Lotus Sametime to Embrace “Unified Telephony”

Unified communications (UC) is certainly a hot topic these days—but there’s little consensus about what, exactly, comprises it. In most views, voice—and voicemail—is central to a scheme that integrates all the major modes of business communications.

IBM Corp. recently announced plans to bring its UC offering, Lotus Sametime, into congruence with that vision with the advent of Lotus Sametime Unified Telephony, a new offering that will integrate telephone communications—both hardware and software-based calling that works with any IP- or TDM-based PBX—and phone management into “the business applications people use most.”

With Unified Telephony, sophisticated call management will be available to users. Incoming calls will generate an alert on the user’s desktop, giving him/her a number of options for routing or handling them. Integration with calendar functions, for example, allows users to set up call-handling rules, where, say, any call that comes in when a meeting is scheduled on the user’s calendar is automatically routed to voicemail.

Furthermore, Sametime’s ‘presence’ functionality (status and availability information) will be extended to include comprehensive phone presence. Click-to-call and click-to-conference capability join the features list as well, along with “one-number” calling (also known as “find me/follow me”), where the system automatically routes calls to the phone where a user is available.

The core of Unified Telephony—connectivity to multi-vendor PBXs, call control at the desktop, and aggregated telephony presence—is provided through the integration of key components of Siemens’ UC offering, OpenScape. And the core design foundation of OpenScape—its ability to function in a “mixed vendor” environment, with multiple business telephone systems—becomes a key strategic element of IBM’s offering. Simply put, companies can offer their employees unified communications without requiring disruptive software migrations or rip-and-replace infrastructure upgrades.

According to Ross Sedgewick, Siemens director of global portfolio marketing applications, the factor that made this integration feasible was the embrace—in both products—of a service-oriented architecture (SoA). “We’re very easy to integrate with,” Sedgewick told Enterprise VoIPplanet.com. “These capabilities—mixed-vendor connectivity, desktop call control, and aggregated presence—can be plugged in as open-standards-based services that fit right into the existing IBM/Lotus Sametime environment. It’s like two puzzle pieces fitting together nicely in an open-standards world,” he said.

“[IBM] carefully evaluated their choices in terms of what to build, what to source, and where to source it,” Sedgewick continued, “and they chose to integrate the Siemens OpenScape product to provide that telephony capability. Since we interoperate and connect with any PBX, it gives IBM the widest addressable market opportunity for their Sametime Unified Telephony offering.”

Sametime Unified Telephony is expected to be available in the first half of 2008. Pricing and packaging are under consideration

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