Microsoft, Radvision Hype VoIP, Convergence At VON

Vendors such as Microsoft, Radvision, Alcatel and Verizon used the VoIP-focused conference to tout the cost savings and productivity benefits of bringing voice, video and data together on a single network.

VoIP has also attracted the attention of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell, who told conference attendees he would seek to bring VoIP services under federal regulation rather than leaving them under the jurisdiction of individual states.

Solution providers attending the conference said their expertise and vendor partnerships put them in a unique position to help customers integrate the variety of technologies that comprise converged solutions.

"As the trusted adviser, it's not the systems integrator's role to steer customers to any particular solution but instead to do the analysis and find what the solution should be," said Jay Brandstadter, professional adviser at Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC), an El Segundo, Calif.-based solution provider.

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At the show, Microsoft announced beta availability for its new realtime collaboration (RTC) client, code-named Istanbul, the front-end interface for its forthcoming Live Communication Server (LCS) 2005 instant-messaging platform.

Istanbul, slated to ship in the first half of 2005, incorporates support for VoIP and videoconferencing into instant messaging and also offers tighter integration with Microsoft Office applications, said Anoop Gupta, vice president of the realtime collaboration business unit at Microsoft, Redmond, Wash.

Sources familiar with the company's plans expect LCS 2005 to be formally announced next week. Gupta said LCS 2005 is slated for availability this quarter but declined to be more specific.

Microsoft's RTC strategy will create opportunities for systems integrators as they marry Microsoft's technology with products from its vendor partners in areas such as IP telephony, Gupta said.

Microsoft is a distant third in the instant-messaging market behind AOL and Yahoo, "and only by bundling it with Windows and selling servers directly to enterprises can Microsoft hope to eventually dominate the IM category," said Ron Heradian, chief systems architect at Global System Services, a solution provider in Mountain View, Calif.

In partnership with Microsoft, Radvision demonstrated a forthcoming software-only version of its viaIP conferencing technology, part of its iView software suite, that brings multipoint videoconferencing capabilities to the LCS environment.

Also at the show, Alcatel announced it will offer its SMB-focused OmniPCX Office IP-PBX to the North American market for the first time as part of a managed services offering through Verizon Communications. Verizon will bundle the IP-PBX with its network, maintenance and management services. The offering will be available through Verizon's channel partners early next year, a Verizon spokeswoman said.