FaceTime to launch unified communications appliance

Unified communications poses perplexing problems for IT managers, but FaceTime's standardized appliance is designed to avoid many common hurdles

FaceTime Communications, a maker of network security appliances, announced the USG (Unified Security Gateway), one of the first devices directed at the full gamut of UC (unified communications) services, this week.

USG will include security, management and compliance for Web communications like public instant messaging services, VOIP, and P2P communications as well as securing and managing enterprise UC platforms, such as Microsoft Office Communications Server and IBM Lotus Sametime.

UC, also known as real-time communications, is a real-time pain in the butt for IT, says Josh Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting.

Compounding the problem are the entire Web 2.0 and social networking applications that march in lockstep with UC and are typically applications that come into the enterprise under the table.

"It is a huge advantage to consolidate the management and thereby maximize the potential of all these communications tools," Greenbaum said.

Essentially, the appliance is a SaaS solution in a box. Like SaaS services, the appliance requires no additional infrastructure, is centralized, and is automatically updated as new malware is uncovered.

"Appliances are easier to swallow for IT because they are standardized," added Greenbaum.

The problem with real-time communications from Google, Cisco, Skype, or anyone of the over 300 public Web 2.0 services is that they are "extremely evasive on the Internet," says, Frank Cabri, vice president of marketing and product management at FaceTime.

"The Web 2.0 tools are adapt at finding holes in the enterprise network," Cabri said.

Making it even harder, real-time communications is almost synonymous with most of what's new in Web 2.0, including VOIP services, Web conferencing, and peer-to-peer file sharing through wikis.

The USG appliance will allow IT to set and enforce policy for all parts of Web browsing, UC, and IM. It also includes Web filtering to manage employee Web access, uses virus scanning of file attachments, worm blocking, and content filtering.

For regulatory compliance issues, the device includes capture and archiving of IMs and file attachments.

The USG appliance will be available at the end of the month, and pricing starts at US$4,995 (AU$5,950.)

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