RealTime IT News

Cisco Makes Convergence Play

Confident that customers want more control and consolidation of voice and data networks, Cisco has introduced new software-based products for companies and branch offices with 100 or fewer employees.

Call Manager Express ($750 to $2,800 depending on number of users) directs incoming calls while Unity Express ($2,995) provides voicemail and automated attendant services.

The offerings are integrated into the company's access routers and are part of Cisco's efforts to move customers to Internet protocol systems. The applications were developed in-house.

The San Jose, Calif., network equipment giant believes companies like the idea of adding call management and voicemail tools as part of a larger package.

That, and the fact that the systems are more efficient than legacy gear, could give it an edge over other systems from large carriers or smaller telecom service providers, the company said.

"The whole idea is to make applications simplier to deploy and manage and to optiimize that bandwidth in these branch offices," Jeanne Dunn, a Cisco spokeswoman told internetnews.com

Although the official product launches were this week, 2,000 customers are already using the product, including retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, Sacramento blood bank BloodSource and Italian IP broadband service provider, Fastweb.

Mark Monday, a director of voice product management, said Cisco is planning additional products to take advantage of the melding of voice and data networks.

"We're just barely touching the edge," Monday told internetnews.com. "There are a number of things we're working on that will really leverage convergence,"