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Siemens OpenScape offers tight integration of voice, video and messaging

Shamus McGillicuddy

Siemens Communications is tightly integrating voice, video and messaging in its new software-based unified communications product.

The OpenScape Unified Communications Server is an IT application that runs out of a company's data centre over an existing IP network utilising existing data infrastructure. Mark Straton, senior vice president of enterprise systems marketing for Siemens, said the company has recognised that the days of voice as a standalone technology in the enterprise are over. To break out of that silo, Siemens is transforming itself into a software company.

"Our view is that voice as a standalone category will be eliminated, and it's really about delivering communications as a software and the services required to support that," Straton said.

Henry Dewing, principal analyst with Forrester Research, said Siemens' transition to a software-based communications vendor is not unique.

"Avaya and Nortel have sort of valid software strategies as well," Dewing said. "The key thing here is pushing what's been purpose-built hardware onto general-purpose computing platforms with software to drive the flexibility and functionality of the system. I think it's absolutely where the industry needs to be going."

The OpenScape server has three major applications:

OpenScape Voice, which is really a renaming of Siemens' existing HiPath 8000 VoIP product, which has been rolled into the OpenScape brand.

OpenScape

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UC, a messaging infrastructure that runs on Linux and can operate in a standalone mode.

OpenScape Video, a new high-definition videoconferencing portfolio that can also run independently. The video portfolio includes room-based high-definition videoconferencing as well as lower-quality desktop video.

"The big deal for them in the announcement that they're moving to including video, mobility and other functionality such as unified communications that puts them a little bit ahead of some of their competitors," Dewing said. "Nortel or Avaya has to set up partnership deals in order to deliver those types of functionality."

Observers were particularly interested in the videoconferencing piece of OpenScape.

"It's tied into the unified communications server, where all the presence capabilities and the user interface you would have on UC softphones you will also have on the video side," said Nick Lippis, principal of The Lippis Report. "They did a nice job in having the same control interface for both video and voice, where you see a lot of companies offering separate video technology that's not integrated."

Siemens is hoping that the OpenScape launch will help it expand its North American market share. Observers agreed that the new offering puts the company on the leading edge in unified communications, but some wondered whether that will be enough.