Cisco Adds Video to the V in VOIP

Cisco launches Call Manager 4.0 along with a new desktop video conferencing app integrated with Cisco IP phones.

Cisco Systems Inc. yesterday added video to the "V" in VOIP when it launched Call Manager 4.0 along with a new desktop video conferencing application integrated with Cisco IP phones.

The next major release of Ciscos mainstay voice-over-IP communications software includes an optional new application and USB (universal serial bus) video camera, together dubbed the Cisco Video Telephony Advantage, that can create person-to-person video phone calls.

Cisco VT Advantage works with Cisco IP phones to easily create such calls, and those video calls can be transferred, muted, forwarded, put into a conference or put on hold.

The camera works with Windows 2000 or Windows XP and is plugged into the PCs USB port. "The computer is plugged into the back of one of our phones. You get an icon on your screen that shows the camera. From then on, if you contact someone with video, it appears," described Rick Moran, vice president and general manager for IP Communications at Cisco, in San Jose, Calif. Users have the option of turning off the video, and for calls transferred to non-video users, the video is automatically suppressed.

VT Advantage is also integrated with Ciscos call bridging technology for multipoint conferencing. "You can instantly create a video conference using the conference key on the IP phone, and it can integrate with H.323 systems. Call Manager does the brokering with the H.323 device," added Moran.

VT Advantage also works with personal and conference room video systems from Tandberg, which enhanced its offerings to work with Call Manager 4.0.

Cisco officials believe the new offering eliminates some of the last barriers to more widespread adoption of desktop video conferencing. "Desktop video has had a spotty history because of usability issues and because of the network required behind it—ISDN. This integrates seamlessly on a (Quality of Service) managed IP network. Also the price points for bandwidth continue to fall and that makes it more cost effective to deliver it to remote sites. The ease of deployment and the cost for this will help drive acceptance," said Moran.

Beyond the video capabilities, Cisco also added new security functions to Call Manager 4.0 along with new end points for Call Manager and enhancements to Cisco Meeting Place Web conferencing, which it acquired with Lattitude Communications.

Call Manager 4.0 now includes strong encryption with the incorporation of Advanced Encryption (AES) standard 128-bit encryption. Cisco will also begin including digital certificates within its IP phones from the factory, and Cisco added the ability in Call Manager Administrator to put local digital certificates in already deployed Cisco IP phones to confirm the identity of network devices and keep out rogue system users.

Cisco will also begin bundling its host-based intrusion protection and authentication system, Cisco Security Agent, with Call Manager as well as its Unity and IP Contact Center Express offerings for free.

Five weeks after it completed its acquisition of Latitude Communications, Cisco also launched a new smaller form factor of the acquired companys MeetingPlace Web conferencing system. The new Cisco MeetingPlace 8106 Rich-Media Conferencing Server integrates with Call Manager 4.0, using the Session Initiation Protocol for signaling.

The new version of MeetingPlace is intended for between 30 to 512 concurrent users, and it provides Web sharing, instant messaging collaboration and is integrated with Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes messaging for calendaring functions.

Cisco CallManager 4.0, which works with the Cisco Media Convergence Server, is available now and starts at $5,995. Cisco VT Advantage 1.0 software and camera is $190 per user and will ship in April. Cisco MeetingPlace 8106 Rich Media Conferencing Server starts at $69,995 and is due out by months end.