Back in 2006, Royal Dutch Shell announced a ‘multiyear migration’ to a ‘unified communications’ infrastructure built on technology from the ‘Innovative Communications Alliance’ (ICA), a Nortel/Microsoft joint venture. The first phase of the pilot tested two voice environments: Microsoft Office Communicator (MOC) 2005 and Nortel IP ‘hard phones.’ The trial also involved ‘presence awareness’ instant messaging (IM) and for 200 testers, voice over IP (VoIP).
Shell’s legacy telephony system is a traditional PBX or, more technically, a POTS (plain old telephone system). Local equipment availability and cost has led to the deployment of hundreds of disparate systems with video and web conferencing tools from multiple sources.
Shell is now upgrading the pilot deployment with Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007. Royal Dutch Shell Group IT Architect Johan Krebbers told Oil IT Journal, ‘Microsoft is now well underway to make OCS2007 the basis of enterprise IP telephony and real-time communications. We now have thousands of users of the system and will be moving to much larger numbers in 2009.’
Krebbers explained, ‘Multiple technologies increase costs and VoIP means it no longer makes sense to run separate systems for voice and computing. Shell wants to reduce travel—we want to bring work to the people, rather than take people to the work.’
A new ‘soft-phone’ function means users can ‘click-to-call’ from within Microsoft Office. Microsoft and Nortel endpoints operate under a single, Active Directory-based dial plan. Employees use PCs to initiate conversations and conferences. ‘Presence awareness’ shows colleagues’ availability and users can switch channels when, for instance a ‘chat’ develops to the extent that arm waving is required. Krebbers noted, ‘Presence awareness is one of the most heavily used features.’ Shell is also to leverage the unified messaging functionality of Microsoft Exchange Server to collect voice messages, faxes, e-mail, appointments and contacts into a user’s Outlook inbox. Over the coming years, Shell hopes to progressively retire its PBXs and will host communications from three global data centers in Houston, Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur. For legislations which prohibit VoIP Nortel will support Shell with connections to legacy ‘POTS’ exchanges.
In a similar deal last year, Pemex’ ‘GIT’ communications infrastructure unit contracted with Microsoft to implement Office Live Meeting and OCS 2007 to ‘provide a better meeting experience and reduce the need for employees to travel to remote locations for face to face meetings.’
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