Cisco Expands UC Tools, Services

New features in Cisco’s Unified Communications Release 9.0 will address a range of demands from users, IT managers and high-level executives, company officials said.

Cisco Systems is greatly expanding the tools and services in its unified communications (UC) solution to address the demand from users for easier and more flexible collaboration options, and from businesses for simpler management and better cost efficiency.

The networking and collaboration vendor is rolling out UC Release 9.0, which offers features that Cisco executives said end users, IT managers and C-level executives are asking for as they look to expand the collaboration capabilities of their employees, partners and customers.

€œWhether it€™s voice, video, messaging, Web conferencing, mobility, or security€”it€™s all about more flexibility, bridging systems together, and protecting our customers€™ investments,€ Thomas Wyatt, vice president and general manager of Cisco€™s Collaboration Infrastructure Business Unit, said in a June 26 blog post.

Many of the new features are the result of feedback from the various parties within businesses that have different collaboration needs, according to Wyatt. Users are looking for collaboration solutions that let them choose whatever device they want€”from tablets and smartphones to office phones, notebooks and telepresence systems€”and to have the same collaboration experience on all these devices.

Meanwhile, IT administrators€”tasked with managing all these devices€”want simplicity and consistency in the collaboration platforms and applications, but without sacrificing reliability or security. For their part, C-level executives are looking for a good return on their investment€”ensuring that more sales are made and customer service is improved by the collaboration technology€”and to reduce their cost of ownership, Wyatt said in a blog post June 20.

The new offerings in UC Release 9.0€”particularly in the Unified Communications Manager platform€”are designed to address many of these disparate demands, according to Cisco officials. With UC Release 9.0€”which is due for release in the third quarter€”businesses can now support third-party endpoints through a feature called Extend and Connect. The feature works with Cisco€™s UC platform Jabber to enable any third-party phone to hook into Cisco€™s UC environment. Remote users€”such as telecommuters or business travelers€”can input the phone number of their device into a Jabber client running on a Windows PC, and Unified Communications Manager will route all voice traffic to that number.

Through this feature, users get all the services available on full-featured enterprise phones€”from presence to instant messaging to click-to-call€”on their third-party phone, Cisco officials said.

A new systems interface that links Unified Communications Manager with a mobile phone user€™s service provider means that any mobile phone can have such enterprise features as unified inbox, message waiting, conferencing and callback.

In addition, Cisco is improving the quality and security around video, including better bandwidth management through built-in Call Admission Control, which creates a logical view of the network, and support for additional video endpoints, including Cisco€™s TelePresence TX9000. Cisco€™s Uniform Resource Identifier enables users to contact any endpoint in the system by dialing a contact€™s email address rather than a phone number.

To help businesses manage contact center solutions, Cisco is rolling out Packaged Contact Center Enterprise, a pre-engineered packaged deployment model of Cisco€™s enterprise contact center software. Other new features in Cisco€™s Unified Contact Center Express include historical reporting via the company€™s Unified Intelligence solution, as well as Web chat.

Cisco over the past few months has aggressively expanded and integrated its collaboration solutions. In March, the company grew its TelePresence portfolio and the capabilities in Jabber, and in June officials said they were bringing their disparate collaboration offerings under the WebEx umbrella.

Cisco wanted to give enterprises a wide range of collaboration solutions in a central place, Michael Smith, director of Cisco€™s Cloud Collaboration Applications Technology Group, told eWEEK at the time.