Azaleos launches OCS monitoring service

Seattle-based Azaleos Corp. launched a service that handles the management and maintenance of Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) for companies and organizations.

Organizations struggling with the complexities of deploying and maintaining Microsoft's unified communications solution have a new outsourcing option.

Seattle-based Azaleos Corp. on Tuesday launched a service that handles the management and maintenance of Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) for companies and organizations. Azaleos supports businesses of sizes, but its sweet spot is providing OCS support for organizations in the 500- to 5,000-seat range, according to Scott Gode, Azaleos' vice president of marketing and product management.

The 24-hours-per-day OCS monitoring service is operated from two network operations centers (in Seattle and Charlotte, N.C.) and uses Azaleos' patented ViewX technology to remotely monitor systems at the customer's premises.

The OCS monitoring service lets Azaleos, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, fix potential problems before they escalate. It monitors functions such as instant messaging and presence, videoconferencing, and voice-over-IP telephony within the enterprise. The service is currently available and is priced starting at $5 per user per month.

Azaleos has been beta testing the OCS monitoring service since early 2009. It also partners with Verizon as its OEM, doing the heavy technical work to help Verizon deliver managed OCS services to its customers.

Microsoft's unified communications stack includes Exchange, SharePoint and OCS. The products are licensed separately and the mixing and matching of different components is possible, Gode explained. However, figuring out the complexities of setting up and maintaining a unified communications system may exceed the resources of many IT organizations.

"OCS has a lot of moving parts, particularly when you add in the telephony piece, and [there's] the thought of how do I connect up Office Communications Server to my various PBX systems and then make the phone work … from a reliability standpoint," Gode said in a phone interview.

IP telephony is still a complex part of unified communications for technical reasons.

"If you have a legacy PBX – one that doesn't speak the SIP protocol (the standard IP protocol for telephony) – there's a much more complicated architecture," Gode said. "You have to go from OCS through something called a media gateway out to that PBX – and then from that PBX out to the public switched [telephone] network before you then repeat the process going back to whomever you're calling. That is complex for any vendor – whether it's Cisco, Avaya, Nortel or Microsoft – to navigate."

Azaleos uses a developing standard called "SIP trunking," which bypasses the legacy PBX, Gode explained. It streamlines the IP telephony integration process.

Microsoft sells subscriptions to hosted OCS as part of its Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, such as instant messaging and presence services. However, Redmond currently doesn't include a voice component in it, Gode said.

In addition to offering the OCS monitoring service, Azaleos offers planning and setup help for organizations migrating to OCS. The company can also fine tune system components, such as providing SQL Server monitoring and network load balancing via Azaleos F5 Local Traffic Manager.

The new OCS services are offered on top of a 24x7 monitoring service for Exchange Server 2007 that Azaleos launched back in July. The company plans to offer monitoring and management support for Exchange Server 2010, starting at $12 per user per month, when that product ships later this year.

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