$verbs | foreach -begin {$Info = New-Object -TypeName System.Object

Add-Member -inputObject $Info -MemberType NoteProperty -Name "Type" -Value $n} `

-process {Add-Member -inputObject $Info -MemberType NoteProperty -Name $_ `

-Value $(if ($functions -Contains "$_-$n") {"*"} else {" "})} `

-end {$info} }

) | export-csv -path $scriptName.toUpper().replace("PS1","CSV") }

 

The $functions= line gets all the lines in the specified file which start either “Function” or “Filter”, splits them where it finds space and takes the function name part (after the first space)

the $verbs= and $nouns= bit give the function arrays of the two halves of the function name, and then all the work is done in two nest loops

For each noun, it looks at each verb and creates an object with properties whose names match the verbs and whose values are set to a space or a * depending on whether the verb-noun combination exists; each object also gets a type property which is the noun. These object are then sent out to a CSV file.

and here’s the result (with a little cleaning up – the first time I ran it I found a function which was still using the wrong noun; not only is this is a great way of showing quickly what you have to others, but it shows you what you need to go back and fix).

Type Add Choose Export Get Import New Remove Update
ADUser     * *        
OCSADContainer       *        
OCS * Cert       *        
OCSEdgeFederationDenied       *   * *  
OCSEdgeFederationPartner     * * * * *  
OCSEdgeIMProvider       *   * * *
OCSEdgeInternalDomain       *   * *  
OCSEdgeInternalServer       *   * *  
OCSErrorEvent       *        
OCSGlobalUCSetting       *        
OCSInstalledService       *        
OCSLocationProfile   *   *   * *  
OCSMediationServer   *            
OCSMediationServerSetting       *        
OCSMeetingPolicy   *   *   * * *
OCSNormalizationRule   *   *   * * *
OCSPhoneRoute   *   *   * * *
OCSPhoneRouteUsage   *   *   * *  
OCSPICUserCount       *        
OCSPool   *   *        
OCSSchemaVersion       *        
OCSSIPDomain       *   * *  
OCSSipRoutingCert       *        
OCSTrustedService       *        
OCSUCPolicy   *   *   * * *
OCSUser     * * * * * *
OCSUserDetail       *        
OCSWarningEvent       *        
OCSWindowsService       *        

 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

March 15, 2008

Reasons to go to San Diego.

Filed under: Events,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 1:18 am

Eileen has already mentioned that she’s going to San Diego (there’s a song in there somewhere).  I’ve only been to San Diego once – the year I joined Microsoft – and it was jolly nice city for a conference, although after the flight back I asked our travel agents to make a note that I would rather fly Aeroflot connecting in Moscow, than fly with United again.

I fancy going back to San Diego, if for no other reason than I want to dive the Yukon – I’ve previously dived her sister ship the Saskatchewan and will probably be going back to her in the summer, but she’s in the chilly waters of British Columbia. Californian waters are somewhat warmer – Eileen’s a diver too, although she might think even Californian waters are a shade cool.

A better reason to go to San Diego in April is the the Interact conference. This looks like a great event, and there is a limited offer at the moment from Gurdeep – a free ticket to the US tech-ed or IT forum (he says 09 on his post, but I think it is this calendar year – but our Financial year 09).  If you were thinking of going to the European the saving on a free ticket would more than cancel out the airfare. So get your skates on and check out his post.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

November 30, 2007

Exchange 2007 SP1 released

Filed under: Exchange,Mobility,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 2:46 pm

The news went live on the Exchange Web Page yesterday. Technet Magazine has “16 new features in Exchange SP1” the one which is of most interest to me is Improvements to Unified Messaging“… that’s all about integration with OCS and communicator. 

Update: Jason thinks the mobility improvements are pretty major too,  more control over the device stands out there.

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

September 10, 2007

Tales from a weekend of PowerShell: Get-Needle -haystack …

Filed under: How to,Powershell,Real Time Collaboration,Working at Microsoft — jamesone111 @ 11:29 am

First to explain the title: Sooner or later I will stop banging on about hot-desking and the bedlam which is our office area – last week it did seem to plumb new depths with one team sitting round a speaker phone in the open plan office yelling into a conference call and another playing the flutes/recorders/penny whistles that they were giving away. Hot-desking only works if some people are deterred  from coming into the office, and with the summer holidays over and the house to myself again I can return to my pattern of coming into the office to meet people, and staying at home when I have work to do; and having at least one “car free day” per week.
Working at home, I find it quite hard to not have the laptop on my knee when there’s something I’m only half interested in on the TV. And working to a deadline (like trying to get the PowerShell part of a book done in time for publication) if the laptop is there then work naturally takes over the time that you’ve got nothing better to do. Which is how most of my weekend ended up with PowerShell.

I’ve been doing a lot of work with WMI objects for this project – they have names like MSFT_SIPFederationExternalEdgeListeningAddressSetting  or MSFT_SIPLocalNormalizationRuleData

To try to keep some consistency I typically have functions which go something like this

  • Get-OCSNormalizationRules – returns the all WMI objects for the class we’re interested in.
  • List-OCSNormalizationRules – takes the result of the Get and formats it nicely
  • Export-OcsNormalizationRules – takes the result of Get and outputs selected fields to a CSV file
  • Choose-OCSNormalizationRules – takes the result of the Get makes a menu (and returns the Wmi Objects, so that all the properties are available)
  • New-OCSNormalizationRule – takes parameters needed to build a WMI object
  • Import-OcsNormalizationRules – takes a CSV file and for each entry invokes New
  • Update-OCSNormalizationRule – takes the same parameters as New, uses one to retrieve the WMI object, and the others to update fields in it
  • Delete-OCSNormalization rules – uses the same parameter as Update to retrieve the WMI object and deletes it

Obviously some functions don’t make sense for some of the objects. Choose-OCS Users wouldn’t have an impossible menu. New-OCS ServerPool is done by installing the server, and so on.

One thing that plagued Live Communications server 2005 was mis-configured certificates so we wanted to be able to show what was being use. But where to go to get this information ? – there are a hundred or so WMI classes beginning MSFT_SIP – different ones exist depending on the server role. I’d already got a list potentially interesting classes with

get-wmiobject -list | where-object {$_.__class -like "msft_SIP*"}

So. I thought, why not dump out all of the classes. It’s a bit daft, but if I send it to a text file I can just search for CERT and I’ll find it and here’s the line it took. 

get-wmiobject -list | where-object {$_.__class -like "msft_sip*"} | foreach-object {get-wmiobject -class $_.__class} > temp.txt 

And hey presto 10 seconds in notepad had the reference I was looking for. What I had to do when I got that certificate was a whole other story, which I’ll tell you all about some other time.

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 30, 2007

Persistent chat – what’s that then ? A quick guide to collaboration modes.

Filed under: Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 2:54 pm

Since I posted about Parlano, a couple of people have asked me about persistent chat. Parlano

So.. (very briefly) most people understand Mail and Instant messaging. IM is usually 1:1, but we can have multiple users in a a chat. One of the major grumbles about LCS 2005 and Communicator 2005 was that when you escalated to Voice or Video chat it couldn’t do more than 1:1. This has changed in OCS 2007 with the new communicator client: we have a “hub” component (called an MCU) which brings together the voice and video streams. Although it wasn’t strictly necessary when 2007 users go from 1:1 to n-way IM conversation we also use an MCU.

Most people know about Internet Chat rooms; a hub of some kind has virtual “places” – so the room can be “persistent” i.e. it’s always there even if no-one is on-line chatting in it. But the conversations are transient. If you’re not in the room when someone says it you don’t see it.

Persistent chat combines the idea of “Rooms” with the idea the chat itself being persistent – so you can look at what was said before you joined. The screen shot gives you some idea, the “rooms” or “Channels” as the Mind–Align product calls them are on the left, the participants on the right and the chat is in the middle. It’s easier to manage and search than a Distribution List or Public folder / Newsgroup where each comment is a separate item. But it’s not ad-hoc like an IM chat or chat room.

As I said before I never found myself pining for this functionality, but I know of plenty of customers who did. It will be interesting to see how this integrates with the existing products. It would be interesting too if the next version of Groove linked into both this and traditional IM instead of Groove’s silo’d IM.

 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

"Microsoft to buy Parlano" peristant chat.

Filed under: Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 1:33 am

One of the things about working odd hours is I see things come in from the US, when most sensible Brits are in bed. One came with the message

“This announcement was originally scheduled to happen Thursday, August 30th, 2007 at 7AM PDT- however CNET broke embargo  http://news.com.com/Microsoft+to+buy+corporate+group+chat+company/2110-1014_3-6205224.html?tag=item ”

We are announcing our  intent to acquire Chicago-based Parlano, makers of the MindAlign group chat application. The deal is expected to be complete in the fourth quarter of 2007. Microsoft expects to incorporate Parlano’s group chat technology into Office Communications Server and Office Communicator,  and plans to offer group chat as part of the standard client access license for Office Communications Server 2007 Software Assurance customers. Microsoft believes this acquisition will strengthen the current unified communications offerings, particularly in financial services.

I’ll admit that the I’ve never missed the kind of Persistent chat that Parlano offers, but having dealt with quite a mix of clients I know there are a good number of organizations out there who view it as absolutely essential. Everyone seemed to think Parlano had the best product in this niche, so reading between the lines it seemed like the folks who decide these things thought the best way to round out the product was to buy them.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 5, 2007

Office Communications Server trial bits available.

Filed under: Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 4:43 pm

I had a mail from the Unified communications team over the weekend. They were happy to announce that the Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 Trial Downloads (both Enterprise Edition and Standard Edition Servers) together with their associated client, the Office Communicator 2007 Trial download are now available.  The OCS resource kit is still being worked on – I’ve proof-read some bits of it – but an early cut of the tools is also available. So is the Software Development Kit.

Initially these trials will be English only, the plan is to make Japanese, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese and Brazilian Portuguese versions available on September 24th.  Like all the best laid plans they are subject to change.

The idea of a trial is to help customers to evaluate the features, capabilities and scenarios delivered by these products in a lab environment. The evaluation code will expire after 180 days, if you were to use it production it is possible upgrade it with an appropriately licensed version of the product.  We have public forums where customers can post questions and feedback.

I realize that voice / telephony integration is a big piece of the new product and not many organizations have a PBX in their labs. But the what’s new guide runs to 15 pages which aren’t all telephony or greater finesse in Communicator . New scenarios worth looking at include notably extranet connections, finer grain permissions, IMing distribution lists and On-premise conferencing; if you want to test the latter to full there is a download of the Web conference scheduler. To save yourself a lot of individual downloads, I’d recommend the documentation roll-up too.

By the way: if you’re in the UK and you click through to the Office Communications server home page (http://www.microsoft.com/office/livecomm) from any of the links above you’ll fetch up at a LCS 2005 page not an OCS 2007 one. The usual course of action in this case is either

  1. Curse Microsoft for being an American company which operations overseas, rather than an international company. Send for Michael Kleef (back-story here) or
  2. Edit the url  to en-us instead of en-gb. I suspect this is true of other countries. … or
  3. Thank me for providing the link to the US version for you

 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

June 19, 2007

Campaign for real numbers update

Filed under: Exchange,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 4:28 pm

I’ve had an outlook rule in place for a while to tell people about broken phone numbers, I thought I’d report back. The first thing I found was that colleagues who forward lots of mail threads soon tired of seeing the message, so I’ve filtered out anything which is a reply or forward.

The rule now goes

  • Apply this rule after the message arrives
  • with+44(0) or +44 (O) in the body
  • Unless RE: or FW: appears in the subject
  • have server reply using {specific message}

I’ve noticed several people changed their signatures. One person has told me they will set up a similar rule.  Another got in touch to say that if he didn’t write in the broken format i.e. +44 (0), his signature would be 10 lines long. I think I convinced him of the point:

Not everyone or everything understands +44 (0) 118 909 3080, but anyone who does, also understands +44 118 909 3080.

Interestingly someone who works in Microsoft HR says she has been told she must write her phone number in that format. Sigh.

Some of Microsoft’s own Global address list entries have broken numbers. Since we now have Outlook Voice Access, I can dial into the system from my car and say “Directory”, the system will ask who I want to call, and if I say “Joe Blogs” it will call up Joe’s information and I can say “Call the office”, “Call the Mobile” or whatever numbers it has. If these are in the proper E.164 format +44 1234 56789 – no zero before the area code – then all is well: but if Joe (or who ever entered his phone number) was a numpty and wrote +44 (0) 1234 56789 instead. I can’t call him. Perhaps I shouldn’t be rude about people write their numbers in this way – I know two senior people in Microsoft UK who do.

 

Obviously as an early adopter of Voice access this bothers me, but today it got more important because I have dumped my desk-phone. I’m now on the pilot for Unified Communications. So have the new version of communicator running on my desktop and an “engineering sample” of a “Catalina” phone. Yipee! Call me King Sad of the Sad people but I’m actually excited. Mark Deakin has comprehensive summary of the devices for UC on his blog the Catalina is the phone which will come to market as the LG-Nortel UCT-100DSK and Polycomm CX200. Sound quality is quite nice at my end. I’m not quite sure what it sounds like at the other end.

The first two numbers I dialed were entered in a BROKEN FORMAT: One had the dreaded leading zero, in the GAL and the other had ;ext=1234 added to the end in communicators local address book… actually RFC 3966 says this is OK – I’d better file a communicator bug 🙂   

By the way if you follow RFC3966 and make your phone number a link in the form with a URL of TEL:+44-1234-56789 (n.b. there’s no // in the URL) people who have a supported dialer (like communicator) can click to dial. Why don’t I feel optimistic that we’ll do that on our web pages any time soon.  ?

But if your future includes OCS Telephony, Outlook Voice Access, Windows Mobile Devices which can query the GAL, or Mobile devices where people read mail and make calls then

  1. Clean your GAL and work to keep it clean – which you won’t do without 
  2. Educate users to write numbers in machine readable format.
  3. If you can get people to make phone numbers clickable, that’s a bonus.

Bonus Link. Some good stuff about why this is NOT Rip and Replace at a newish site we have called VOIP as you are.

 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 17, 2007

Office Communications Server round-up

Filed under: Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 3:10 pm

Two sets of information have come my way about OCS. The first is the licensing is beginning to get clearer. Please don’t send me questions on upgrades and pricing – talk to whoever you normally go to when you acquire software.

Licensing

The different versions of the server (standard and Enterprise) describe how the components fit together, not the Client Access Licenses (CALs) needed. There are two CALs – confusingly also called standard and enterprise. You can talk to an enterprise server with a Standard CAL (and vice versa) – CAL types are driven by function, not design.

  • The OCS 2007 Standard CAL: Includes Presence, IM and Group IM, Peer to Peer File transfer, Voice and Video (but not multi-party Voice and Video)
  • TheOCS 2007 Enterprise CAL: is separate from the Standard CAL, not a superset of it and is needed for Application Sharing, Multi party Voice and Video and Data conferencing, and the functions of the old Telephony CAL, i.e. Call routing, User Call management, remote call control,

Neither of these includes Public IM connectivity (linking to AOL, MSN and Yahoo!) and that will continue to be service with it’s own license

You won’t need a CAL for:

  • Non OCS users calling (or being called by) an extension hosted on your OCS Server
  • Public-network or federated users communicating with your OCS users

You will need CALs for each user or device for the following:

  • Users with IM identities hosted on your OCS Server
  • Users with OCS voice extensions
  • Users participating in a web conference

This last point raises the question, “What about hosting conferences for external people ?” this is where the external Connector (EC) licence comes in. This allows access to “external” users –that can include, but is not limited to, business partners, suppliers, customers, retirees, and alumni.

The second area is Devices and Gateways

We’ve announced more details of partners providing phones for OCS – more information is available at the device and gateway “Strategic Partners” page), here’s a round up of the headsets and handsets.

Jabra GN 2000 USB Headset

Wired USB Headset
[On10 have a good Jabra interview ]

The Jabra GN9330 USB Headset

Bluetooth Earpeice + USB adapter

The Jabra GN9350 Headset

Dual-function wireless headset for both traditional and PC-based telephony.

LG-Nortel Bluetooth Headset (IP8502)

[Microsoft reference design ‘Anacapa’]

Bluetooth Earbud + USB adapter.

Polycom CX100 Speakerphone

Portable, speakerphone for Office Communicator 2007

Polycom CX200 Desktop Phone /
LG-Nortel USB Phone (IP8501)
[Microsoft reference design ‘Catalina’]

Office Communicator 2007 peripheral with handset, headset or speakerphone mode

Vitelix VX-100

USB Phone without dialpad

NEC UC USB Phone

USB Phone with dialpad

Vitelix VX-200

USB Phone with dialpad

Vitelix VX-200 Duo

USB Phone with dialpad and Standard Telephone Connection.

PolyCom CX400 Cordless Phone

Portable, cordless handset for Office Communicator 2007.

PolyCom CX700 IP Phone /
LG-Nortel IP Phone 8540 (IP8540)
[Microsoft reference Design ‘Tanjay’]

Standalone IP phone with a large touch-screen color display and WinCE based user interface

We’ve got a photo in pressPass UC gallery with Gurdeep Singh Pall surrounded by these devices. Traditional phones have a limited frequency range which gives them their distinctive sound: the majority of these phones are “wideband” so the sound is more natural.

The device and gateway “Strategic Partners” page also links to AudioCodes, Dialogic and Quintum who provide gateway products.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 9, 2007

Voice control … sooner than I thought.

Filed under: Exchange,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 3:17 pm

Maybe I’m getting mellow in my old age, or maybe things in Microsoft IT are changing. There was a time when I really didn’t think much them – directly after they off-shored the help-desk was the low point. But since then they’ve been doing this and that to improve the service they deliver to us. One thing I mentioned a number of times is how easy it is to receive a new computer and get it working – thanks to Windows deployment services. Another is rolling out the latest Windows Mobile powered phones with all the supporting stuff from Exchange 2007 – and I’ve mentioned that before.

However. There has been one annoyance with Exchange 2007. My colleagues in the US get access to Unified Messaging – i.e the service which used to be voice mail now reads your e-mail to you and manages your calendar, and incoming voice mails arrive into your mailbox. We don’t get it. Here in the UK our switchboard presented a stack of problems for deploying UM: one of my customers who is based just across town from the Microsoft office has teased me because he has UM and I don’t. My expectation was they’d be hosting the Winter Olympics in Hell before we sorted it. I was wrong. Perhaps this is linked to the completion of building 5 – the rumour mill suggests this will be first non-US deployment of the Tanjay IP phones for OCS that I’ve mentioned before. Perhaps the necessary gateway has become available. Perhaps some of the changes that we’ve put into our software have helped our own IT folks do less firefighting, and more service development. I really don’t know. Either way we’ve been told that the deployment is happening soon.

As I’ve said before – touch tone controlled voice mail is a relic of the 1980’s and as way of controlling systems, touch tones need to go the way of the punch card 

Voice mail’s interface – keying in DTMF tones –  was designed for an era of desktop phones which were used two handed. But when you keep having to take a one piece phone from your ear to tell the system what to do, it’s clunky at best – and as for listening to messages while driving – that’s downright Dangerous.”.

In a a world where voice command means we can speak to a phone to tell it play music or call a messaging service; shouldn’t we also be able to speak to the messaging service and tell it what to play ? I’m looking forward to that. And since I’m lousy at polling for Voice mail, when the system goes live I’ll know I’ve got a message a great deal sooner and won’t keep people waiting for a reply for quite so long.

 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

April 28, 2007

Unified communications team goes Hollywood

Filed under: Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 11:40 am

I’ve already blogged about the Devil Wear Prada videos that the Unified communications team put out. Kevin who looks after the Unified communications team blog sent me this link Usually these movie posters don’t get seen outside product group offices, but for a little fun, allow the pop-up and you get that voice which seems to be used on so many trailers to create a personalized for a friend.

Some people have altogether too much time on their hands 🙂

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

April 25, 2007

A new day, a new phone.

Filed under: Exchange,Mobility,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 4:52 pm

Bias declaration: I’ve been a fan of Windows Mobile since before we started using the name. But having picked up my new Orange E650 aka HTC S710 codename “Vox” I’m left thinking “Boy oh boy Mobile 6 devices are a jump forward“. You could dismiss some of the changes as cosmetic, but I find they really help readability especially with the new screens – as with my new camera, small screens seem big step in the last couple of years. Jason’s got a run down of the changes in mobile 6 and a demo on youtube. Instead of repeating his work,here’s a run down of my first few hours with the E650


Orange activated my existing number on the new phone less than an hour after I collected it – about 12 noon. Vista’s Mobile Device Centre set itself up automatically when I plugged the phone in. That walked me through setting up Server and let me get the certificate needed for corporate WiFi access (a bit of a fiddle), and I installed OneNote mobile and Communicator mobile: both worked first time (although communicator was wrongly configured).
I had to do a telephone interview at 4PM – when I was sorting out a problem with my car. I needed the other interviewer to set up a 3 way call. I tried to IM him (and discovered the configuration gremlin). So I used the (new) GAL look-up to find his phone number and call him. The candidates CV was in a word document in my inbox, so I downloaded that and was able to view it on the phone while we were talking to him. I wanted to make some notes, so I switched to speaker phone, slid out the keyboard and tapped them into onenote. Fantastic. When I got home I setup the Bluetooth pairing with the laptop, syncing my interview notes into OneNote on my PC, and put together my own home screen layout, finally I tried to charge the phone with a standard cable and my Swiss Word Adapter – success! no more special cables. I picked up mail over the home WiFi network – including one from expansys saying they’ve shipped my memory card, Y adapter – which will live in the car with a double USB car power adapter (which will also power my GPS puck with the lead pictured here), and. All I have to do now is sort out a satisfactory Bluetooth hands-free solution – the result of an unsatisfactory one is pictured here

I compared the amount of stuff I used to carry and what I have now. So I’ve taken 4 points.


  • What I had the day after I got my original iPaq in 2000
  • What I had the day before the first Smartphone arrived in 2001 
  • What I’ve had for longest (the C500 – functionally not much different from the original SPV, but worked better)
  • What I have now.













































































































































  


2000


2001


2004


2007


Hardware


Phone Model and size
(my reaction)


Nokia 7110
141g, 125cc
(125 x 53 x 24 mm)
(Reputedly Nokia’s worst phone to date)


Ericsson T39.
94g, 108cc
(105 x 49 x 21 mm)
(Great battery life, but dreadful UI)


SPV C500
103g, 86cc
107 x 46 x 18mm
(A proper smartphone not a prototype)


SPV E650
140g, 90cc
101 x 50 x 18mm
(WOW !)


PDA Model and size


iPAQ 3650
170g, 173cc
130 x 83 x 16 mm


iPAQ 3650 + CF/Bluetooth jacket
235g, 320cc (139 x 92 x 25)
or PCMCIA jacket 270g, 383cc (139 x 92 x 30mm)

 

  


Input


Phone: “multi tap”
PDA: Stylus only


Phone: T9,
PDA: Stylus or Targus keyboard 335 g 367cc
140 x 105 x 25mm


T9 or Bluetooth Freedom keyboard
204g 278cc
(145 x 99 x 19mm)


T9 / Integrated Mini Qwerty


Memory + Expansion


32MB


32mb + CF via Jacket*


32mb + Mini-SD


64mb + Micro-SD


Camera


No


CF/PCMCIA available for Jacket*


640×480


1600×1200


Display


240×320


240×320


176×220


240×320


Works in US


No


Yes


Yes


Yes


GPS


No


Jacket* Available


Via Bluetooth


Via Bluetooth


Applications


Word & Excel


Yes


Yes


No


Yes


Power Point & PDF


No


No


No


Yes


Onenote and Communicator


No


No


Yes (Orange require developer unlock)


Yes


Mail


PDA: plain-text sync with PC,


PDA: plain-text sync with MIS Server PC
Phone: WAP (MIS)


Plain-text sync with E2K3 Server


Rich text sync + mailbox search with E2k7 server


Personal contacts


Sync PC-PDA


Sync PC-PDA (MIS sync broke addresses)


Sync E2K3Server-Phone


Sync E2K7 Server- phone


Corporate Address book


No


Via WAP on phone


Add on Application


Yes, integrated


Web Access


Offline sync


Offline sync or On-line WiFi


On-line, GPRS


Online, WiFi or GPRS


Corporate Management


No


No


No


Yes


Connections


WIFI


No


802.11b via PCMCIA Jacket*


No


802.11g integrated


GPRS


No


Not authorized


Yes


Yes + Edge


Bluetooth


No


Yes (phone)
Via Jacket*(PDA )


Yes


Yes, with stereo support


Connection to PC & charger


Proprietary


Proprietary


Bluetooth or Mini USB (non standard charger)


Bluetooth or Mini USB (Standard charger)


Music


3.5mm Jack


3.5mm Jack


2.5mm jack


Proprietary or Bluetooth


 


So is anything wrong with the new phone ? I don’t like having to buy an adapter to connect headphones or changing my memory card again – what was the point of mini-SD? At 140g it is a shade heavy (conventional wisdom says the optimal weight and size for a phone is about 100g and 100cc) . Installing communicator doesn’t enable IM functions from Contacts or Mail. And Mail doesn’t support voting buttons … not much really.


 


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

April 23, 2007

More information on Office Communications Server

Filed under: Beta Products,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 10:38 am

I had a list of interesting bits on the web in my mail this morning, and I thought the following two OCS ones were worth passing on.

 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

April 11, 2007

Will the management sign off this new IM device ?

Filed under: Real Time Collaboration,Xbox — jamesone111 @ 9:26 pm






OK,I’m a bit slow off the mark here but last week we announced we’re linking Xbox live into Windows Live messenger.I’ve got to get one of these… I not sure if Live Communications Server users with Public IM Connectivity to MSN / Windows Live will be see the Xbox live users – they better had !


Of course thirst for such a device has nothing to do with this or this. Or it’s possible use for this. Good lord no, perish the thought !


Update: And this Item on Amazon, has no influence what so ever.


 


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

March 27, 2007

When communication about Unified Communications doesn’t communicate anything.

Filed under: Beta Products,General musings,Real Time Collaboration — jamesone111 @ 3:31 pm

A year ago tomorrow, I posted something entitled “Civilisation will come to an end because no one will understand what anybody else is saying”

It seems I manage to post that the Beta of Office Communicator is live, before the product team did. And more tersely too.

How’s this for saying “Surely in the 21st century technology can help us call the person we want, instead of all that mucking about with phone numbers. “.

Interaction Impedance Mismatch: Users were frustrated because the experiences offered to them by the current communications systems didn’t match their mental model. A prime example of this is the initiation of communications. Users wished to communicate with other users. However, they found themselves communicating with other users’ devices. Because the systems didn’t offer the right abstractions so that users could have interactions that matched their mental model, there were instead exposed to the details having to make a choice whether to call a person’s office phone number, or their mobile phone number, or disturb them and call them at home

Eileen’s managed to negotiate with the folks in Redmond to bring forward their plans to get us the devices so we can show you the new bits of this technology and not just the videos for it (which are on the download site as well).I’m so looking forward to that.

Technorati tags: Microsoft, office Communications Server, live Meeting, Live communications Server, communicator, betas

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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