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Microsoft Eases IM Licensing Costs on UC Platform

Microsoft on Thursday announced a few perks for its unified communications customers, particularly with regard to instant messaging (IM) presence technology.

The company announced some licensing cost cuts and a new gateway that enables other vendors' IM services to work with the Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 R2 product. The OCS is Microsoft's platform for unified communications, providing functions such as calendar, conferencing, e-mail, IM and voice-over-IP telephony.

Microsoft's announcement described some licensing cost reductions, particularly with AOL's IM presence service. As of October 2009, customers with a Client Access License agreement for OCS 2007 R2, or an equivalent agreement under Microsoft's Software Assurance plan, don't have to pay an additional license fee to enable presence with AOL's IM service. It's similar to a break Microsoft gave its customers back in July when it relinquished licensing costs for Windows Live IM presence.

Oddly, OCS 2007 R2 customers don't get such a break on all IM services. Those who want to use presence with Yahoo's IM service need to purchase Microsoft's public IM connectivity license, or PIC. However, Microsoft reduced the price of the PIC by half, effective this month, according to a team blog. The blog points out that Microsoft actually renamed its "Live Communications Server PIC" license in June, and now calls it the "Office Communications Server Public IM Connectivity" license. The license is sold on a per-user, per-month basis.

In addition, Microsoft is providing a way for OCS 2007 R2 customers to enable presence using the Cisco Jabber and Google Talk IM services. Licensees can download a new eXtensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) Gateway for OCS 2007 R2 -- for free.

The gateway enables presence and IM capabilities in conjunction with the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol used on Cisco's and Google's IM networks. According to an OCS Web page, there is no licensing cost for IM federation with Google Talk using the gateway. It's not clear if there are licensing costs associated with the Cisco Jabber IM federation.

The XMPP Gateway can be downloaded here. Microsoft shows how the system works in a Channel 9 video chalkboard presentation here.

Broadly speaking, Microsoft is planning to make OCS more interoperable with other vendors' products, according to a Microsoft-produced interview with Eric Swift, Microsoft's general manager of the Unified Communications Group. Swift noted that Microsoft is working with HP to enable connectivity with HP Halo Telepresence Solutions. Microsoft is also working with Polycom and Tandberg to enable integration of their video products.

Microsoft is even working with its direct competitor (and Microsoft partner) Cisco Systems, which unveiled its own unified communications platform late last year. Swift said that Microsoft is working to "connect to Cisco's Unified Communications Manager via Direct SIP connectivity with Office Communications Server 2007 R2."

In general, Microsoft is championing SIP, or the Session Initiation Protocol, as the protocol of choice for enabling presence in its unified communications platform, Swift said.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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