Friday, April 9, 2010

BoxedUC Appliance – Part III

We continue the story on the BoxedUC solution. The challenges of a full-feature system, easy to install and start-up were, as mentioned, the engineering of the start-up procedure and the preparation of the integrated Microsoft UC environment, that means a pre-configured architecture allowing to activate gradually services/users minimizing the time and optimizing the customer’s experience.

With boxedUC an Exchange user could immediately access to OCS features. This model permits a soft and smart adoption (services could be enabled only for a part of the users) where the customers start and stop paying for a service for its effective usage.

In this scenario the self-administration tool has a strategic role because it manages the accounting of users and services guaranteeing to the reseller/provider the control of a correct use of the system.The Active Directory environment consists of a Forest with a single domain and 2 domain controllers in a typical Resource Forest Model.

When BoxedUC is delivered to a customer they plug-in the server and launch some scripts to reconfigure IP, modify firewall rules, tune the OCS and Exchange platform. Then they check if all services are up by the Monitoring Server and begin to check the environment using the standard tools (IE, Communicator, Outlook). A checklist has been developed and intensively tested in our labs.

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They are now able to create a mono-directional trust from the customer AD domain to the BoxedUC domain: in this way, end-users will access the services without login thanks to the Single Sign On feature. The self-administration tool supports trusted AD and will manage the services basing the accounting on the related AD.

The roles activated in the architecture are:

- Basic roles

  • Active Directory organizations
  • Exchange 2010
  • OCS

- Optional roles

  • OCS Edge
  • BES
  • etc

Blackberry is, as mobile business tool, strategic for today’s companies: boxedUC implements the BlackBerry Enterprise Server solution based on the 5.0 version (Standard or Express) of the product enabling immediately a client to access all his Exchange resources (push e-mail, PIM synchronization).

As communications services are critical in the business processes, boxedUC could implement High Availability, using a second appliance. In this way they get a totally redundant environment using the native mechanisms. Of course they have to implement a load balancer. They do this through a customized software application.

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The voice integration could be done in two different ways:

  • Activating the “routing center”, a complete software solution running in boxedUC allowing to integrate a SIP trunk and to register IP telephones directly;
  • Using the external “Voice Gateway”, a 1RU appliance which hosts the mediation server roles of OCS and could integrate PSTN interconnection boards (BRI, PRI, etc).

The voice gateway permits to activate Exchange Unified Messaging features (ex: voice mail) and to enable in/out calls from OCS.

How do they know it performs well in a live scenario with 500 users? Simply they stressed it! They used the OCS Capacity Planning Tool together with Exchange LoadGen to simulate user activity. Furthermore they have developed custom scripts to generate calls from a PBX and they have collected performance metrics in the Hyper-V layer as well as in the application layer. The results have been excellent as far as I know.

Finally, to improve the security of the data stored in boxedUC (in particular Exchange mailbox data), could be provided an external backup appliance with the basic role of Network Area Storage in which local backups could be copied.

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For more info please check www.boxeduc.com or e-mail info@boxeduc.com or contact me directly. This blogpost was the last blogpost on BoxedUC so far.

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