New tools coming for unified communications

They include a new communicator client from Cisco

Major networking companies, including Cisco Systems Inc., Avaya Inc. and Nortel Networks Corp., plan to announce new unified communications products at VoiceCon Spring 2007 in Orlando today.

A new wireless client software to be announced by Cisco will extend a worker's desk phone functions to many different smart phones and handheld devices. Called Cisco Unified Mobile Communicator, the software will support BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian OS and BREW (Binary Runtime for Environment for Wireless) handsets, according to Barry O'Sullivan, vice president and general manager of IP communications at Cisco.

In all, Cisco intends to announce 12 new products and 30 enhanced ones under the heading of Cisco Unified Communications 6.0. New products will reduce the need for communications servers in a network and add resiliency, among other capabilities, O'Sullivan and users said.

For example, Cisco's Unified Wireless IP Phone 7921G will work in 802.11a/b/g networks and feature push-to-talk capability. Joe Brickweg, director of information systems infrastructure at Marshfield Clinic in Marshfield, Wisc., said he is "very interested" in providing phones with push-to-talk capability to doctors and nurses. "They can push a button and get information quickly," he said. "We see a great opportunity for that product."

The clinic, which has 7,000 workers, is also testing Cisco Unified Mobility, which allows a user to switch a Cisco Unified IP Phone to a mobile phone at the push of a button, Brickweg added. "It's a capability many companies also have, but with Cisco, it is easier since we already have the Communications Manager software, and this means one less throat to choke," he said.

The mobility feature is being tested with BlackBerry devices, allowing for easy call transfers. New software capabilities in Communication Manager will help the clinic reduce the number of servers it needs, since functions are more centralized, Brickweg added.

Cisco did not provide pricing in advance of the announcement.

Avaya Inc. will introduce an extension of its unified communications strategy called Communications Enabled Business Processes, comprising new software and services, said Lawrence Byrd, director of the new CEBP unit.

A new Avaya Communications Process Manager will deliver multiple Web services across Avaya's existing Communication Manager, Meeting Exchange and Voice Portal products. It will start at $88,000, plus $60 per user, he said.

Also, a new Event Processor, which is an optional capability of the Process Manager, will monitor real-time information streams and provide alerts if problems develop. It will sell for $40,000.

Whirlpool Corp. is using the Process Manager to improve business processes for monitoring applications and sending alerts, Byrd said.

Nortel will announce its fourth release of the Multimedia Communications Server 5100, which will be integrated with IBM Lotus Notes and will feature collaboration for voice, video, conferencing, e-mail, instant messaging and presence technologies. It will also support new Session Initiation Protocol-based phones, said Tony Rybczynski, director of strategic enterprise technologies.

The fifth release of Communication Server 1000, also being announced, will be able to serve 22,000 users, up from 15,000 users on a single machine, he said.

Also, a new carrier-grade Unified Messaging 2000 server will be introduced to support up to 1 million users, allowing access to voice mail, fax and e-mail through common e-mail applications. In addition, Nortel plans to announce a new family of Ethernet routing switches designed to allow migration to voice over IP, the Ethernet Routing Switch 2500 and the ERS 4500. Pricing was not announced.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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