Cisco Forsees Video Telephony Gains

By Sean Michael Kerner

Taking aim at its conferencing rivals, Cisco today announced a barrage of new and improved products for its Internet protocol communications system.

“It’s a very large release with a great deal of functionality in it,” said Hank Lambert, a product marketing director with the San Jose, Calif., company.

The enhancements revolve around security, productivity and interoperability and are built upon Cisco’s Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data (AVVID).

Cisco has upgraded its IP PBX to its Call Manager release 4.0, which includes new desktop productivity software, Cisco Video Telephony (VT) Advantage release 1.0. The move allows familiar features, like hold, transfer and conferencing to be part of video telephony.

Security has also been tightened with the new Cisco Security Agent (CSA) providing adaptive threat protection for Cisco IP phones, servers and PCs.

Interoperability has been improved with new support for the Q.SIG and SIP signalling protocols, enabling compatibility with legacy phone systems.

Finally, Cisco also introduced a new Rich-Media Conferencing Server, Cisco MeetingPlace 8106, which makes use of technology acquired via Cisco’s acquisition of Latitude Communications. MeetingPlace allows users to set up, coordinate and participate in audio/Web conferences through a Cisco IP phone.

Cisco’s Lambert was quick to point out that there is a fundamental difference between MeetingPlace and Microsoft’s Live Meeting or the WebEx Web conferencing system.

“What CISCO does with Meeting Place is on net conferencing meaning, within the customer’s firewall. That’s a little different than Live Meeting or WebEx, which are traditionally operated outside of the enterprise firewalls,” he said. “There is a difference to the market that we’re targeting, though there is some market space where there is overlap between those products.”

Video telephony has been derided for poor quality in the past, however several industry improvements are helping.

“There are four factors that are taking effect all at the same time,” Lambert said. “PCs have become more powerful, low-cost cameras provide higher resolution and frame rates and voice/video and data collaboration are all converging onto an IP protocol backbone and the bandwidth costs are coming down.”

The voice/video/data convergence also plays into Cisco’s overall strategy. According to Lambert, one of the things Cisco likes about these products is that they drive the usage of bandwidth at the Ethernet, IP and optical
levels, all of which are markets in which Cisco participates.

The new offerings will be available by April.

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