Implementing Microsoft Office Communication Server 2007

Microsoft Office Communication Server 2007 icon Last week I’ve been to training for this product in EIITE training centre. It was mainly paid my Microsoft so the price was more than nice, which is first step to be happy.

In fact first attempt to do this training was the week before but some failure on their servers didn’t allowed us to do it so we postponed it till last week and it went without problems.

First of all we started with a bunch of theory like what MOCS (the acronym of Microsoft Office Communication Server) would allow us to do, which editions exist and so on.

After all of that I know, that there is Standard and Enterprise edition and both of them are the same in their functionality. The difference is in the installation when Standard has to have all services installed on one server (and you are able to install more of them and put load balancer in front of them) while Enterprise will allow you to install different parts on different servers or server pools (eg. separated pool for audio conferencing, another one for chats, and so on) while database must be on separated server.

Rich presense means awareness for Microsoft, it uses SIP protocol instead of H323 for VoIP and the GSM codec is included for free. Also it allows you to connect to externel communities (AOL, MSN) but you must have additional licences. Federation with other companies is also supported. It also includes the SPIM functionality (SPAM in IM), which is quite weak and you can filter by keywords, times or users. Web conferencing, audio and video conferencing, recording and so on – all is supported. It also allows you to use Exchange 2007 distribution lists as one of the sources for Address Book Services but it has to be exactly 2007 version, no older. There is no point to point communication, everything goes over the server even file transfer is more like upload and download.

HW requirements are quite high (at least from my point of view) and some of them are still low regarding our trainer and should be about twice higher (RAM size especially). There is no need to deploy Exchange server as there is just integration with Outlook. But you must use Active Directory and it is probably impossible to use external LDAP as the AD schema are extended during installation.

And then we started with some kind of environment preparation. There was a lot of different programs (such as wbemtest and so on) which I didn’t get due to my ignorance in Windows environment administration. Don’t have the same feeling with Sametime that I need to know all those strange details but maybe I’m wrong. But then we started some deployment wizard which was really nice, did all tests for us, installed the MOCS and even tested if everything is working. Cool, I’m happy again.

It uses a lot of ports, which are necessary to enable. Outside ports are 443, 5061, 50 000 – 52 999 for audio/video conferencing and UDP 50 000 – 52 999 for A/V conferencing. Internal you have to enable 443, 5061, 5062 and UDP 3478 (for A/V).

There is no antivirus for it (even 3rd party one, but you can try normal filescan as it saves every file on disk before distributing it), for integration with Outlook you have to install some plugin and when you have group chat it isn’t possible to send a file (big surprise for me). But you are able to set conversation subject (which is used as window title) and set conversation as high priority. Have no idea how can I use those things in life.

You are able to configure for each contact the level of access to your information (all of your contact information even with calendar, just your basic contact information or don’t share anything – there is about 5 levels of access). and you are able to put contacts into group; however, you aren’t able to put a group into your contact (you have to put them one by one) so I cannot imagine how it should work in bigger companies, which would like to have a group Helpdesk and normal people don’t want to care to much about who is responsible for helpdesk, they just want to select one or more contact from this group, which is automatically updated from AD. You aren’t even able to prepare contact list for your users.

When we installed it I was surprise with the complexity what must be set up where. You have to put your MOCS server name into policy settings and into DNS as well. You have to enable people for IM and you have to assign policy to computers they use. And when they connect from another computer (which doesn’t have assigned policy settings) they have to configure connection to server on their own. Wow.

The training itself was quite strange and I still don’t get the full picture. We had about 10 different virtual machines we used in different times, so we didn’t start with one (or more) and use it for the whole installation and configuration to the final testing. We just started ew of them, install something and tried something, that we started some others, installed maybe the same maybe something else and tried some more stuff. As this was something like official course it probably wasn’t fault of the lector but something which should be considered as normal. And I just hated it and wasn’t alone in it.

All in all – MOCS and Sametime offer about the same functionality (I mean chatting, awareness, web conferencing, recording, connection with external communities) but for me the installation of Sametime is much easier and make more sense and it has also functionalities I consider as necessary for enterprise use such as groups, ability to connect to common LDAP server, and even the possibility to program my own automatic users. In this category IBM won for me. And I probably wasn’t alone as much of those MS oriented people who were there with me were surprise how non functional it is.

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