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Cisco Dials Up Midmarket UC

Cisco is looking to tap into the SMB unified communications market with two "enterprise-grade" systems priced for the more cost-sensitive segment. The announcements involve two existing lines that have been upgraded and renamed, the Cisco Business Edition 3000 (formerly known as the Cisco Unified Communications Manager Business Edition 3000) and the Cisco Business Edition 6000 (formerly known as the Cisco Unified Communications Manager Business Edition 6000). Now shipping, pricing for the 3000 starts at $100 per user for a 100-user system; the 6000 starts at $158 per user for a 225-user system.

The 100-to-1,000-employee company market is relatively new ground for Cisco, which has traditionally stayed in the enterprise space while its Linksys unit has addressed the 50-users-or-less market, says the company. It says the midmarket is estimated to be worth almost $7.5 billion, with almost 70% of these organizations still using legacy telephony platforms.

According to a new report from IDC (, Unified Communications in U.S. Small and Medium-Sized Business, 2011: Growing Demand for Communication, Collaboration, and Connectivity – But Integration Remains Elusive), there is increasing SMB interest in a broad range of enterprise and consumer communications capabilities. It finds forward-looking SMBs are selectively using a range of tools including voice-over-IP (VoIP); conferencing technologies that support audio, Web and video; and unified messaging, which integrates voice and data messaging.

However, relatively few have implemented a comprehensive, end-to-end UC system that can deliver connectivity and collaboration capabilities beyond the sum of its separate parts. More than one-third of small businesses (firms with fewer =than 100 employees) and nearly three-quarters of midsize companies (firms with 100 to 999 employees) currently own at least one unified communications component technology. SMB interest in adding UC technologies is considerable: More than 30% of small firms and 55% of midsize firms cite plans to add at least one UC component in the next 12 months.

SMBs have demonstrated interest in unified communications' underlying capabilities and constituent technologies, and the next step for vendors is to more effectively articulate the benefits of the technology and its capacity to support specific IT and business goals, says Justin Jaffe, research manager, SMB and home office research, IDC. "Though midmarket firms generally don't have the IT budgets and resources available to large enterprises, they grapple with many of the same kinds of complex IT problems. Solutions that are customizable, that allow a firm to leverage existing analog infrastructure but also engage with SIP technology, and that incorporate cloud capabilities are going to be particularly appealing to midsize businesses."

Enhancements to the BE 3000, for organizations with up to 250 users, include a new attendant console application, point-to-point video calling and savings through SIP Trunking support. The BE 6000 gets reduced costs via embedded VMWare and lower user limits, as well as reduced complexity by integrating cloud-based offers (Meeting Center, Instant Messaging and Presence), speeding license ordering.

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