Cisco planning significant data center assault

Cisco Blade servers, green switches and collaboration on tap as company morphs into overall IT giant

The Unified communications manefesto

A buying criteria Cisco's most familiar with is networking, particularly LAN switches. Cisco's Big Bang switching upgrade, hinted at last spring, will emerge in January and encompass more than just the Catalyst 6500, as initially expected.

The emphasis on Big Bang, the code name for the switching upgrade, will be green and apply to Cisco's entire switching portfolio, says Marie Hattar, vice president of network systems and security solutions at Cisco.

"It's an evolutionary capability. It's not a new platform," Hattar said at Cisco's CScape analyst conference here this week. "It's really more tied to green capabilities, and how the network really enables those types of capabilities."

Hattar would not divulge any further details on Big Bang.

Next year will also see Cisco's collaboration portfolio progress with a new release of its unified communications software that will let companies collaborate with each other.

Cisco's Unified Communications System 7.0, which was unveiled in September, enables companies to collaborate internally. The 2009 release will enable inter-company collaboration among business partners, suppliers and customers, according to Barry O'Sullivan, senior vice president of Cisco's Voice Technology group.

"In 2009, you'll see business-to-business unified communications" from Cisco, O'Sullivan says. "We have 60,000 customers and there's a huge opportunity to connect them all over the Internet."

The software will enable IT organizations to 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 setup 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 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 let users build hybrid 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.

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