VARs Get Online OCS Training

telephony Microsoft Office Server software communications VoIP

This week, released its Virtual OCS Labs, a sequel to its Office Communications Server Essentials 101-Introduction and 201-Complete courses. The new labs offer VARs OCS training remotely from their own location with an online instructor via a real-time Web seminar. Having an onsite instructor is also an option.

Microsoft's official launch of OCS in October sent shockwaves through the unified communications industry and presented a new opportunity for the channel to hit a customer base hungry for the hot set of technologies.

"Unified communications is going to be the must-have, compelling, killer application," CEO Tom Cross said, adding that up until now, many Microsoft VARs have not worked on the telephony side of the fence and dealt mostly with Exchange Server, Active Directory or other components that OCS now ties together.

"Up until this point, Microsoft VARs didn't know anything about telephony," Cross said. "They just never had to do it before."

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OCS Lab classes are customized specifically for VARs, enterprise customers or others who want specific OCS training. Topics include OCS standard and enterprise versions, Office Communicator 2007, Exchange Server 2007 and Online Address Book, Office Web Access, Active Directory, Office 2007, Internet Information Server, Domain Name Server, telephony communications, mediation servers and media gateways, Call Detail Record Server, SQL Server, Edge Server and a host of other tools, features and functions that fall into OCS.

Cross said Virtual OCS Labs are advanced technical and operational guides to Microsoft OCS and Communicator, Microsoft's unified communications client. Labs can be used as stand-alone training or as companions to onsite classroom courses or online and customer training. The goal, Cross said, is to help channel partners better understand installation, configuration, management and troubleshooting if Microsoft OCS. The courses were built on a year of research, interviews, discussions, meetings and presentations to channel partners, providers and manufacturers who will now need to deal directly with OCS, VoIP and SIP issues.

"It's going to be a challenge for VARs," he said. "OCS has a lot of moving parts. You can't just do IM. Everything is tied together. It's a very complex product."

And the complexity is going to change the way the channel offers unified communications solutions.

"OCS is going to change the channel a lot," Cross said. "VARs have the opportunity to get more involved in telephony, SIP and everything else it involves. This will accelerate and excite the channel in a new direction. It's a brand new day. A Microsoft VAR can walk in and say 'we can do it all.'"

Cross said online courses start at around $299 and provide an overview of SIP and OCS, while online labs can run between $1,000 and $3,000 per day depending on the specific focus areas. Labs and courses can be scheduled a few weeks in advance.

"Virtual OCS Labs takes our OCS training to the next level," Cross said. "OCS is a complex product taking a truly distributed approach to voice communications. Rather than a single box approach, OCS consists of a large number of separate servers providing specific voice, mail, meeting, database, domain, dictionary and other functions. This makes planning and understanding all these elements even more critical."