How Jabber Fits into Cisco's Unified Communications Plan

With the addition of enterprise instant messaging pioneer Jabber, Cisco Systems bolsters what it calls its 'presence' product portfolio and makes no bones about its overall goal: to become No. 1 in the unified communication/collaboration business.

With the announced acquisition of enterprise instant messaging provider Jabber on Sept. 19, Cisco Systems is adding another key girder to its construction of a unified communications and collaboration product portfolio.
Cisco, which already had a basic instant messaging option but one that didn't scale for an enterprise nearly as well as Jabber's, has just about everything else in place. This includes its TelePresence real-time/real-size video meeting system; the Webex online collaboration franchise; PostPath for e-mail and calendaring; Securant for network security; IronPort for messaging security; all its enterprise telephony hardware and software; and now Jabber.
"We are absolutely dead serious about collaboration; we think it's the next big thing, frankly," Alex Hadden-Boyd, director of Cisco's WebEx group, said. "We intend to be No. 1-not by just offering everything, but by enabling everything."
One of the key reasons Cisco picked up Jabber is because of its interoperability, Hadden-Boyd said.
Jabber's core open-source intellectual property is called XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol), which integrates data across different devices, users and applications, and enables multiple instant messengers to talk to each another.
"Cisco strongly believes that rich presence is a cornerstone of all these [unified communications] technologies," Joe Burton, CTO of Cisco's voice technology group, said. "To make all this work, 'presence' has to be absolutely ubiquitous. It has to be federated, it has to be aggregated, it needs to be on-premises, off-premises, between enterprises, between consumers-it needs to be everywhere."
The term "presence," as used in the context of enterprise communications, can be illustrated by the familiar "buddy list" in AOL's AIM messaging service. It refers to a real-time online accounting of where a person is and what tool that person is currently using to communicate. Facebook, with its ability to let users know which of their friends is online, is another example of "presence."
"Clearly we think the network is the best place to deliver a rich, secure, federated presence system," Burton said. "So by going out and grabbing the Jabber franchise, which already has an incredible ability to scale, and has the security and open-standards protocol support-and bringing that into the house and layering it into the network, we think we can really blow this market open for 'presence' services."
Another ingredient to this package will be announced next week, eWEEK has learned: a major augmentation to its relatively simple document collaboration platform, Webex Connect.
Jabber: A quiet but effective messaging pioneer
Jabber was one of the first IM providers, having started up in 2000. It has been selling its wares quietly, but with good success, in the government and financial sectors.
Irwin Lazar, networking analyst with Nemertes Research, said he believes the Jabber acquisition is a "tremendous" move for Cisco.
"In the last 18 months, we've seen a kind of resurgence in using the Jabber protocol, led by Google adopting Jabber's XMPP for GoogleTalk, and partnering with Jabber to build out a presence engine. We've seen steadily growing interest in the Jabber extensible communications platform," Lazar said.
"This is a tremendous move from Cisco's standpoint, given that the Holy Grail in unified communications is who owns presence. Where does the presence information get stored?" Lazar said.
This move will have a definite impact on Avaya, whose present server-which it gives away-is based on Jabber. With its key competitor, Cisco, about to own Jabber, Avaya may at some point have to make a change.
Microsoft uses Office Communications Server as its centralized presence store. "Cisco really didn't have anything [in this vein]," Lazar said.
"They were subject to going into an environment where they would be subservient to Microsoft, pushing their presence information out to Microsoft. They didn't have a presence repository of their own," Lazar said.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he has...