Cisco enhances IP voice-data convergence line

Cisco Systems Tuesday moved to ease communication across enterprises large and small by introducing a variety of products for merging voice and video with data networks.

Putting all forms of communication into IP (Internet Protocol) data packets not only lets companies pare their infrastructures down to one network but also simplifies everything from checking messages in the morning to managing a phone system, according to Cisco. Not surprisingly, it also plays to Cisco's strength, enterprise data networks.

The San Jose, California, networking giant Tuesday unveiled software and hardware for audio and video conferences, unified voice and data messaging, IP-based company phone switches, customer contact centers and network infrastructures. Some of the products are available now; all will ship before the end of next year's first quarter.

Among the products introduced Tuesday are the following:

- The Cisco IP Phone 7905G, Cisco's least expensive IP phone yet, set to ship in December with a list price of US$165.

- Cisco IP Phone Messenger 1.1 software, coming in the first quarter, which will allow users to send and receive instant messages using the phone's display while also talking on the phone. This means employees could log in to any IP phone on a company's campus, such as in a meeting room, and receive their instant messages, said Karen Bissani, a Cisco product marketing manager. Canned replies can be sent if the user isn't able to respond to a message. Pricing will vary, according to Cisco.

- Cisco Call Manager 3.3 software, shipping in December, which should make it easier for enterprises to expand their IP phone switches. The software can support 30,000 IP phones per IP PBX (private branch exchange) server cluster and support 10 clusters in a single system. The software also has new features for interoperability with traditional circuit-switched phone systems. Entry-level price ranges from $3,995 to $23,495 for software only.

- The Cisco 7845 Media Convergence Server, a higher performance server platform on which Cisco Call Manager runs. Each server can support as many as 7,500 phones, and the boxes can be grouped in clusters with as many as four active servers. Those clusters can be connected into groups of as many as 10. The 7845 is shipping now, priced at $39,995 for as many as 5,000 users and $47,495 for as many as 7,500.

- Cisco Unity 4.0 software, shipping in December, which has been extended to let users of IBM Corp. Lotus Notes get all their e-mail, voicemail and faxes in one place. Unity previously has supported Microsoft Corp. Exchange. Unity 4.0 unified messaging software will cost $135 per user.

- The Cisco IP/VC 3500 videoconferencing products, set to ship this month, which are designed for small and medium-sized businesses or branch offices. They offer improved audio and video performance and a dynamic graphical user interface that lets administrators monitor a conference from any Web browser and see who is currently on a conference. The videoconferencing platform will come in three models ranging in price from $12,950 to $24,950.

- The Cisco ICM CTI (Intelligent Contact Management Computer Telephony Integration) driver for Siebel 7, available this month, which lets Cisco ICM software integrate with the Siebel Systems Inc. customer relationship management system to give call agents quicker access to customer information. The software will be priced starting at $1,100.

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