Cisco, IBM team up on unified messaging

Cisco Systems Inc. and IBM Corp. this week announced that the two IT giants will team up to sell unified messaging hardware and software products for enterprises based on IBM servers and Cisco messaging and voice-over-IP equipment.

In addition to teaming with IBM for selling servers and integration support, Cisco is working with Big Blue to integrate its Unity unified messaging software with IBM's Lotus Domino groupware. Support for Lotus will be Cisco's first expansion of its Unity product support beyond Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange 5.5 and 2000 products. Cisco and IBM announced the expanded partnership at the Lotusphere conference in Orlando this week.

Cisco's Unity software allows enterprises to combine voicemail and e-mail mail boxes into a single user interface based on, until now, Microsoft Outlook on the client side. The software also offers other computer/telephony integration features such as PC-based voicemail administration, and the ability to navigate voice mail applications while listening to messages on a Cisco voice-over-IP handset.

With the development/sales partnership, Cisco is expanding its voice-over-IP relationship with IBM which began this fall when the router maker tapped IBM to resell Unity on its x232 and x240 Intel server products, with integration support from IBM Global Services.

Cisco's Unity software competes with unified messaging products such as Nortel Networks Corp.'s CallPilot and Avaya Inc.'s Unified Messenger product.

IBM and Cisco's decision to meld messaging products falls in line with analysts' big predictions for the unified messaging market. Research firm IDC estimates that the number of unified messaging mailboxes will grow from 3.1 million mailboxes installed this year to 21.7 million mailboxes by 2005.

Cisco did not specify a date as to when Unity for Lotus Domino would be officially available.