Shell bets big on Microsoft global VOIP plans

Shell bets big on Microsoft global VOIP plans

Nortel technology will bridge legacy TDM and Microsoft-based VoIP

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell is planning a global VOIP rollout with tens of thousands of IP phones that will ultimately run off of a mostly Microsoft-based server platform.

Shell plans this year to begin testing Office Communications Server 2007, Windows Vista, along with Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007, and rolling the platforms into production by early 2008. Shell now has Nortel's Communication Server 1000 IP PBX running in its data centers, which host around 1,000 IP phones worldwide.

When the Microsoft infrastructure is in place, Shell will start to switch over large numbers of employees to Office Communicator softphone clients, hosted by the Microsoft OCS platforms, as well as Nortel IP hard phones, managed by CS1000 IP PBXs.

"Ultimately, we don't see the need for separate IP telephony" and Microsoft messaging platforms.That is our vision, but it depends on whether Microsoft delivers," said Johan Krebbers, group IT architect at Royal Dutch Shell, during a presentation at VoiceCon this week.

What Microsoft must deliver on is its forthcoming Office Communications Server -- a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based, real-time communication server, which can act as an IP PBX, among other roles. Shell's multi-year plan involves a gradual migration off of hundreds of disparate PBX systems in more than 110 countries to a centralized VOIP, messaging and collaboration infrastructure based on Microsoft servers, and Nortel IP PBX and gateway technology. The oil giant's core VOIP network will shift eventually to Microsoft OCS, with Nortel IP telephony technology serving as a bridge between legacy telephony and VOIP.

"We [will] not have a separate Nortel IP PBX infrastructure," if the OCS servers prove to be stable enough, and offer the right amount of features, Krebbers said.

The Microsoft servers will be hosted in three data centers -- in the United States, the Netherlands and Malaysia -- and will handle all VOIP call control for more than 40,000 IP hard phones (from Nortel) and softphones, based on Microsoft Office Communicator.

OCS 2007, due to ship this year, is the successor to Microsoft's current Live Communication Server -- a real-time communications product for instant messaging, audio and video conferencing, as well as IP PBX-like call control. (Most IP PBX vendors -- including Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, Nortel and others -- have products that interoperate with Microsoft LCS).

With the forthcoming voice mail features that will be included in Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Krebbers said OCS 2007 and Exchange will serve as the core VOIP and messaging platforms for the company. Nortel will still have a role in Shell's network for specialty applications such as call centers. Nortel VOIP gateway equipment also will be used in data centers, to connect to the public switched telephone network, as well as in branch offices, for backup phone connectivity.

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