Cisco Partners With Orange on Cloud-Based Hosted Collaboration

Cisco, following up on a cloud-based UC program with Verizon, is offering a similar program through a partnership with European telecom giant Orange.

Cisco Systems is continuing to partner with carriers as officials look to offer the company's collaboration technology as a hosted service.

Three months after announcing a beta program with Verizon, in which the carrier is offering services based on Cisco's HCS (Hosted Collaboration Suite), the networking giant is rolling out a similar program with Orange Business Services, the B2B arm of French-Telecom Orange.

Orange Business announced June 27 that its Business Together as a Service program, which also is based on Cisco's HCS, is available in France and will be expanded to all of Europe later this year and to other regions in 2012. Xerox General Services and Orange Labs have already piloted the UC (unified communications) service, company officials said.

Through the service, the collaboration offerings can be delivered via the cloud to customers using a variety of devices.

"Orange Business Services and Cisco are helping IT departments access collaboration and unified communications applications based on the deployment model of their choice: in the cloud, on premise or both," Eric Schoch, senior director for the Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution, said in a statement. "Companies now have flexibility and choice in how they deploy these advanced and business-critical technologies to their end users."

The service also will offer businesses the greater flexibility and cost savings inherent in cloud computing, according to Paul Molinier, vice president of unified communications and collaboration for Orange Business Services.

"Employees need productivity tools that make it easier and faster for them to get things done," Molinier said in a statement. "Business Together as a Service helps employees collaborate together more efficiently using a complete suite of best-in-class and on-demand tools."

Applications in Orange's Business Together as a Service program include telephony; unified messaging; instant messaging with presence; audio, Web and video conferencing; mobile device support; and an option for a contact center. The applications are accessible via a Web portal, through which enterprises can select from five preset profiles for various employee groups and can change the number of user accounts up or down as needed.

The Orange Business Services is another significant partnership for Cisco as it pushes its collaboration technologies into the cloud. Orange officials say the carrier has more than 2.7 million business clients, 3,700 multinational clients and 325,000 IP VPN (virtual private network) access points in 177 countries.

The partnership echoes the one Cisco has with Verizon, which was first discussed in July 2010 and was furthered in March with the announcement of Verizon's Unified Communications and Collaboration Service. That service is based on Cisco's HCS, which includes Cisco Unified Communications Systems Release 8.0, HCS Management System and a virtualization platform.

Verizon officials are integrating that with such Verizon assets as audio conferencing; service applications; sales force capabilities such as ordering, billing and SLAs; and the carrier's data center infrastructure. The service currently includes such offerings as hosted email, Jabber instant messaging and presence, conferencing, unified wired and wireless clients, and IP PBX. It also can be offered on-premises, through the cloud or in a hybrid fashion.

Earlier this month, Cisco officials said they were going to start offering their Quad enterprise collaboration platform as a hosted or managed service, and will partner with ACS-the services arm of Xerox-and consulting firm Capgemini to further that effort.

Cisco first introduced Quad in June 2010 as a way of giving businesses the same communications features found in such social media environments as Facebook and MySpace-including profiles, updates, video communications, Twitter-like microblogging, people searches and auto-tagging-that employees use in their personal lives.