Unified Communications Featured Article

Cisco Addresses Collaboration, UC Interoperability with Slew of New Products, Services


November 09, 2009

Cisco Systems Inc. has unleashed a cornucopia of new products and enhancements that the company says revolve around creating new experiences for collaboration whether it involves voice or video, is within the enterprise or inter-company, and whether the deployment is on premises or in the cloud.

 
“We are seeing a mushrooming of technologies and innovation,” notes Laurent Philonenko, vice president and general manager of the unified communications business unit at Cisco. As a result, he says, there’s a need to identify key architectures and services to enable the creation and delivery of applications and mashups that are device-agnostic and can be customized for various vertical industries. That’s an important aspect of what the multitude of Cisco announcements made today help deliver, he says.
 
The list of products Cisco is unleashing today is a long one, but here’s a flavor of what is new:
 
New today are two IP phones, which Philonenko says are essentially personal conferencing tools, that feature big VGA screens, HD cameras, wideband audio, USB ports, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities. Because they offer a USB, users can plug peripherals such as speakers into the Cisco Unified IP Phone 9900 and 8900 Series devices. Because they include Wi-Fi, they can easily be moved because they’re not physically plugged into the network. And because they include Bluetooth, users can easily move calls between these devices and cellular devices, he adds.
 
Shifting to the subject of business-to-business collaboration, Philonenko says one barrier for ubiquitous unified communications is that when users collaborate with those outside their organizations they lose some of their capabilities. To address that, Cisco has a new gateway call the Cisco Intercompany Media Engine, which sits at the edge of enterprise networks to establish  peer-to-peer relationships with similar gateways at other enterprises. The gateways keep track of who employees call and with whom they’d like to peer. After peers establish they want to connect, they are able to launch future audio or video sessions by simply initiating a connection and authentication automatically is triggered and the link is brought up. The engine also provides feature transparency between peers so they can look into each others’ directories, if desired, share video and even have common dial plans, says Philonenko.
 
Tied into that theme, Cisco also today introduced new server software called the Intercompany Cisco Telepresence Directory. This is a Cisco-hosted directory of endpoints, organizations and people with access to Cisco TelePresence endpoints. The directory features a virtual assistant to help schedule meetings across the more than 1,200 rooms at more than 80 customers using intercompany Cisco TelePresence today. 
 
Also new from Cisco are two messaging products – one cloud-based and one for on-premises deployment based on the technology the company gained through its 2008 acquisition of Jabber Inc. The solutions do federation of voice, video and messaging across different companies’ systems.
 
In yet another move to allow for interoperability of UC, Cisco has introduced Session Management Edition of Cisco Unified Communications Manager, which provides SIP session management at the call control level so it can allow PBXs from different suppliers to work together, share the same features, operate under a single management umbrella and enjoy the benefits of SIP trunking.
 
Speaking to the hot trend of social networking, Cisco now offers a hardware/software solution called Show and Share that allows users to create, publish and consumer video from many devices. It handles transcoding and allows users to tag their video, and different parts of that video, so both the video and the text in it are searchable.
 
Cisco is also doing a controlled introduction of a software-based portal called the Enterprise Collaboration Platform that stores information and activities of various communities so users can easily contact and communicate with those in their workgroups via social networking, video or whatever.
 
Yet another new offer announced by the company today is Cisco WebEx Mail, a hosted email server that natively connects to Exchange and Outlook. It also integrates an email security service. Hosted by Cisco from the WebEx conferencing cloud, the service is available in the U.S. and Canada.



Edited by Michael Dinan




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