Cisco Systems has introduced its Unified Communications system — a new suite of voice, data and video products and applications based on the Session Initiation Protocol, or SIP standard.
Cisco is no stranger to this open standard. Last year, for instance, it acquired Dynamicsoft, the company that originated this protocol stack. However, Cisco seemed to lack enthusiasm for it, preferring to maintain its proprietary protocols as much as possible.
“Cisco has been slow to adopt SIP,” John Arnold, a VoIP consultant with J Arnold & Associates, told CRM Buyer. “It has become clear to them, though, that SIP is becoming standard in the industry. If Cisco wants to go after the small end of this market, in particular, it realizes it has to move forward with this.”
The Case for SIP
Cisco has no doubt absorbed the lessons of carriers that did not implement SIP, Arnold noted. Skype, for instance, is also largely proprietary. “Cisco might have concluded that not being SIP-based has held Skype back,” he suggested.
The strength of SIP is that it supports all multimedia applications, Arnold continued, which, in fact, leverages Cisco’s strength as a dominant router provider and provider of IP phones.
Many Products, One Platform
The Cisco Unified Communications system includes Cisco CallManager, Cisco Unity, Cisco MeetingPlace and Cisco IP Contact Center. New in this version are Cisco Unified Personal Communicator, Cisco Unified Presence Server and Customer Interaction Analyzer.
Cisco Unified Personal Communicator bridges the gap between the stand-alone applications on the desktop, telephone and network. Employees can search existing directories to locate contacts and then “click to call” using voice and video.
The Cisco Unified Presence Server collects information about a user’s status, such as whether or not they are on the phone or using the computer, and then publishes that information to Cisco Unified IP Phones or other third-party services and applications, such as IBM Lotus Sametime and Microsoft Live Communications Server (LCS) 2005.
An analytics contact center application, the Customer Interaction Analyzer uses information from customer self-service and agent-assisted interactions to determine, based on silence and word patterns, whether the customer or agent is distressed. The data can be used in any number of ways, including as a coaching tool or to make changes to scripts and other processes.
The new suite is the first Cisco system to fully support Cisco’s Service Oriented Network Architecture (SONA), announced in December 2005, which further facilitates collaboration, according to the company.
“By building on Cisco SONA, Cisco Unified Communications leverages network intelligence to greatly simplify the day-to-day challenges of collaboration with colleagues,” said Charles Giancarlo, chief development officer.