Snapshot: Microsoft Live Communications Server 2005

Vendor Name: Microsoft
Date of Publication: March 8, 2005
Author(s): David Ferris, Lee Benjamin, Nick Shelness, David Via
Source of Information: Gurdeep Singh Pall, Corporate Vice President, RTC Business Group
Quick Summary of LCS: Instant messaging and presence server, also providing peer-to-peer audio, video, whiteboards, application sharing and data collaboration.

Company Statistics

· # Full-Time Product Development Staff. Undisclosed
· Stock Market Status: Public, MSFT
· Revenues: Microsoft says it has millions of seats. This may very well be true, but in terms of Exchange seats, Ferris estimates the proportions are low. We estimate there might be three million live seats. In short, penetration and revenues are small at present, and LCS has yet to be widely deployed.
· # Live Paying Customer Seats: Ditto.

Live Communications Server 2005

Product Name: Microsoft Live Communications Server with SP1
Product Functionality:
· Instant messaging and presence server, based on SIP and SIMPLE. SIMPLE is a set of instant messaging and presence profiles to SIP.
· Provides for other SIP-established services, notably audio, video, whiteboards, application sharing, and data collaboration
· Microsoft Office Communicator 2005, formerly known as Istanbul, is the main client software. Windows Messenger 5.1 will still work with LCS 2005, however.
Platforms: Windows Server 2003
Main Competition: IBM Lotus Instant Messaging formerly known as Sametime and IBM Lotus Workplace, Jabber, public IM services from AOL, Yahoo, MSN.
Main New Features:
· Telephony integration. Microsoft is working with several PBX partners including Siemens, Mitel and Alcatel’s Genesys to provide tight integration with LCS 2005 and Communicator. The goals are to provide on/off hook enterprise phone status, and to let users control their enterprise phones directly from their computer, to do things like call initiation, muting, PSTN call conferencing, and presence-enabled call forwarding.
· LCS Federation. This lets users in different LCS 2005 domains share presence information and initiate IM sessions over authenticated (via X.509 certificates), encrypted and logged, LCS-to-LCS Transport Layer Security (TLS) sessions. Federation employs SIP/SIMPLE as per a (pre-RFC) Internet Draft “Inter-domain Requirements for SIP/SIMPLE” co-authored by Microsoft, IBM Lotus, and AOL.
· Public IM Federation. Similar to LCS-to-LCS Federation but with connectivity to the three major public IM service providers: AOL, MSN, and Yahoo! rather than another LCS 2005 domain. Public IM Federation provides an alternative to users directly operating their own AOL, MSN, Yahoo! or Trillian clients. This connectivity will need to be licensed separately and for a per-user fee from AOL, MSN, and Yahoo! Directly.
· Better scalability. The Enterprise Edition of LCS 2005 claims to improve reliability, availability and scalability. There were reports of poor performance across geographically distributed LCS 2003 deployments.
Release Date: Microsoft Office Live Communications Server was made available December 1, 2004. Live Communications Server SP1 and Public IM Connectivity will be available in 2Q2005.
Pricing:
· Live Communications Server 2005. The first level of pricing for volume licensing customers is $787 per server for Standard Edition, and $3,154 per server for Enterprise Edition. In addition, a Live Communications Server 2005 user CAL is required for each user or device gaining access to the server and enables access rights to both editions of Live Communications Server 2005. The CAL is $31 per device or user. Pricing lowers depending on volume; large-scale customers see a significant drop in price. Free upgrade for existing LCS 2003 customers.
· Public IM Connectivity. On average, depending on volume discounts, the price for LCS 2005 connectivity to a public IM service is approximately $13-$16 per user per year.
Main Plans–Next 12 Months:
· Web client.
· Client for smart mobile phones, and wireless PDAs running PocketPC.
· Web conferencing support.
Special Characteristics Claimed by Vendor: The vendor emphasizes strengths in the following areas:
· Enterprise to enterprise federation.
· Better reliability, availability and scalability with the Enterprise Edition.
· Server-side connectivity to the leading public IM services.
· Good integration with the Communicator client. Eg, easy-to-use contact search capabilities; users can view other contacts’ free/busy information from their schedule, as well as displaying their out of office messages; users can set ‘custom notes’, to provide more rich information to other contacts; telephony integration
For Further Information. www.microsoft.com/office/livecomm

Other Ferris Research Comments

· LCS’s public IM Federation feature is a unique differentiator in the short term. Using LCS 2005 Service Pack 1 and the Office Communicator client, licensed corporate instant messaging users are able to communicate with users all three of the major public IM networks via LCS-side connections.
· LCS continues to support only one-to-one use of features such as application sharing and white boarding. Users who require multi-party support for these features are directed to Microsoft’s hosted Live Meeting service. Microsoft says that LCS will support multi-party use in the next release. Other customer premise-based solutions (most notably IBM’s competitive Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing server, formerly Sametime, and its Workplace offering) have supported multi-party use for some time.
· Microsoft continues to release real-time communications products based on proprietary SIP/SIMPLE extensions or early (pre-RFC) drafts of emerging SIP/SIMPLE standards. This is acceptable as long as Microsoft replaces these proprietary and early implementations with standard’s compliant implementations in subsequent releases. Microsoft’s historic behavior in this regard has not been good (eg, its non-replacement of early, and now non-compliant, calendaring protocols in Exchange and Outlook). The LCS team seems to be behaving better based on their full compliance with the IETF’s “Presence Information Data Format” in LCS 2005, which in LCS 2003 was based on an early draft.
· Microsoft has had limited success bringing instant messaging to Exchange users. The IM technology supplied with Exchange Server 2000 was abandoned. As a result, very few Exchange users use a Microsoft-supplied instant messaging solution. Instead, they use public IM services, or Lotus Sametime.
· A large part of the market, especially Exchange users, will be naturally inclined to deploy LCS. All things being equal, LCS should become a dominant technology. However, in our view, it’s still unproven, and too early to tell whether it’s good enough for widespread deployment.
· It would be nice to clarify what happens when the public IM connection breaks. Who does the LCS customer call? Microsoft, or MSN, or Yahoo, or AOL?

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