Cisco, Jabber team to expand unified comms platforms

Cisco integrates its Unified MeetingPlace with the Jabber Extensible Communications Platform

Jabber and Cisco on Tuesday announced integration of their real-time communications wares designed to give users access to Web conferencing features from the Jabber instant messaging client.

Cisco has integrated its Unified MeetingPlace conferencing software, which includes voice, video and conferencing, with the Jabber Extensible Communications Platform (Jabber XCP) so users will have the option of entering a conference right from a menu in the Jabber software.

Jabber XCP includes a server and the Jabber Messenger desktop client and the Jabber WebClient, which support a customizable multi-user text conferencing/group chat capability that is one key to the integration. The integration relies on presence information from the Jabber server so users can view co-workers' availability.

With the Jabber server and Cisco's conferencing infrastructure integrated on the back end, users who are in a multi-user chat on their Jabber clients can bring all those participants into a single Web, voice or video conference supported by Unified Meeting with a click of the mouse. XCP also includes a programmable framework and set of APIs for presence-enabling any applications, systems or services.

The partnership between Jabber and Cisco was driven by common customers of the two vendors mostly in financial services and government, according to company officials.

The move comes as major Cisco competitors such as Microsoft and IBM are building out their own unified communications platforms.

Next week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Nortel CEO Mike Zafirovski will hold a press conference in New York as a follow-on to their strategic alliance announced in July 2006. In addition, IBM will be hosting its annual Lotusphere conference later this month, which includes a focus its unified communications strategy.

"Cisco has lots of different things in play now," says Mike Gotta, an analyst with the Burton Group. "In MeetingPlace Express they have Adobe data conferencing engine and in this deal having Cisco do anything with XMPP is interesting since they are so fanatical about SIP/SIMPLE."

XMPP is the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol, which Jabber supports, while SIP/SIMPLE is the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE). The two are competing protocols for IM, presence and VOIP.

"It will be interesting to see how Cisco picks up on XMPP to combat Microsoft, which has not said much about XMPP," Gotta says."Every move that Microsoft makes forces competitors to dance with other partners."

Gotta says IBM has to get its act together to compete. "Microsoft is big on being the command and control over the business model of its partners. If IBM says it is going to be the greenhouse of the unified communications business model and if it gives Avaya and Cisco some running room and brings in other vendors, users might want to compare and contrast how much influence Microsoft has over the entire unified communications portfolio vs. having something that is a little more diverse."

And Cisco isn't going to lie down either. The company's Unified Communications is a system for bringing voice, videoconferencing, collaboration and other forms of communication together under an IP umbrella, along with policies and online presence capabilities.

Jabber, a pioneer in the presence market, hopes to find a niche as the long-promised value of unified communications nears reality.

"We are much more interested in being the presence engine for unified communications then say the chat engine," says David Uhlir, vice president of marketing and product management for Jabber. "We see a lot of long-term value in doing massively scalable multi-protocol presence rather than just being able to provide chat capability."

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