Shell launches global Microsoft VoIP rollout

Communications at the energy giant will be oiled by an integrated telephony project

Oil giant 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 Microsoft OCS (Office Communications Server) 2007, Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007, and intends to roll the platforms into production by early 2008.

The company currently uses Nortel’s Communication Server 1000 IP PBX running in its datacentres, 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 Shell, during a presentation at the recent VoiceCon conference in Orlando.

Shell’s multi-year plan involves a gradual migration off of hundreds of disparate PBX systems in more than 110 countries to a centralised 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 says.

The Microsoft servers will be hosted in three datacentres — 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.

Microsoft will shortly issue first public beta of its Office Communications Server and Office Communicator client, with the product due to ship later this year.

OCS 2007 is the successor to Microsoft’s current Live Communication Server.

Most IP PBX vendors — including Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, Nortel and others — have products that interoperate with Microsoft LCS.

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