Cisco, IBM give voice to IP-based solutions

Cisco Systems and IBM Corp. are teaming up to bring a shared portfolio of Internet protocol-based voice and video products, hoping to boost the fledgling market for converged IP solutions.

The partnership announced this week “”provides IBM technology inside Cisco’s great products and leverages

the breadth and depth of IBM’s services organization to help customers deploy IP communications solutions,”” said John Ostrander, vice-president of IBM Global Services in Canada.

For example, the pair will create integrated solutions such as Cisco Unity with Lotus Domino, support for Cisco CallManager on IBM’s xSeries servers and IBM’s Information Management database software with CallManager.

Among the goals the companies have agreed to is creating applications and services aimed at the retail and financial services industries.

The pact — which is not exclusive — commits the two vendors to jointly develop an integrated roadmap encompassing IP telephony, unified messaging, customer contact centres, rich media communications and video conferencing

However, the initial announcement didn’t make it clear when the products will appear and how each company’s channel will sell them.

“”We may look to some of our channel partners to resell the Cisco products suite with IBM services in behind it,”” said Ostrander. “”It could be co-selling, it could be co-delivery, there’s a number of different models that we’re currently evolving to which I think will provide an opportunity for the channel as well.””

In addition, the announcement may encourage independent software vendors developing solutions for Cisco’s IP phones and applications, said Brantz Myers, national manager of enterprise marketing for Cisco Canada.

However, a Cisco spokesman later said that “”any jointly-developed products will be available through both Cisco and IBM channel partners, with new offerings expected to hit the market by the end of the summer.””

At least one reseller saw the announcement as good news. “”It can only be positive for all of us, from the point of view if it helps legitimize the market that is still emerging in IP and voice and data convergence,”” said Harry Zarek, president of Compugen Inc., which builds solutions on both IBM and Cisco lines.

An industry analyst also said the agreement may help acceptance of voice-over-IP-based solutions. “”For customers that are working with IBM on other projects this is an added tool,”” said Brian Sharwood of SeaBoard Group. It’s “”somebody else to explain the benefits to them other than Cisco. Cisco can talk about voice over IP all they want, and (customers) will say ‘Another router please.’ But when IBM comes in they can get company IT managers to listen a little harder.””

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