I have recently joined the Pythian Group as a SA, and have started to learn about the environment and the tools we use for the daily activities and the control. Even I may not have experience about the technologies which you guys are using, but have worked with the technology and feel that I should share the same with our team which may end up with some good.

I have noticed that we are using the IRC for most of the in-house inter team communications, in which we do not see the presence of the team members and the status. Whereas this can be achieved through the technology and we can be more informed before the start of any communication with the desired person. There are many new trends in the market for the desired solution from the key players in the market like;

  • Microsoft
  • Cisco

Microsoft has a solution for this technology which is called the Microsoft unified Communications. This setup is based on the traditional design of the Microsoft environment like, AD, Exchange, IIS and Unified Communication Server Called Lync.

Here I would like to give some details about the unified communications which is as follows;

Unified communications (UC) is the integration of real-time communication services such as instant messaging (chat), presence information, telephony (including IP telephony), video conferencing, call control and speech recognition with non-real-time communication services such as unified messaging (integrated voicemail, e-mail, SMS and fax). UC is not a single product, but a set of products that provides a consistent unified user interface and user experience across multiple devices and media types. UC also refers to a trend to offer Business process integration, i.e. to simplify and integrate all forms of communications in view to optimize business processes and reduce the response time, manage flows, and eliminate device and media dependencies.

UC allows an individual to send a message on one medium and receive the same communication on another medium. For example, one can receive a voicemail message and choose to access it through e-mail or a cell phone. If the sender is online according to the presence information and currently accepts calls, the response can be sent immediately through text chat or video call. Otherwise, it may be sent as a non real-time message that can be accessed through a variety of media.

Instant messaging (IM) is a form of real-time direct text-based communication between two or more people using personal computers or other devices, along with shared software clients. The user’s text is
conveyed over a network, such as the Internet. More advanced instant messaging software clients also allow enhanced modes of communication, such as live voice or video calling.

Presence information. In computer and telecommunications networks, presence information is a status indicator that conveys ability and willingness of a potential communication partner—for example a user—to communicate. A user’s client provides presence information (presence state) via a network connection to a presence service, which is stored in what constitutes his personal availability record (called a presentity) and can be made available for distribution to other users (called watchers) to convey his availability for communication. Presence information has wide application in many communication services and is one of the innovations driving the popularity of instant messaging or recent implementations of voice over IP clients.

A videoconference or video conference (also known as a video teleconference) is a set of interactive telecommunication technologies which allow two or more locations to interact via two-way video and audio transmissions simultaneously. It has also been called ‘visual collaboration’ and is a type of groupware. Videoconferencing differs from videophone calls in that it’s designed to serve a conference rather than individuals. It is an intermediate form of video telephony, first deployed commercially by AT&Tduring the early 1970s using their Picture phone technology.

In telephony, call control refers to the software within a telephone switch that supplies its central function. Call control decodes addressing information and routes telephone calls from one end point to another. It also creates the features that can be used to adapt standard switch operation to the needs of users. Common examples of such features are;

  • “Call Waiting”
  • “Call Forward on Busy”
  • “Do Not Disturb”

Call control software, because of its central place in the operation of the telephone network, is marked by both complexity and reliability. Call control systems will typically require many thousands of person years in development. They will contain millions of lines of high level code. However they must and do meet reliability requirements that specify switch down time of only a few minutes in forty years.

The required functionality and reliability of call control is a major challenge for Voice over IP (VoIP) systems. VoIP systems are based on Internet standards and technology which have not previously attempted to satisfy such complex and demanding requirements as those that specify call control. An alternative name often used is call processing.

Speech recognition (also known as automatic speech recognition or computer speech recognition) converts spoken words to text. The term “voice recognition” is sometimes used to refer to recognition systems that must be trained to a particular speaker—as is the case for most desktop recognition software. Recognizing the speaker can simplify the task of translating speech. Speech recognition is a broader solution which refers to technology that can recognize speech without being targeted at single speaker—such as a call center system that can recognize arbitrary voices.

Unified Messaging (or UM) is the integration of different electronic messaging and communications media (e-mail, SMS, Fax, voicemail, video messaging, etc.) technologies into a single interface, accessible from a variety of different devices. While traditional communications systems delivered messages into several different types of stores such as voicemail systems, e-mail servers, and stand-alone fax machines, with Unified Messaging all types of messages are stored in one system. Voicemail messages, for example, can be delivered directly into the user’s inbox and played either through a headset or the computer’s speaker. This simplifies the user’s experience (only one place to check for messages) and can offer new options for workflow such as appending notes or documents to forwarded voicemails.

Microsoft Lync Server (previously Microsoft Office Communications Server) is an enterprise real-time communications server, providing the infrastructure for enterprise instant messaging, presence, file transfer, peer-to-peer and multiparty voice and video calling, ad hoc and structured conferences (audio, video and web) and PSTN connectivity. These features are available within an organization, between organizations, and with external users on the public internet, or standard phones, on the PSTN as well as SIP trunking.

BENEFITS OF MC LYNC SERVER.

From controlling costs to managing compliance, Microsoft® Lync™ delivers value that speaks to the
needs of today’s organizations.

Do more. With less.

Control costs Voice over IP (VoIP) enables communications among geographically dispersed company locations without long distance charges. Integrated audio, video, and Web conferencing helps reduce travel costs as well as the cost of third-party conferencing solutions.

Improve productivity Rich presence information helps employees find each other and choose the most effective way to communicate at a given time. Instead of e-mailing documents back and forth for approval, workers can rely on real-time collaboration through enhanced conferencing with desktop, application, and virtual whiteboard sharing—or contact a collaborator from within Microsoft Office or other applications. The unified Microsoft Lync 2010 client provides access to enterprise voice, enterprise messaging, and conferencing from one simplified interface.

Support the mobile workforce Mobile workers get access to rich Unified Communications tools from practically anywhere with an Internet connection, no VPN needed. An updated Lync Mobile client makes joining and managing conferences, searching the Global Address List, and viewing presence information easy. Rich presence in Lync Server 2010 has been updated with mobile location information, making on-the-go workers easier to find and contact. A single user experience across PC, phone, mobile phone, and browser gives workers more ways to stay in touch.

Gain operational efficiencies By integrating Unified Communications and rich presence into business workflows, latency and delays can be reduced or eliminated. For geographically dispersed teams, group chat can enable efficient, topic-specific, multi-party discussions that persist over time.

Be more responsive to customers, partners, and employees Enhanced delegation through Lync 2010, one-click call routing and management features in Microsoft Lync 2010 Attendant for receptionists, and rich presence information in both help ensure that opportunities are routed to the right person at the right time.
Maintain regulatory compliance Built-in security, encryption, archiving, and call detail records help meet regulatory requirements. By using your own servers and network, you maintain control over sensitive data that would otherwise be transmitted over public telephone networks and third-party conferencing platforms.

So this is what we can have with the help of Microsoft and Cisco, but the good news is that we can achieve the desired goal with the help of Linux as well witout investing to the licensing cost :), we can it in coleberation with Asterisk and the XMPP the Jabber Application.

I hope you guys will enjoy this post, and we can discuss further if interested