Siemens Follows Open Path to Unified Communications

Siemens' open approach to unified communications applications cuts reliance on Microsoft servers.

IP telephony provider Siemens Communications on March 3 shifted its focus from voice to unified communications applications with the launch of a new software platform and UC applications suite.

As a part of its transformation into a software and services company, Siemens introduced at CeBIT its new OpenScape Unified Communications Server and the first new applications in a suite for the server.

The Linux-based UC server provides a common set of services for the applications that ride on top of it. Those services include session or call control for voice, instant messaging, conferencing and video, as well as support for federated presence, quality of service, session or call detail reporting, availability management and a license portal.

That openness is a big change for Siemens, said E. Brent Kelly, a senior analyst at Wainhouse Research.

"One of the interesting things they've done is there used to be a dependency on Microsoft's Live Communications Server. That's been removed and that's a pretty big change. It became clear to Siemens that continuing to work with Microsoft was not a path to money. They've rearchitected this so it'll play with IBM and Microsoft and potentially some other things too," Kelly said.

The applications suite can integrate with IBM's Lotus Sametime, Microsoft's Office Communications Server and others.

To read eWEEK's blog coverage of CeBIT, click here.

Siemens added three new applications on top of the server, including a rebranded and redesigned version of Siemens' HiPath 8000 Version 3 IP PBX. Renamed the OpenScape Voice Application, it provides enterprise-grade voice and IP least-cost routing.

Siemens also added its first videoconferencing application, OpenScape Video, which provides integrated desktop, client and high-definition videoconferencing based on technology from LifeSize Communications. The third application, OpenScape UC Application V3, provides role-based UC.

The OpenScape UC server, designed around an SOA (service-oriented architecture) and supporting industry-standard SIPs (Session Initiation Protocols), is intended to operate in heterogeneous customer environments. It can work with existing IPT or legacy PBX systems from Siemens or other vendors. The same is true of the OpenScape UC applications suite.

Siemens also redesigned the OpenScape Voice Application around SOA, and added the ability to search address books and access call history and conferencing. "There are different versions of the client, including a simple soft client, tool bar version and mobile versions of the client that can run on a BlackBerry, Symbian or Microsoft mobile device," said Graham Howard, director of global marketing for Siemens.

The new integrated videoconferencing allows participants to dial into a multiparty conference from different videoconferencing rooms, from desktops and from SIP phones.

"It's the first single-vendor solution to provide end-to-end unified video and voice calling from the boardroom to the executive desktop to the average user desktop," Howard said.

Despite its pioneering work around SOA and unified communications, Siemens has not caught the attention of mainstream users, Kelly said. "Clearly their telephony sales and market share have been slipping. The OpenScape product never gained traction, but it's a fantastic product. The market never grabbed hold of it," he said.

The new OpenScape UC Server and applications will be available at the end of April. The OpenScape UC Server will come in three versions, a Medium Edition with support for up to 1,000 users on a single server, a Large Edition with support for up to 100,000 users across multiple servers and a Hosted Edition for service providers. Entry-level pricing starts at $14,854 for 100 licenses.