Siemens Broadens IP UniComm Offering

Siemens Communications Inc yesterday unveiled three “advances”—development initiatives that bring new capabilities—to its open-standards-based unified communications product line, OpenScape.

While the three advances address quite different potential customer groupings, all are intended to draw in new customers by “lowering the bar in terms of perceived complexity,” according to Siemens’ senior public consultant David Leach, with whom Enterprise spoke last week. In other words, give ’em a taste of how easy it is and what a difference UniComm can make.

At the entry level—for companies that use Microsoft Office—a new, SIP-based VoiceLink application voice-enables the Windows desktop Office Communicator client and supports Siemens’ HiPath 8000 IP softswitch.

Of more moment, perhaps, is the advance taking root in OpenScape Enterprise, where a new OpenScape Toolbar adds a new alternative for melding real-time communications with line-of-business software apps. The Toolbar, a slender ribbon that resides at the top of a user’s screen, surfaces OpenScape-based contact and presence information and offers one-click communication—phone or IM—without the necessity of leaving the primary application.

The Toolbar complements—and to some degree replaces—Siemens’s OpenScape software development kit (SDK), which lets consultants and integrators actually embed these elements inside business apps.

Leach explained, illustrating the point with reference to the popular online CRM tool “Suppose you’re looking at an account profile in You’ve proposed some products to that account. You’ve had some calls and you see the contacts associated with it. But doesn’t do anything to communications-enable that process.

“So, while you have this powerful tool with all this information in front of you, you actually have to go somewhere else to find numbers and actually initiate phone calls or transactions with people who are going to help you drive activities through that account.

“With OpenScape, I can now expose all this presence information of the key experts associated with that account,” by embedding in the browser interface a contact-and-presence list for internal product experts, and a contact list for outside contacts specifically associated with that account—both with IM and VoIP clickability, Leach explained.

The Toolbar now provides a good deal of the same communications power as the SDK, while largely eliminating the need for highly paid consultants and integrators.

The third advance is really more of a sea change. The company has—with the help of a couple of industry partners: Accenture and Ensim—put together a platform for marketing a hosted version of OpenScape Enterprise to service providers.

To quickly recap the now-standard talking points on software as a service (SaaS), it lowers the cost, duration, and (as mentioned earlier) complexity of deployment, lowers total cost of service, and converts a capital expense into an operating expense.

“The service providers simplify the whole process for the enterprise customer,” Leach commented. “And they can deliver that solution on a speedy implementation model.” In other words, it just makes the application a whole lot cheaper and easier to deploy and maintain—for a whole lot of customers.

“We see this has a tremendous up-side growth potential in our market,” he went on. “We see this as the tipping point for unified communications. If we can get this in the hands of a broad enough set of service providers, then we can make the value and adoption rate of unified communications grow exponentially in a short time.”

One key to the offering is OpenScape Enterprise Hosted’s provisioning platform, built by Silicon Valley-based Ensim Corp. (Provisioning is the process of setting up a customer’s account with the desired number of “seats,” the correct configuration, etc.) Ensim’s Unify is an adaptable platform that has so far been tweaked to work with over 60 separate hosted application offerings.

Having the application come with its own ready-made provisioning system spares the service provider the considerable time, money, and resources required to build a custom platform, thus lowering one formidable barrier to up-take.

As of launch time (May 8, 2007), Siemens had lined up two early adopters—U.S. managed service provider Engage, and Australia-based telecommunications giant Telstra—with many others in the pipeline.

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