Polycom, Siemens Strike Video Conferencing, Unified Communications Deal

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print


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The Polycom, Siemens strategic alliance and global resale agreement calls for Siemens Enterprise Network Group to provide professional services and managed services to end customers that want Polycom video conferencing integrated with their Siemens unified communications systems. But Polycom executives say there will be plenty of integration work for Polycom channel partners as well.

Polycom is making it easier for partners to incorporate its telepresence HD video conferencing solutions with the unified communication systems from other vendors—a strategy that promises more integration work for the channel as well as more flexibility for end customers.

As its two main competitors, Tandberg and Lifesize, were acquired by other vendors in late 2009, Polycom promised that its strategy would focus on technology partnerships with other vendors, and so far in 2010 the video conferencing and unified communications company is living up to that pledge.

It’s still January, and Polycom has already announced partnerships with Siemens Enterprise Communications Group and an expanded integration with IBM. The deals call for Polycom’s HD video conferencing to be integrated with and sold with Siemens’ UC solution and IBM’s UC solution.

Siemens and Polycom announced their strategic alliance and global resale agreement this week, saying that end-user customers can gain productivity and increase collaboration and custom responsiveness through the combination of Siemens OpenScape UC environment and Polycom’s telepresence HD video conferencing and desktop video applications.

"Customers are hearing a top-down edict to put in video," Jason Macres, vice president of video solutions at Siemens Enterprise Communications Group, told Channel Insider. That’s because companies are looking to cut back on travel expenses while at the same time improving productivity and collaboration.

Mark Roberts, vice president of partner marketing at Polycom, told Channel Insider that the deal with Siemens opens up a new world of possibilities for channel partners because they will be called upon for their expertise in this emerging area.

"Partners can provide a lot of expertise on the video and network side," he said, noting that industry analysts have estimated spend of $13 billion to $14 billion for unified communications, including video conferencing and Web collaboration, in 2010.

But it’s unclear whether some of the aspects of the Polycom-Siemens deal could eat into channel partner business.

The deal also calls for Siemens Enterprise Network Group to offer customers Polycom’s visual communications solutions supported by Siemens' OpenScale services—a portfolio of Siemens-provided professional and managed services solutions.

"While many IT departments may lack the skill set or resources necessary to take on the integration of best-of-breed UC technologies, OpenScale Services are designed around proven best practices to help organizations quickly and cost-effectively integrate multivendor systems, delivering a UC environment," the companies said in a prepared statement. Siemens Enterprise Network Group offers network and device monitoring from a global video NOC (network operations center). Working with Polycom, the company says it will be able to expand this managed services offering with dedicated, 24/7 maintenance and technical support.

In 2009, Polycom promoted its service provider deals with Glowpoint and BT in an effort to turn video conferencing into a service-oriented offering that could be provided by service providers to end customers. But the company has said that such services would not cut out channel partners.

The Polycom-Siemens tie-up also circumvents the industry argument on whether SIP or h.323 should be the standard protocol for the future since Polycom supports both protocols in the form of an overlay network to Siemens-preferred SIP-based infrastructure.

The Polycom-Siemens deal is far from exclusive. Siemens has similar deals with both Tandberg (now part of Cisco) and LifeSize (now part of Logitech), while Polycom has struck similar deals with other vendors as well, most recently expanding a deal with IBM as announced at the recent Lotusphere conference earlier this month.

Polycom said it would expand its integration with IBM for customers deploying IBM Unified Communication and Collaboration (UC2) environments with support for Lotus Sametime and Lotus Notes. That combined solution provides users with one-click access to on-demand voice and video collaboration tools from within Lotus software applications.

The Polycom-Siemens deal will enable Siemens Enterprise Network Group to offer Polycom's portfolio of visual communication solutions, including personal, room and immersive telepresence solutions; video conferencing systems; and desktop video collaboration applications, the companies said. These systems are supported by Polycom’s visual communication infrastructure platform offering centralized management and provisioning; scalable multisite, multinetwork conferencing capabilities; network-aware firewall traversal; recording, streaming and video content management; and interoperability with other standards-based immersive telepresence systems and legacy video conferencing equipment, the companies said.

Polycom recently updated parts of its channel partner program

Late last year Siemens Enterprise Communications said it would overhaul its channel program as it appointed a new head of channels.

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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