Siemens Strengthens Collaboration, Video In UC Suite

Siemens Enteprise Communications Group next week will roll out OpenScape UC Suite 2011, a comprehensive update to its flagship UC offering that also introduces a web collaboration application.

With the battle for UC suite dominance becoming increasingly more about software and ease-of-use, Siemens sees a combination of simplicity and enterprise sophistication as allowing it to appeal to business users but with a more affordable, more flexible UC suite option than Cisco, Avaya, Microsoft and other UC rivals.

The company has spent much of the past year fine-tuning its Siemens channel offerings to better compete in North America. Siemens debuted OpenScape UC Sever 2010 back in March, copping a Best of VoiceCon Award for what, according to Siemens, was the software foundation of future UC releases.

The OpenScape UC Suite 2011 offering includes sweeping updates to many of OpenScape's key features, including an expanded OpenScape UC Application (version 4) and OpenScape Video offering that includes a soft client for multi-party videoconferencing and interoperability with Polycom, Tandberg and LfieSize products, as well as support for VMware virtualization environments. There's also a fuller version of OpenScape Mobility, which now includes support for iPhones and iPads and a range of other fixed-mobile convergence and mobile UC offerings.

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New to OpenScape this time around is Web Collaboration, a web and video multi-party collaboration suite that's offered either as a stand-alone or integrated with UC applications. Installing on a Windows-based server, it includes plug-ins for Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Outlook and IBM Groupware, and includes capacity for up to 1,000 session participants, as well as 256-bit AES encryption.

Siemens is also offering OpenScape PhoneApps, a series of more than 20 productivity and collaboration applications that integrate with both the UC Application and various social media platforms like Twitter, as well as an open application developer toolkit for use with the platform.

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Ross Sedgewick, senior director of marketing for large enterprise solutions, said that what Siemens is hearing from CIOs is that unified communications are becoming more important, but there's a trend toward strategic spending on suites that offer maximum ROI and features that are both simple to use and flexibly deployed.

"There's potential for the perception of complexity and expense," said Sedgewick in a recent interview with CRN. "There's somewhat fear of the unknown, of multi-server deployments, of proprietary technology stacks. And then you have applications like Skype and FaceTime that are very affordable and have very easy access, so you combine that with enterprise-grade features, and there's an opportunity for rich multimedia collaboration."

The simplicity angle will be key to Siemens' marketing of OpenScape UC, which it sees as having the easy-install and ease-of-use capabilities of a Skype or a Google Talk, but the enterprise-level security, communication and collaboration features comparable to Microsoft Lync or any of its other UC rivals.

"This is reduced complexity. This is a single server deployment in a Windows server within an hour, and doesn't need proprietary technical skills," Sedgewick said. "Unlike some other brands, which I won't name, this literally is any enterprise -- some of which don't use a lot of collaboration. It can go anywhere. There are no proprietary dependencies for rollout."

All of the new features will be available this month, with the exception of PhoneApps, which will be available in February 2011. Siemens prices OpenScape based on deployment needs, but a basic package -- premise-based software on an industry standard server -- is offered as a stand-alone or with OpenScape UC App for about $13,080 dollars (converted from 9900 Euro list price), and includes 10 concurrent sessions with 1 server license. Additional sessions add for about $325 each and additional servers for about $5,152. Mobile clients are included for free.