Cisco Elbows For SMB Web Conferencing

Cisco Systems has licensed Macromedia’s Flash technology for a Web conferencing offering in the making,
officials announced today.

Cisco said it would use Macromedia’s Breeze
and Flash platforms in order to deliver a comprehensive Web and audio conferencing offering for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMB).

MeetingPlace Express is designed to put conferencing features behind the
corporate firewall for customers to they don’t have to buy it from outside vendors.

“One way of thinking about this is we’re taking best-of-breed Web conferencing and best-of-breed on-premise audio conferencing and integrating them deeply,” said Tom Hale, a Macromedia general manager and senior vice president.

Companies are moving away from separate vendors to provide audio and Web
conferencing, Hale said, not only because of the security issues posed by
conducting business outside their network but for the difficulties created
trying to tie them together.

Putting everything under one roof allows users to make changes in the Web
interface, whether it’s to mute one of the participants or change settings,
from one location rather than using the individual settings.

Cutting down on the complexity issue is Macromedia’s ubiquitous Flash player
found on 97 percent of today’s desktops. It alleviates the requirement to
download and install client-side software through the conferencing service
providers.

The cost issue is also significant, said Troy Trenchard, Cisco director of
product management. Customers today are paying for the separate services,
the bandwidth, the number of users and toll charges, he said, but not
getting the integration of the services with corporate features like the
directory service or calendaring.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of people being attracted by the ability to
bring that solution into their network,” he said, “either within their site
or hosted behind their firewall, which allows them to experience significant
cost savings in their telephony and to drive that productivity by having
these things highly integrated.”

Cisco’s SMB offering is a Linux-based, rack-mounted server, available for up
to 120 concurrent users. It’s a scaled down version of the company’s
enterprise-grade MeetingPlace conferencing technology, acquired in 2003 from
the $80
million purchase
of Latitude Communications.

Officials are working on incorporating the Breeze technology into the
enterprise-grade offering down the road, to provide an easier migration path
from Express, but Hale said the time frame is too far out in the future to
comment.

Conferencing is one of the key components in Cisco’s Unified Communications
vision for real-time presence-enabled communications. The company wants to
provide one comprehensive suite encompassing conferencing, video,
calendaring, e-mail, call control, security and directories.

This is the second big win in as many weeks for Macromedia and its Flash
platform. Earlier this month the company announced a partnership with Hewlett-Packard to deliver a Flash-based user
interface for its carrier solution.

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