Global Crossing provides IP-based telecommunications services to customers in more than 60 countries. With 5,000 employees around the globe, e-mail is a critical component of the company’s day-to-day business. In 2007, it implemented a unified communications solution based on Microsoft® software to help employees communicate more effectively. To build on that solution, the company sought to consolidate servers and data centers, increase employee mailbox size, retire its e-mail archiving solution, and update mobile and voice-mail services. Global Crossing joined the Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Rapid Deployment Program to evaluate the benefits of the new architecture and capabilities. After deploying the pilot, Global Crossing found that it would be able to reduce costs, increase availability and performance, and offer employees better options for communicating anywhere, anytime.
Global Crossing provides telecommunications services in more than 690 cities in more than 60 countries. The company, which has approximately 5,000 employees, offers a range of data, voice, and security products to Fortune 500 companies, as well as 700 carriers, mobile operators, and Internet service providers.
Global Crossing employees work from regional offices around the globe, so e-mail is a critical component of the company’s internal communications infrastructure. In 2007, Global Crossing began implementing a unified communications solution based on Microsoft® technologies that included Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 for e-mail and Office Communications Server 2007 R2 for presence, instant messaging, and audio conferencing. Global Crossing deployed Microsoft Office Professional 2007 to take advantage of Office Outlook® messaging and collaboration client and Office Communicator 2007 R2. It also implemented Unified Messaging in Exchange Server 2007, for workers using Office Communications Server for voice functionality. Since then, Global Crossing has continued to improve and to address challenges with its current solution by upgrading to the latest technology as it becomes available. It also strives to consolidate hardware, ease administration, and reduce costs wherever possible.
As a part of the solution implemented in 2007, Global Crossing deployed Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 across most of its North American offices. Its Latin American offices run a mix of Exchange Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2007, while most of its European locations run only Exchange Server 2003. For high availability in both environments, the company has been running a single copy cluster (SCC) solution with each cluster having one active node and one passive node. Global Crossing would like to add site resiliency to improve this solution, as not all of its data centers can provide the availability the company would like to achieve. “E-mail is a critical piece of our business process infrastructure, so when we experience an outage that keeps employees from using e-mail, it has a major impact on the business,” says Steven Schafer, Director of Collaboration and Network Services at Global Crossing. “We would really like to implement a solution that gives us intercontinental site resilience. That way, if we have a catastrophic outage in a data center in Europe, we can still access data from North America and South America.” Global Crossing also occasionally had problems switching from the active to passive node and wanted to have a more flexible solution.
||We will probably be able to reduce our footprint by 50 percent after we implement Database Availability Groups across the data centers.
Director of Collaboration and Network Services, Global Crossing
Besides the challenge of ensuring e-mail availability and redundancy across continents, Global Crossing faces another challenge: e-mail archiving and retention. Because e-mail is such a critical component of its business processes, employees tend to save messages forever. Currently, Global Crossing limits mailbox sizes to 512 megabytes (MB), but it also uses a third-party archiving solution that truncates messages, creating a small stub file of the original e-mail message in Microsoft Office Outlook. Employees can search the archive for messages through Office Outlook, but because the messages are truncated, Office Outlook cannot search the full text of the message, meaning the employee must search the full archive. Beyond the inconvenience for employees, the solution also takes a lot of time to administer. “The time we spend working with this third-party archiving system and all the extra pieces we have to implement—that’s time we could spend developing new services,” says Schafer. Many employees also save mail into Outlook Data Files (PSTs), which they store on their computers. “As for PST files, we feel they are a big security risk. We would like to do away with them entirely,” adds Schafer.
The third-party archiving solution also affects the performance of the Office Outlook client. “Most people work in Cached Exchange mode, so when they change anything in their mailboxes the changes are recorded in their mailbox files. Our archiving solution is constantly modifying the mailbox, so we see a lot of cases where the mailbox file on a person’s laptop is enormous, and it really slows down Outlook’s performance,” says Schafer.
Global Crossing also sees an opportunity to reduce the cost of the mobile solution it provides for employees. Currently, most of its mobile employees use RIM BlackBerry devices to connect to Office Outlook through Exchange Server. Schafer explains, “BlackBerry is a problem for us because we have to provide additional servers, as well as pay additional support, maintenance, and licensing fees. Not only that, but every mailbox with a BlackBerry connection to Exchange uses five times the connection resources that a mailbox with an Exchange ActiveSync client uses.”
Voice mail is also a critical component of Global Crossing’s unified communications solution. Currently, the company uses both Exchange Server Unified Messaging and Cisco Unity for voice mail. Global Crossing would like to consolidate these into the Exchange Server solution, both to reduce costs and to ease administration.
Overall, Global Crossing wants to strengthen its current unified communications solution by:
- Migrating all employee mailboxes to the same version of Exchange Server.
- Consolidating servers and data centers into a more streamlined, robust high-availability and disaster-recovery solution across intercontinental locations.
- Increasing the size of employee mailboxes to eliminate the need for PST files—and eliminate the current archiving solution.
- Implementing a mobile solution that is easier to administrate and that costs less.
- Replacing Cisco Unity voice mail.
In August 2009, Global Crossing decided to deploy a pilot of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. Global Crossing quickly determined that Exchange Server 2010 could help it reach many of the goals it had outlined for its current unified communications solution. In particular, the company could migrate servers at all locations to the same version of Exchange Server, and it could address challenges with high availability and site resilience, archiving and retention, mobile phones, and voice mail. Global Crossing also previewed Microsoft Outlook 2010, and the company plans to deploy it to all users when it is available.
High Availability and Site Resilience
Global Crossing will implement Database Availability Groups, which combines on-site and off-site data replication into a single solution and provides an easier way to replicate e-mail to a remote location in order to safeguard the Exchange Server environment against site-level disasters. The company will reduce the number of its data centers in the United States and Europe each from two to one and maintain the two data centers it currently has in South America, reducing the total number from six to four. Global Crossing plans to keep three database copies across the mailbox servers. To provide site resilience, two copies will be kept in the data center for users for whom that data center is primary, while the third copy will be stored at another data center location.
Archiving and Retention
Cheaper storage options for Exchange Server 2010 mean that Global Crossing can shift from its current storage area network (SAN) to a direct-attached storage (DAS) solution that would increase mailbox sizes and make the current third-party archiving system unnecessary. Global Crossing will increase mailbox sizes to 2 gigabytes (GB) from 500 MB.
As part of the pilot for Exchange Server 2010, Global Crossing deployed Windows® phones running Windows Mobile® 6.5 to a few of its workers in a pilot program, and it determined that it would switch its official support to Windows Mobile 6.5 for mobile employees. Global Crossing made this choice because Windows Mobile 6.5 phones have excellent stability, battery life, and support for Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile 3.0 and Office Outlook Mobile clients. Employees who have seen the new phone are ready to switch when the migration to Exchange Server 2010 is complete. Going forward, Global Crossing’s direction is to strongly curtail the activation of non-Exchange ActiveSync®–based devices.
For workers who rely on desktop phones and voice over IP (VoIP), Global Crossing plans to replace its current voice-mail solution with Exchange Server Unified Messaging. “As we deploy Exchange Server 2010, we plan to integrate Unified Messaging with our Office Communications Server telephony solution. We’ll remove our current Cisco Unity voice mail and connect our Cisco Call Manager directly into Exchange,” says Schafer. One driver for this decision is the Message Waiting Indicator capability in Exchange Server 2010, which turns on a desktop phone’s indicator light when an employee has a new or unread voice mail. It also displays a message waiting indicator in Office Communicator and in the system tray on an employee’s computer. Employees can also configure a text message notification account so that they can receive the beginning content of a voice mail as a simple message service (SMS) message.
Global Crossing plans to use Federation in Exchange Server 2010 to share information with customers and partners, just as it has with Office Communications Server. Global Crossing can use Federation to share Exchange Server 2010 services with partners and customers also running Exchange Server 2010. Workers can access each others’ corporate calendars, meeting resources, distribution lists, and presence information as though they belong to the same organization.
Microsoft Outlook 2010
Several features in Microsoft Outlook 2010 support Global Crossing’s unified communications environment:
- Mailbox cleanup. An updated capability available in Outlook 2010 that helps employees remove unwanted messages from their mailboxes.
- Conversation View. Employees accessing Outlook from their computer, through the Web, or from their Windows phones can organize and view e-mail messages by conversation topic, enabling them to access information more quickly. Conversation View will pull messages from subfolders, sent items, even deleted items, and show them to the user in chronological order.
- Calendar Preview. When employees receive a meeting invitation, Outlook 2010 automatically includes their free-busy information in the message so that they can see conflicts without having to switch to the calendar view.
Global Crossing has already started to deploy Exchange Server 2010 in its North American offices. By the November 2009 release date, it expects to have migrated at least 750 employees to the new servers. In Europe, it hopes to deploy to 300 or 400 users by the end of the year, and at the same time it will enable inbound Enterprise Voice Services of Office Communications Server 2007 R2. In South America, it will deploy Exchange Server 2010 in its offices across the continent. “We would like to be fully deployed globally by the second quarter of 2010,” says Schafer.
Global Crossing plans to take advantage of new features in the Exchange Server 2010 architecture to reduce the cost of its unified communications solution while also providing a more robust solution for high availability and site resilience. Employees benefit not only from increased availability, but also from improved performance and enhanced communication options across all versions of the Outlook 2010 client: mobile, desktop, and Web.
Reduced Overall Cost of Messaging Solution
Implementing Exchange Server 2010, Global Crossing will reduce costs:
- By consolidating the number of data centers required to support the Exchange Server environment from six to four, Global Crossing will be able to repurpose existing equipment for other projects instead of having to purchase additional equipment. It also saves on energy costs. “We will probably be able to reduce our footprint by 50 percent after we implement Database Availability Groups across the data centers,” says Schafer.
- By implementing new archiving and retention policies for employees, Global Crossing can eliminate its third-party archiving solution, thereby eliminating ongoing maintenance and support costs. It also reduces the time administrators have to spend tinkering with the third-party solution.
- By deploying a cheaper DAS solution in place of the SAN storage environment, Global Crossing can inexpensively expand storage as necessary. The company can also repurpose its SAN resources to other areas that require storage.
- By deciding to support Windows phones for its mobile workers, Global Crossing avoids ongoing licensing, support, and maintenance costs.
Increased Availability and Performance
With Database Availability Groups, Global Crossing can achieve the intercontinental site resilience it wanted. And with the new high-availability configuration, the company can better guarantee uptime and redundancy for employees. “In the past, we had numerous issues passing cluster resources back and forth across the data centers with single copy cluster,” says Schafer. “Database Availability Groups is an evolution in high availability for us.”
||Conversation View sold Exchange Server 2010 and Outlook 2010 to us right away.“ It gives employees more power, more control, and it’s a huge time saver.
Director of Collaboration and Network Services, Global Crossing
With the elimination of PST files and the third-party archiving solution, employees should experience improved e-mail performance. The reduced input/output (I/O) requirements will also help improve performance for employees. “We’ve had performance complaints for years,” explains Amanda Masek, Manager of Enterprise Messaging at Global Crossing. “Employees wanted e-mail to open quickly, and our third-party archiving solution sometimes prevented that.”
Improved Mobile Solution
By selecting Windows Mobile 6.5 as its primary mobile solution for employees, Global Crossing not only reduces the administration effort and cost of running the BlackBerry servers alongside Exchange Server, but it also improves the mobile experience for employees. With Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync® technology, employees will benefit from fast, automatic syncing with the server, and they can take advantage of many Outlook Mobile improvements, including better mailbox navigation, voice-mail message playback, and e-mail message creation and viewing. “Having Conversation View on the new mobile client is really nice. It provides an extremely fast and efficient means of surveying my inbox and taking needed actions on the go,” says Schafer. Employees will also have better access to Communicator Mobile 3.0, an important component of Global Crossing’s unified communications solution.
Enhanced Communication Options
Exchange Server 2010 offers Global Crossing a host of enhanced communication options that will help employees communicate and do their jobs more effectively. “Conversation View sold Exchange Server 2010 and Outlook 2010 to us right away,” says Schafer. “It gives employees more power, more control, and it’s a huge time saver. In the past we’ve spent too much time trying to find different parts of an e-mail string, and we could not be confident that we didn’t miss an integral part. Conversation View takes care of that by tying all parts together in a meaningful format.”
Another capability Global Crossing expects to benefit from is Microsoft Outlook Web App. The flexible combination of anywhere access with the robust features of the Outlook desktop client has impressed Global Crossing employees who have experienced it. “Outlook Web App is phenomenal. We have people who think it’s the perfect way to experience Outlook when they only have access to a Web browser,” says Schafer.
Federation is another feature Global Crossing looks forward to implementing. “Federation is going to cut down on the ‘ping-pong effect’ of going back and forth with customers and partners about meeting invitations and resources,” says Schafer. Another benefit Global Crossing sees from Federation is the ability to smooth the transition during mergers and acquisitions. “When we’ve acquired new companies, we’ve realized it’s a lot of work to get Exchange environments integrated. If you bought another company that also had Exchange Server 2010 in place, Federation would make the transition so much more efficient,” says Schafer.
With its upgrade to Exchange Server 2010, Global Crossing will consolidate its messaging infrastructure into a highly available environment that better supports its business users. The company’s investments in its unified communications capabilities help position it for future growth and cost savings as it continues to refine its infrastructure.
Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
Exchange 2010 can help you achieve better business outcomes while controlling the costs of deployment, administration, and compliance. Exchange delivers the widest range of deployment options, integrated information leakage protection, and advanced compliance capabilities, that combine to form the best messaging and collaboration solution available.
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