Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cisco enhances unified communications systems for midsize businesses

Cisco has announced a refresh of its unified communications systems aimed at the 75-750 seat market, the Cisco Business Edition 3000 and the Cisco Business Edition 6000, which were formerly known as the Cisco Unified Communications Manager Business Edition 3000 and 6000 respectively.

"We are turning attention strongly to mid-size businesses," said Roberto De La Mora, senior director of worldwide IP communication solutions marketing at Cisco. "We have had offerings there for a long time, but we really want to develop that market. Cisco is committed to mid-size businesses with the same kind of laser focus we have had on the enterprise in the past."

De La Mora said the mid-size market is worth about 7.4 billion, and has been dominated by legacy voice products which are now aging and failing.

"They want new solutions with the right set of features for their market, which are simple to operate, manage and maintain at a price they can afford, and they want a path to protect their investment," he said.

The Cisco Business Edition 3000 is targeted at the 75-200 seat market.

"The Business Edition 3000 has a fabulous value price and enterprise grade features," De La Mora said. "It's priced to cost around $100 per user with everything included, even the phone."

Features on the 3000 include SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) trunking, through the Cisco Unified Border Element and integration with the Cisco WebEx conferencing solution. Cisco Jabber is also integrated for IM and presence. Video calls can also be made inexpensively through the Cisco Unified IP Phones 8941 and 8945, which allow callers to see each other on their respective devices.

That video phone support is one way the Business Edition 3000 users can compensate for the 3000's lack of built in support for TelePresence, which is supported on the Business Edition 6000.

"We didn't build it in to the 3000 because we felt most customers who would use TelePresence at that size would use our Callway service," De La Mora said. "We didnt add support in the 3000 box because we didn't want to increase the price."

For rapid set-up, country-specific dial plans for the Business Edition 3000 are now available for the US, Canada, China, India, Russia and Australia. Dial plans for the UK, France, Spain and Italy will be available in Q1CY12.

The Cisco Business Edition 6000 is targeted a little more up-market, at companies with 150 to 750 users, at up to 50 locations.

Cisco has integrated Cisco WebEx Meeting Center and Cisco Jabber for IM and presence into the Cisco Business Edition 6000. This eases the provisioning of these applications as web conferencing becomes the default way to connect people in remote offices, and cloud becomes the preferred method of delivery, since it saves money and reduces management complexity.

The Cisco Business Edition 6000 also embeds the virtualization software required to operate virtualized applications.

"Having the virtualization platform on the box reduces cost and complexity," De La Mora said. "This makes it easier to deploy and maintain."

While the Business Edition 6000 is geared towards companies with 150 to 750 users, Cisco acknowledges companies that anticipate growth, or that want them for branch offices, may want it as well. So the lower bundle limit has been reduced from the earlier version

"We have lowered minimum user requirements to 50 user bundles, whereas before it was 100," De La Mora said. "For branch offices, 100 was overkill. This gives a better price point."

"There is a great opportunity here for our Cisco Collaboration partners," said Marc Inderhees, senior sales business development manager at Cisco Worldwide Channels. "First, we really feel that there's an opportunity for partners to be more relevant with their customer base with solutions that are designed, packaged and priced for the market. Many customers have been holding onto old PBX systems because of the cost and challenges of deploying new systems. Partners are in a better position to ease customers off those technologies, and they can expect to see their revenues grow."

Ted Chong, vice-president of collaboration at Cisco Canada, said these enhanced products really target the midmarket much more effectively.

"We thought we had a big gap in the mid-market, and Canada is really a mid-market market," he said. "We are really happy to see that we have been able to incorporate a lot of these new features into the Business Edition 3000 and 6000. We've worked very hard to make it easy for smaller customers, and we think it will fill a great gap for us, and be one of the big growth areas for my team this year.

"People want the Cisco brand but we havent had the right features and price point," Chong said.

Expected customer pricing for the Cisco Business Edition 3000 starts at $USD 100/user for a 100-user system; for the Cisco Business Edition 6000 pricing starts at $158/user for a 225-user system.

"Having the virtualization platform on the box reduces cost and complexity," De La Mora said. "This makes it easier to deploy and maintain."

While the Business Edition 6000 is geared towards companies with 150 to 750 users, Cisco acknowledges companies that anticipate growth, or that want them for branch offices, may want it as well. So the lower bundle limit has been reduced from the earlier version

"We have lowered minimum user requirements to 50 user bundles, whereas before it was 100," De La Mora said. "For branch offices, 100 was overkill. This gives a better price point."

"There is a great opportunity here for our Cisco Collaboration partners," said Marc Inderhees, senior sales business development manager at Cisco Worldwide Channels. "First, we really feel that there's an opportunity for partners to be more relevant with their customer base with solutions that are designed, packaged and priced for the market. Many customers have been holding onto old PBX systems because of the cost and challenges of deploying new systems. Partners are in a better position to ease customers off those technologies, and they can expect to see their revenues grow."

Ted Chong, vice-president of collaboration at Cisco Canada, said these enhanced products really target the midmarket much more effectively.

"We thought we had a big gap in the mid-market, and Canada is really a mid-market market," he said. "We are really happy to see that we have been able to incorporate a lot of these new features into the Business Edition 3000 and 6000. We've worked very hard to make it easy for smaller customers, and we think it will fill a great gap for us, and be one of the big growth areas for my team this year.

"People want the Cisco brand but we haven't had the right features and price point," Chong said.

Expected customer pricing for the Cisco Business Edition 3000 starts at $USD 100/user for a 100-user system; for the Cisco Business Edition 6000 pricing starts at $158/user for a 225-user system.


By Mark Cox echannelline.com

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