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Communications Server ‘14’ Full Disclosure

Right now I’m down at TechEd 2010 in New Orleans, LA where the keynote address is in progress. Microsoft has now officially lifted the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) on all features and content which will be coming in the next release of Communications Server, which is still dubbed ‘Microsoft Communication Server 14’. The ‘14’ refers to the internal Wave 14 codename which has been used since the birth of this iteration of code.

I’m going to try and provide a very brief feature overview while I have a few minutes between sessions and booth duty today, but look for some deeper reviews of the content in the coming days and weeks. In fact, if you are attending TechEd 2010 this week, stop by the UNC area of the Microsoft Yellow Section between 2:30PM and 5PM tomorrow or Wednesday and I can personally answer any questions you may have regarding the new feature set. I’ll also be at the booth during this evening’s reception.

New Server Features

Supported Operating Systems are listed as Server 2008 SP2 64-bit and Server 2008 R2 64-bit. Nothing new here.

Topology Changes

  • Communications Servers Sites
    • Geographical locations can be defined in CS as sites, as either a central or branch site.
  • New Server Role Collocation Options
    • The A/V Conferencing Front-End role can be separated on dedicated hardware, providing a single expanded scenario. Microsoft recommends separating the A/V conferencing workload from the rest of the consolidated Front-End servers in large deployment (10,000+ users). For the standard small/medium business deployment a single consolidated server can be ideal.
    • The Mediation Server role can now be collocated on the Front-End server and is a recommended configuration unless utilizing SIP Trunking or Direct SIP scenarios. So deployments leveraging a media gateway can benefit from the reduced hardware costs of separate Mediation Servers .
    • The Archiving and Monitoring Server roles can also be collocated with the Front-End server in smaller deployments.
  • Survivable Branch Appliance (SBA)
    • Many of these branch hardware devices have already been announced by some partners like Dialogic and Audio codes.
  • Revamped Director Role
    • The Director is now a separate role and isn’t just a stripped-down Pool server. It also uses SQL Express installed local and does not require a separate SQL back-end database, which previously caused deployment headaches due to the SQL database name conflicts with an existing Front-End database.

Management & Administration Tools

  • New Management Tools
    • The MMC-based management shell (LCSCMD) has been replaced by the Communication Server Management Shell which is a PowerShell based console similar to the Exchange Management Shell.
    • The MMC-based management console has been replaced by the Communication Server Control Panel (CSCP) which is a Silverlight-based web interface, similar to the Exchange Server 2010 Control Panel (ECP).
  • Roles-Based Access Control
    • Again, taking a page from the Exchange Server 2010 book, another similar feature. We see yet some more ‘unification’ of the UC products here.
  • Central Management Store
    • Organization-wide configuration data for servers is now stored in a new schematized database, outside of the traditional Active Directory configuration and Domain containers as previous versions of LCS and OCS.
    • Edge Server deployment is simplified by allowing the Central Management Store to push configuration data to workgroup Edge servers located in perimeter networks.
  • DNS Load Balancing
    • All SIP and media traffic will utilize standard DNS load balancing. HTTP traffic will still require hardware load balancers but moving the complicated media paths away from HLBs greatly simplifies the deployment ands= also expands the supportability to and HLB solution which can handle standard HTTP traffic.
  • Server Draining
    • When taking a server offline for maintenance active connections to it can be drained and moved to another node in the pool.

I need to run off to some CS sessions this afternoon, but in a later post I’ll review many of the new Client-side features and remaining Server-side features, like Enhanced Voice Resiliency, Call Admission Control, E911, Mediation Server Bypass, Call Park, Music on Hold.

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