Cisco to broaden unified communications package

The 2009 release will enable intercompany collaboration among business partners, suppliers and customers

Cisco next year will unveil a new release of its unified communications software that will let companies more effectively collaborate with each other.

The new 2009 release will enable intercompany collaboration among business partners, suppliers and customers, according to Barry O'Sullivan, senior vice president of Cisco's Voice Technology group. Currently, Cisco's Unified Communications System 7.0, which was unveiled in September, enables companies to collaborate internally. "In 2009, you'll see business-to-business unified communications" from Cisco, O'Sullivan said. "We have 60,000 customers and there's a huge opportunity to connect them all over the Internet."

O'Sullivan made his remarks during an interview at Cisco's C-Scape analyst conference here this week.

Unified communications companies are currently hammering out standards for intercompany collaboration, O'Sullivan says. But those efforts will take a while, and Cisco will ship a prestandard intercompany version of its Unified Communications Systems next year, he says.

The software will let IT organizations configure security and quality of service policies for communications with companies they trust, O'Sullivan says. It will employ the Session Initiation Protocol for call set up and allow companies to establish presence "federations" for groups of collaborative workers.

Cisco's WebEx Connect product, which also debuted last September, will be the tool by which these companies can federate, O'Sullivan says.

Cisco currently has prototypes to demonstrate the capabilities of the new software but no trials as yet. Target trial customers include those in the supply chain and manufacturing verticals, O'Sullivan says.

The system will allow users to build hybrid on-premises/on-demand intercompany collaboration networks which combine the capabilities of Cisco's Unified Communications Manager IP telephony platforms and WebEx Internet conferencing system. Video will also be a key component of the system but may not be accessible from mobile devices due to bandwidth limitations of wireless networks, O'Sullivan says.

Sales of Cisco's Unified Communications products grew 22% year-over-year in the company's fiscal first quarter. Cisco has deployed 18 million IP business phones since entering the market in 1999; O'Sullivan says there's an opportunity to deploy 320 million more.

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