AUA Telecoms Conference 2011 - Day 3

The third and final day of the 24th annual AUA Telecoms conference closed on Thursday with a set of four sessions three of which were case studies.

The first of the case studies started us off for the day with Chris Daniels from Sheffield talking about “Doing Things Differently (the story so far from Sheffield).” Like many others the story focussed around the migration to a VOIP based telecoms architecture. The main difficulty seemed to me to be the admirable principle they adopted to support every platform they could for their rollout of soft phones. The OneX Portal solution they have adopted doesn’t seem to provide much for Linux users at the moment, but it seems they have a reasonably happy majority of Mac & Windows users as well as some degree of mobile integration across the board.

The next session I think was one that people had been waiting for with great anticipation (I certainly had). Robin Chan (a Technical Solutions Professional from Microsoft) gave a session on “The Next Wave of Microsoft Unified Communications”. The session provided an overview of the new Lync Server platform launched by Microsoft in the latter part of

  1. The next generation of Micorosft’s Office Communications Server platform it now boasts PBX features as well as overall stability, integration and feature enhancements.

The overview was good but unfortunately the main part of the session was based around a brief demonstration of the system and there were a few WiFi problems at the hotel at that point meaning that Paul had to borrow a 3G dongle form the audience. Whilst my MiFi 3G connectivity had been good (on the same network as the dongle he borrowed) at the venue he didn’t have much luck and some of the example operations he carried out were painfully slow or of poor quality. I was quite surprised by this as the adaptive codecs available in Lync I would have thought would have handled the bandwidth issues more elegantly.

I was fortunate to get a demonstration at the stands of one of the exhibitors on the previous day so I don’t feel too cheated on this one, but my overall impression was that the system was pretty good, particularly if you have a heavily invested Microsoft infrastructure.

I managed to catch Robin for a few moments after the presentation and I quizzed him on the call out feature on mobiles. Robin mentioned during the presentation that Windows Mobile phones could request a call out from the central system that would then connect the lines. So for example it might be cheaper to have your land line call out to your mobile and an international number than call it directly from your mobile. Unfortunately upon digging a little bit further it sounds like this is currently a Windows Mobile only feature. Presumably we won’t have to wait too long for Android, iOS, Blackberry and maybe even WebOS and Symbian clients to be available?

Following on from this Lync session was amazingly a Lync related case study. Jonathan Barstow from the University of the West of England had worked on the implementation of Lync as part of the beta program with Microsoft. It seemed immediately apparent that the Microsoft solution was significantly more affordable that the Alcatel alternative for integration with their Alcatel phone system. It was also surprising to hear just how easy the roll out had been (though we were all advised to follow the Microsoft roll-out information very carefully) and how it was an all round better experience than OCS.

Jonathan did highlight a few issues that had been discovered (some sounded like ‘show stoppers’ to me), but then again it was a beta programme so some issues are to be expected. Robin Chan at this point offered to personally help get some of the issues tackled (as I said some sounded like particularly nasty surprises).

The final session and case study of the conference was from Howard Noble of Oxford University’s Computing Services. He gave a very different presentation on “The Social Side of IT”. He spoke briefly about the implementation of a bespoke automation system for shutting down and starting up computers to save power overnight and at weekends. This was all very simple to follow and was a neat idea that for such a large IT estate would make a significant difference to power consumption costs, carbon footprint, etc. From this he went on to discuss communicating the benefits to non-technical people and this was the heart of the presentation, but unfortunately I was left feeling a little bewildered as to the conclusion. There were several ways covered in how information could be displayed and social engineering based approaches to tackling people’s cultural perspectives, but in the end there were no conclusions I could take away … just a question of how do I communicate these sorts of things to non-technical people. But maybe that was exactly the point of the session?

Overall I had a very productive experience at my first AUA Telecoms conference and whilst I have undoubtedly increased my overall telecoms knowledge by attending the sessions, talking to exhibitors and delegates, the sense of community and openness is probably the best thing I will take away with me.

Author: Stephen Millard
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