Cisco goes deeper into unified communications

Cisco Systems intends to extend the collaboration capabilities of its unified communications products by buying a maker of carrier-strength presence and messaging software.

The company is buying privately-held Jabber Inc. of Denver for an undisclosed price to boost not only Cisco’s on-premise products but also its hosted WebEx collaboration service.

“We bought Jabber because we think presence and messaging need to be a ubiquitously available service for the next generation of applications,” said David Knight, Cisco’s senior director of product development, “and they’ve got the best platform to do that.”

Cisco intends to integrate Jabber technology WebEx and some of its various Unified Communications telephony products, after which the Jabber products will disappear. Jabber customers will be given an option of shifting to either the WebEx or a Cisco UC product.

Cisco partners with IBM and Microsoft on their messaging and unified communications platforms, but Knight suggested they’re not enough for enterprises with a wide range of remote offices as well as partners, distributors and customers around the world.

While not directly speaking to IBM or Microsoft products, Knight said that “people have some pretty simple messaging applications to simply connect to people, and mostly behind the firewall. No one is making this a widely available service, and that’s what we intend to do.”

Knight called the acquisition “a very significant deal … we’re going to have a very robust platform that spans enterprise and hosted networks, and that’s a pretty big deal. I think it’s the basis of a whole new generation of applications.”

The deal shows that Cisco is working to plug key holes in its collaboration strategy, said Rob Koplowitz, a principal analyst, who specializes in collaboration applications for Forrester Research. One was filled earlier this year when it bought PostPath, a Linux-based e-mail and collaboration server, which can also integrate with WebEx. Now it is buying Jabber. Many companies offer collaboration capabilities, but Koplowitz said Jabber is built to carrier-strength standards, and it can be integrated into WebEx.

“Where an enterprise vendor engineers with an eye to deployment to potentially thousands, Jabber has always engineered with an eye to deployment to millions, which is one compelling aspect around being competitive in the [Internet] cloud.

While Cisco teams with IBM and Microsoft by making sure their products interoperate well, it has always intended to compete with them, he added. “Certainly by moving into e-mail and instant messaging Cicso has made a pretty loud message that you can bring us your [Lotus] Notes and [Microsoft] Exchange and SharePoint deployments and we’ll run them for you in the cloud.”

“I take all acquisitions with a grain of salt because most never really never live up to the promise or the vision you have when you first hear about them,” he concluded, “but this one might be an interesting one … it is a very compelling piece of technology for Cisco to bring into their portfolio.”

Jabber was founded eight years ago, its main product is Jabber XCP, which runs on Windows Server, Red Hat Linux and Sun Solaris platforms, aimed at organizations and service providers needing a robust, secure messaging platform. Customers include the U.S. Marines and Capital Wireless Information Net (CapWIN), a Washington, D.C. consortium of 70 federal, state, and local agencies with overlapping responsibilities for emergency response. There’s also a turnkey server called JabberNow for small businesses and workgroups. Jabber clients are available for the Windows desktop, Web browsers, and RIM’s Blackberry.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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