Cisco sets sights on mobility, collaboration

Cisco Systems Inc. has released an update to its unified communications product line, which industry experts believe could pave the way for greater interoperability between gear from large proprietary vendors.

Dubbed Cisco Unified Communications 6.0, the new product line from the San Jose, Calif.-based company is designed to be more small and medium-sized business (SMB) friendly and includes features for mobile workers and increased presence capabilities.

One analyst believes Cisco’s focus on collaboration may be setting the stage for more interoperability between different companies.

IBM and Cisco technologies, for instance, are deployed in many large companies and those customers would like to see the two vendors work together, said Brent Kelly, senior analyst at the Wainhouse research firm.

“IBM has nodes, Cisco with routers and switches, but my belief is their big customers are asking [them to work together],” Kelly said.

The analyst also noted that Cisco’s new unified communications manager doesn’t require multiple servers, which has been one complaint against Cisco in the past.

“It includes the hardware, telephony capability, unified messaging capability, and contact centre. This is important for the smaller market or for branch offices of some larger companies,” he said.

Cisco’s unified communications platform focuses on three core components: mobility of workers, serving SMB clients and allowing for collaboration. Cisco is currently conducting field trials of the product line among Canadian customers.

One Cisco representative says his company’s focus on mobile solutions is important in serving the needs of SMBs.

“What we are talking about this launch is enabling mobile employees for SMB to collaborate,” said Paul Fulton, senior director of marketing for Cisco’s unified communications platform.

“We’ve recognized that SMBs need all the functionality that large enterprises have. What we’ve done is put all that functionality into one appliance that’s easily integrated.”

Cisco’s suite of products targeted toward the SMB space includes the Cisco Unified Mobile Communicator, Unified Communications Manager Business Edition as well as Flash-based Web conferencing through Cisco Unified MeetingPlace 6.0.

“Moving Meeting Place 6.0 to a Flash interface is a smart move for Cisco. It’s a big improvement over the previous version of MeetingPlace,” Wainhouse’s Kelly said.

He added that this new offering from Cisco is a key addition to the company’s unified communication elements.

“These product improvements show enterprises that the promise of unified communications is knocking on their door, and they can adopt the parts they can use in their business, because they are more useful than ever,” Kelly said.

He added that while adoption of unified communications will be gradual, it makes sense for companies to start thinking about it.

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