Siemens hopes to jumpstart acceptance of Unified Communications with a vendor-agnostic open-standards-based OpenScape UC server software platform.Like many other vendors, Siemens has been heavily promoting the value of UC solutions, but so far small and midsize companies have been slow to accept the concept - which combines voice, data, email, instant messaging, conferencing, and more into a single, consistent environment.
There are plenty of reasons UC hasn't caught fire yet, including this list from Siemens:
- Lack of market awareness
- Complex and proprietary technology offerings
- Voice is often an afterthought
- Immature products and piecemeal approaches
- Expensive and difficult implementations
- Uncertain return on investment
- Requires removal of existing equipment
I can't argue with any of these points, especially the first -- that's why last year I wrote a piece answering 8 Essential Questions on Unified Communications.
So what's different about OpenScape Unified Communications Server? To find out, I spent a few minutes on the phone with Graham Howard, Siemens' director of global marketing for large systems, who's demonstrating the system at CeBIT in Hanover, Germany .
Howard describes OpenScape Unified Communications Server as "a foundation layer that goes under all the communications applications" in the data center. And they "all run out of the data center these days." Based on the session initiation protocol (SIP), the product can be integrated with hardware or software from any vendor, even legacy PBX systems.
To make UC easier, Howard said, you can start with voice, or unified communciations, or both, and upgrade at any time. There are software clients for PC telephony, Web clients that run in the browser, and mobile clients for Blackberry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile devices. There's even a video client called OpenScape Video.
The idea is to make UC simpler, able to work with existing multi-vendor infrastructures, but still be easily scalable.
For midmarket companies, OpenScape Unified Communications Server Medium Edition supports up to 1,000 users. For the first 100 licenses, prices start under $15,000 for the UC package, less than $34,000 for the voice package, and $40,000 for a combined package. Additional licenses are availalbe on a per-user basis. Siemens also sells Hosted Edition designed to let managed services providers offer the same UC services to smaller busineses. The products are due to ship April 30.
I don't know if this open-standards approach will actually light the UC fuse under small and midsize companies. But I do think it's a step in the right direction.