Siemens Enterprise Communications ups the ante on UC.

As unified communications continues its breakneck evolutionary pace, vendors continue to search for new competitive advantages.

Siemens Enterprise Communications, one of the pioneers in UC technology, is this week announcing two significant steps in that evolution.

First off, the company is staking a claim to a significant share of the vast mid-market—which it defines as companies with 350 to 1,000 users—with a new solution dubbed OpenScape UC Server Xpress.

Enterprise VoIPplanet spoke with Ross Sedgewick, vice president for global solutions marketing, who gave us the details.

Reduced to its essentials, Xpress is a low-cost, easy-to-deploy hardware and software solution that provides most of what the industry considers essential to unified communications.

“OpenScape UC Server Xpress is a huge opportunity for mid-market customers to migrate to next-generation UC and IP voice with a highly packaged solution that’s very, very fast to deploy,” Sedgewick said. “It’s very easy to understand—very simple ordering and pricing scheme. It’s also preconfigured and pre-loaded, which really streamlines the process of deployment.”

“Easy to deploy” means that process is accomplished in hours, not days. The system uses automated configuration tools, and is carefully designed to eliminate risk and complexity.

This is due, in part to Siemens’ plan to market OpenScape UC Server Xpress exclusively through its reseller channel. “This is a conscious decision for us as a company—to expand our market reach there and further develop our reseller channels to reach customers and to leverage the relationships that exist with our channel partners in the mid-market,” Sedgewick told Enterprise VoIPplanet.

The suite contains some interesting components in addition to IP voice, voicemail, unified messaging, presence, and one-number service—a find-me-follow-me-type feature that rings multiple phones.

Perhaps the most interesting unusual component is what Sedgewick described as a “starter” contact center application that supports up to 20 agents. (Scaling up from 20 is possible but would require an additional server.)

Audio conferencing is also included in Xpress—as an in-house service—with both scheduled and ad hoc conferences available. Not included are video conferencing and instant messaging, the latter of which many would consider fundamental to UC.

OpenScape UC Server Xpress will be available in March 2011, at the package price of just shy of $120 per license (at today’s Euro to dollar conversion rate).

Along with the solution for mid-size companies, Siemens also announced the next evolution of the UC product for larger companies: OpenScape UC Server Enterprise, a more conventional software-only offering, capable of being deployed on a single server or multiple servers for redundancy (or any number of other reasons), and supporting up to 100,000 users.

The big news on Enterprise is that it now includes a suite of unified communications applications that the company is essentially giving away for free. That is the license fee for the OpenScape Enterprise with UC is the same as for OpenScape voice only.

“It takes the value proposition to a new level,” is how Sedgewick put it. “In addition to next-generation OpenScape voice, it now includes the advanced UC features—conferencing, presence, instant messaging, and mobility clients and such for the same global list price as our OpenScape voice.”

In fact the complete list of functionality includes, voice, voicemail, ad hoc audio conferencing, two-party video conferencing, IM, presence, mobility clients, and a voice portal.

Both versions of OpenScape UC Server integrate with the Web Collaboration application that Siemens launched back in December 2010 (see our coverage here), although that product is a separate purchase and requires an additional server.

OpenScape UC Server will be available in February 2011 at a per-seat cost of around $225.

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