Cisco Systems and Citrix Systems on Dec. 11 will team up to deliver much simpler and more broadly applicable click-to-call capability for users working with the Citrix Voice Office Application Suite and Ciscos Unified Call Manager and Unified IP phones.
Together the two vendors allow users to click to call telephone numbers embedded in any application running on the Presentation Server or on a users PC without having to exit the application.
The integration is another key element of the growing unified communications movement to bring greater business value to voice over IP. Although the market for such integrated functions is still new, it will take off as enterprises become more aware of the benefits it provides, according to Elizabeth Herrell, vice president at market researcher Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass.
"I think theres a major shift going on. Up to recently the only thing you could promote was that it may reduce costs as a replacement for a phone system. With the emergence of unified communication and the integration of applications, its becoming much easier for companies to find tangible benefits in convergence. When you can integrate applications and simplify how users use these applications, you can have people communicate more effectively and reduce delays we now accept as a normal course of business," she said.
Early users working with the integrated offering at the city of Winter Park in Florida found that to be true, according to Parsram Rajaram, senior systems analyst for the city.
"In talking to the [police] officers using it, they say for each call they have to dial, it now takes one second instead of 10. The big part of it is it saves the frustration of them having to punch keys," he said.
Although click-to-call capability has been available in the Citrix Voice Office Application Suite for some time, the new version broadens the number of applications that it can be embedded in, and it is much easier to implement than the existing version.
"[The existing version] requires a separate client, and you have to put code inside a Web site to comm-enable the site. Its a bit difficult [to implement], and it only works with specific applications such as [Microsofts] Outlook, Internet Explorer or [IBMs] Lotus Notes," said Barry Phillips, senior director of product marketing at Citrixs advanced solutions group in San Jose, Calif.
The Citrix/Cisco click-to-call capability is delivered in a Citrix Smart Agent that can be delivered to end users inbox as a Web link. Users click on the link to have the 500Kb client automatically downloaded to their system. The client automatically upgrades itself to eliminate the requirement for IT to maintain the client, according to Phillips.
"On any application you have this click-to-call agent that sits on the PC or on Presentation Server in the network. You see a phone number, hover your mouse over it and our agent goes in, underlines it, puts an upside-down triangle on it that puts a drop down there. You select dial, and it will take my [Cisco Unified IP] phone off the hook and dial the number, so you never have to leave the application," said Phillips.
The agent, running on the PC or in the Citrix Presentation server, communicates with the Citrix Application Gateway, which uses a CTI (Computer Telephony Integration) link with Ciscos Unified Call Manager to initiate dialing.
"Cisco Call Manager turns on the phone and tells it to dial that number and releases the call that way. The user doesnt have to touch the phone at all," said Phillips.
The integrated offering will be made available through Ciscos Solutions Plus channel partner program. Cisco channel partners who are voice-certified will distribute the click-to-call capability as part of the Citrix Application Gateway and Citrix Voice Office Application Suite beginning in January.
The two vendors intend to enhance the offering some time in 2007 to integrate a presence capability that will allow users working within their applications to determine the best way to contact someone and initiate that contact.