Cisco Cozies Up to BT on Unified Communications Soon After Polycom-BT Deal

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Networking giant Cisco Systems and telecommunications giant BT strike a deal that puts Cisco's Unified Communications infrastructure in the cloud, offered as a service by BT. The deal comes just weeks after Polycom and BT announced a similar unified communications cloud service that put the emphasis on telepresence and video conferencing as a hosted service.

BT and Cisco Systems announced Dec. 9 that they will collaborate to put unified communications in the cloud, letting customers buy UC services on a per-user utility basis, a service available in the United Kingdom now and in the United States and Europe, Middle East and Africa in 2010.

The companies say the "scalable, business-grade, global hosted IP Telephony service" is designed for businesses that are looking to reduce their capital expenditures while still taking advantage of the benefits of unified communications.

"BT Hosted IPT uses the Cisco Unified Communications system of products that unify voice, video, data and mobile applications on fixed and mobile networks," Cisco says.

The announcement comes just weeks after BT announced a similar deal with Cisco's telepresence rival, Polycom, to offer cloud-based global video conferencing and unified communications managed services to end customers.

Polycom executives pointed out that the BT deal was not intended to cut out the channel, and that solution providers could also create and offer similar services to their end customers.

But BT's deals in such quick succession with Polycom and Cisco over unified communications in the cloud point to a serious move to push those kinds of functions to be hosted by third parties.

"The current macroeconomic climate favors hosted IP telephony," Chris Barnard, European telecommunications and networking research director at analyst company IDC, says in Cisco's Dec. 9 statement. The BT/Cisco "service is based on an operating expenditure model and offers the flexibility, low risk and cost control now required by companies facing an uncertain future."

BT points out that the BT Hosted IPT service will take care of upgrades, maintenance and infrastructure investments, letting customers focus on their core business rather than UC implementations.

In addition, BT says it will be "able to blend hosted IP telephony with existing legacy and IP voice infrastructures," creating a hybrid model that lets customers take advantage of the cloud benefits while still using their existing infrastructure investments.

The BT Hosted IPT lets customers manage their services via a Web portal. "The Web portal also helps IT teams to reconfigure users' phones, set up phones for new members of staff, and manage name and number displays," the Cisco announcement says.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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