Cisco Beefs Up SMB Product, Tools Portfolio

The wares are part of this week&s launch of the Cisco Business Communications Solution, an overarching family of products, services, support and financing options aimed at SMB customers. The launch is part of an ongoing $2 billion SMB initiative announced last year.

For SMB customers with 20 to 250 customers, Cisco is launching the Catalyst Express 500 switch, new versions of its IP communications applications and new IP phones. Cisco is targeting midmarket customers with 250 to 1,500 employees with the new Catalyst 2960 switch, new IP communications applications and product bundles.

“A lot of what we&ve done here is in specific reaction to what the channel has told us about the cost of doing business in the SMB space and the ease of doing business with Cisco,” said Peter Alexander, vice president of commercial marketing at Cisco, San Jose, Calif.

In particular, Cisco is rolling out new configuration tools for channel partners, including Network Assistant 3.0 and the IP Communications Express Quick Configuration Tool, because partners said Cisco needs to help cut deployment times of its CallManager Express VoIP solution, Alexander said.

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“[The tools] allow me to deploy and configure faster, which translates to lower cost for my customers,” said Luis Simonet, vice president of professional services at Digitel, a Cisco partner in Atlanta. In some instances, the new tools are cutting the solution provider&s deployment times in half, he said.

The Catalyst Express 500 Series of Layer 2 Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet switches are available with Power over Ethernet (PoE), a key feature for VoIP deployments. “It will be a big seller for me because it has PoE, so I can sell it with all of my voice solutions,” Simonet said.

Available this month, PoE versions of the switches start at $1,295. Without PoE, prices start at $795.

Other new offerings for SMB customers include CallManager Express 3.3 with embedded conferencing for up to 96 users, Unity Express 2.2 with auto-attendant integration, and a new line of XML-enabled phones.

Cisco is rolling out the Catalyst 2960 Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet Layer 2 switches with integrated security and advanced Quality of Service features. Pricing starts at $1,295.

Cisco also is launching its MeetingPlace Express Web conferencing application, Unity Connection messaging system and Mobile Connect productivity tools.

Cisco&s commercial sales, including SMB and midmarket sales, accounted for 26 percent of its product business last quarter, up from 24 percent for the same quarter a year ago, Alexander said.