VoiceCon Notes: Siemens, Tandberg, Cisco And Others Make Channel Waves

This week's VoiceCon conference in Orlando was abuzz with new product and service announcements tied to -- and with implications for -- the UC and collaboration channels. There was a lot of ground to cover, from IBM's SMB-focused alliance with ShoreTel, to HP's new sales strategy with Polycom, to Microsoft's official debut of Office Communications Server 14.

Here's a roundup of other channel news that made the rounds at VoiceCon. Also, be sure to check out 25 Hot Products To See At VoiceCon Orlando for a collection of specific product announcements and updates. Watch for a look at other new products later this week.

Siemens Partners With VMware Around UC Server 2010

Siemens Enterprise Communications confirmed this week a new strategic partnership with VMware, through which Siemens will develop virtualized UC products for data center and future cloud deployments.

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OpenScape UC Server 2010, the latest version of Siemens' OpenScape UC platform, will be part of the "common management toolset" used by VMware vSphere customers, meaning Siemens will be able to provide its OpenScape Voice, Unified Communications and Contact Center products as virtualized appliances, sold through Siemens Enterprise Communications channel partners.

It's a key move for Siemens as it looks to open up a bigger front in the communication-as-a-service (CaaS) space and bolster its channel presence in North America, where it has traditionally not been strong.

Shared Technologies, the Coppell, Texas-based solution provider which in January announced plans to distribute Siemens' OpenScape platform on a seat license basis, was among partners at VoiceCon touting the Siemens-VMware partnership's benefits to the channel.

"As customers continue to look for ways to reduce costs and leverage existing assets, the ability to consolidate their IT infrastructure and leverage our expertise to manage the entire data center for them so they can focus their resources on other projects, becomes very attractive," said Glenn Means, COO of Shared, in a statement.

OpenScape UC Server 2010 is priced as a subscription, and hosted. At VoiceCon, Siemens also introduced OpenScape Fusion, a platform for simple integration of communications and UC tools with other business infrastructure applications.

The UC Server, which won VoiceCon's Best of VoiceCon Award, is a key piece of Siemens' overall UC strategy. Mark Straton, senior vice president of voice and applications solutions at Siemens Enterprise Communications Group, said in a Tuesday keynote that sales of OpenScape UC Server had increased 445 percent in 2009.

Next: Cisco Launches IME

Cisco Launches IME

Cisco's big unveiling at VoiceCon was the official release of the Intercompany Media Engine (IME), the new UC server with which it can connect UC systems in individual enterprises and create a secure gateway between them for voice, video and collaboration tools.

Joe Burton, Cisco's chief technology officer for UC, said the IME would present new opportunities for Cisco VARs as companies refresh and look to migrate their legacy UC infrastructures.

Cisco also published the results of a global survey suggesting 77 percent of IT decision makers plan to up their spending on collaboration technology this year by 10 percent or more. According to Cisco, the most commonly cited reasons for the spending increase are productivity and efficiency.

New Tandberg Products Target SMB Video

Tandberg used VoiceCon to launch several product additions. One is Callway, a subcription-based, hosted service for delivering high-def video and voice over IP for businesses with 10 or fewer video endpoints deployed. According to Tandberg, purchasing Callway -- which works with Tandberg units like the E20 IP video phone, the Profile 42-inch video system and the QuickSet C20 Plus "plug-and-play" desktop video set up -- is a little like purchasing a mobile phone subscription. Customers work with Tandberg VARs to select the most appropriate video gear and the VAR provides the service through a local phone number.

"It's a low-cost service and a big step toward video access for everyone," said Larry Satterfield, Tandberg's president, Americas Commercial.

The other major announcement was Advanced Media Gateway, which connects Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2 users to high-definition video and telepresence using Tandberg's Video Communication Server.

Next: Items From Alcatel-Lucent, Adtran, GTRI Alcatel-Lucent Sees Power In An 'Open' Desk Phone

Alcatel-Lucent was among the busiest of VoiceCon vendors, announcing a slew of new services and products, including a series of "Smart Desk Phones," officially called the Alcatel-Lucent OmniTouch 8082 My IC Phone. A desk phone devices that effectively bridges the distance between PC and mobile device, the phone is an open platform through which Alcatel-Lucent is encouraging third party application development.

Physically, the OmniTouch has a 7-inch multi-touch display with a customizable interface, low power consumption, and integrated collaboration applications like instant message, presence and e-mail. The key, said Alcatel Lucent executives in a ChannelWeb briefing, is that the phone itself is an application pod that has its own API develop platform -- similar to what exists for many mobile device platforms, except on a desk phone with advanced UC capabilities. It'll become a centerpiece product of Alcatel-Lucent's Applications Partner Program (AAPP), which according to the company has more than 10,000 active developers.

"We see the ability to deliver a rich communication experience on the PC, or on the smartphone, but not on the desk phone," said Laurent Allspach, terminals product line manager for Alcatel-Lucent's Enterprise Business Group. "This is not designed to compete with either the PC or other devices, it is complementary. The platform is completely open, and we can deliver a set of rich applications that Alcatel-Lucent has developed, but we are also providing the SDK with the phone. The same one we use is the one we are giving to developers. It is truly open."

The phone itself will be released in Q4. Alcatel-Lucent is making the developer tools available in Q2, and they'll use standards like JavaScript, HTML 5.0, Ajax and an open API, including connectivity to Bluetooth devices and various PCs and LANs.

Adtran Looks To Custom UC Applications

Adtran was at VoiceCon touting its NetVanta Business Application Server, and what the company is calling expanded vertical market opportunities for the channel thanks to the ability to use NetVanta products to drive custom UC applications.

The goal, according to Adtran, is to help channel partners develop custom applications around Communication Enabled Business Processes (CEBP) using the NetVanta platform. NetVanta is Windows-based on the software side, and can according to Adtran support up to 200 concurrent calls. It operates with Open Database Connectivity databases, but can also be offered a standalone in a customer's existing PBX.

UC is a new frontier for Adtran, which in December debuted four new product lines that vaulted it into the space. What Adtran has going for it as it locks horns with established UC players is a loyal channel, and the understanding that sophisticated UC functions can be customized for small and midsized-businesses that don't need every UC feature.

GTRI Promises Better Cisco UC

Several major integrators were also at VoiceCon, touting new services. Global Technology Resources Inc. (GTRI, 2009 VAR 500 rank No. 218) launched a new applications suite designed for Cisco-based unified communications systems.

Dubbed GlobalACE (Adaptive Communications Exchange), the GTRI suite offers a customizable web interface for Cisco UC users, with optional conferencing, paging, intercom, push-to-talk, texting, alerts, call recording and other applications that according to GTRI don't always come natively with Cisco or any other UC deployments. GlobalACE can also inegrate with applications in SAP, Lotus Sametime, PeopleSoft and Draeger medical environments -- many crucial to the public sector environments in which GTRI does the majority of its business.

"It's pretty simple. You're leveraging your Cisco UC to make it do all that you need it to do," said Thomas Maier, GTRI's director of unified communications.