Microsoft Unified Comms Appliance Hits the UK

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UC Expo: A single appliance designed to replace phones and other comms systems with Microsoft software has launched in the UK

An appliance from Dutch company StartReady, which uses Microsoft software to replace phone systems and other communications methods, has arrived in the UK from distributor Eurodata.

The 1U high appliance, which has been available in the US for some time, runs Microsoft’s Office Communications Server (OCS), and handles instant messaging, email, voice communications and presence. Costing from £10,000 it supports 1,000 users or more, and can replace multiple general purpose servers running parts of the Microsoft solution, according to Eurodata.

Five servers replaced with one appliance

“If you are running OCS, you have to run up to five separate servers,” said Des Lekerman, managing director of Eurodata, at the UC Expo event in London, “this does it in one appliance.”

The Microsoft solution has had some success in larger organisations, such as Shell and Microsoft itself, but the complexity of the product has been a barrier in smaller companies, said Lekerman. It has also been extensively patched by Microsoft in its rougly-two-year life, which can be an issue for end users maintaining their own systems.

By virtualising multiple instances of Windows Server, running the different parts of the OCS solution, and putting them on a single appliance, a high-end solution becomes suitable for smaller businesses, said Lekerman. A demonstration at the UC Expo event made the system seem simple to set up and administer, and showed it handling voice, video and IM, with presence included.

Although most companies are reluctant to replace their old-fashioned and very reliable PBX phone systems, two factors could contribute to companies trying out this system, said Lekerman. Many PBXs are coming to the end of their lives, just as a turf war inside many user companies has ended with the IT manager taking over the telephony side of communications – and IT managers are more likely to be receptive to new solutions, he said.

“OCS really can replace the PBX,” said Nils Blaauboer, sales director at StartReady, also at UC Expo. “Dinosaurs do eventually become extinct.”

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