Cisco to add IM software to enterprise IP communications system

Cisco Unified Communications Manager customers will get Jabber IM at no extra charge

Cisco will include Jabber instant messaging and presence software at no extra charge with its Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) enterprise IP communications system, the company plans to announce on Wednesday.

The move follows Cisco's conclusion that IM and presence have become essential collaboration capabilities to enterprise users, and a necessary complement to the voice and video capabilities that CUCM offers.

Customers with version 7.1 and above of CUCM will get Jabber IM client and Jabber-powered Cisco Unified Presence server software, so that they can offer enterprise IM capabilities not only to end users with a Cisco phone, but also to all of their other employees.

The XMPP-based Jabber software brings IM and presence capabilities to Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Cisco and BlackBerry devices, with support for the Android OS coming later this year.

Features include the ability to engage not only in one-to-one chat but also in a group session, and to transfer files. The Jabber software also keeps logs of users' IM activity, and is integrated with Microsoft Office, offering presence and IM features within the Microsoft applications.

Cisco's announcement is definitely good news for CUCM customers who currently rely on consumer-grade services for their employees' IM communications, said Bob Hafner, a Gartner analyst.

This gives them enterprise-class, secure IM, that lets IT control who does what, establish policies and monitor usage. "That's a huge benefit," he said.

However, the decision to adopt the Jabber system will not be a foregone conclusion for CUCM customers who are already using an enterprise-grade IM and presence system from another vendor, he said.

In those cases, enterprises will need to assess the pros and cons of ripping out their existing system and replacing it with Jabber, especially if the existing system is tightly integrated with other collaboration applications, like e-mail and software for setting up collaborative workspaces and sharing documents, Hafner said.

"That's an enterprise-specific decision that needs to be made on a case-by-case basis," he said.

Cisco is also announcing that shipments of its IP phones recently topped 50 million units, up from 30 million two years ago.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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