Unified communications software developer Alcatel and video communications system vendor Polycom have partnered to create and support integrated collaboration solutions that incorporate voice, video, instant messaging and Web conferencing capabilities.

Both companies will sell their solutions through channel partners, said executives.

Alcatel’s solution is expected to ship in October, while Polycom’s offering should become generally available in March 2006, according to the vendors. The two companies worked together to create ControlManagement APIs and plug-ins, using Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), that are designed to seamlessly integrate both vendors’ technologies, said Hans Schwarz, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Pleasanton, Calif.-based Polycom.

The solution integrates Polycom’s PVX and VSX videoconferencing and collaboration systems and MGC multipoint bridges with Alcatel’s OmniPCX Enterprise IP communications platform, IP touch phones and My Teamwork collaboration application, which is part of Alcatel’s integrated unified communications software suite.

The offering incorporates the desktop into Polycom’s group videoconferencing systems, allowing users to add video to existing instant messaging sessions and telephone calls, according to Alcatel. The system can be deployed, provisioned and managed remotely through a unified dial plan and directory services.

Last year, only 22 percent of corporations used unified communications, according to an October 2004 report by the Radicati Group Inc. Unified communications are expected to reach almost $10.5 billion by 2008, compared with $1.5 billion in revenue last year, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based technology market research firm predicted.

Both Polycom and Alcatel rely exclusively on the channel to sell and support their separate solutions into enterprise clients. And the duo expects its combined indirect forces will help deliver unified communications to the mainstream enterprise, said Chris Vuillaume, vice president of product marketing at Alcatel North America.

“We are first targeting the common resellers we have,” he said. “You also see some PBX resellers that are moving more and more toward unified communication. From the software-based resellers we see a lot more pull to sell more and more unified communications. We want to make this as easy as possible for our integrators.”

Alcatel’s PBX-agnostic suite will be available through Polycom’s solution providers and vice versa.

“We have quite a few partners in Europe and the United States that could pick Alcatel up,” Schwarz said. “We could have, and will have, more opportunities.”

Added Vuillaume: “We’ll be able to use the value proposition of the marketplace to really crack some new customers in the United States. It’s going to contribute to our bringing unified communications to the mainstream market.”

To support its channel, Alcatel and Polycom employees will conduct joint seminars and meetings with potential clients; business partners then will implement and integrate the solutions, he said. “Our go-to-market is 100 percent in the enterprise through the channel,” Schwarz added.

Having the option of selling and supporting technologies already proven to work together could reduce the sales cycle and provide additional opportunities to existing users of some existing communications clients—as well as new organizations, said Kevin O’Brien, director of sales at Camelot Communications Group, in New York, which has sold both vendors’ products for about the past five years as part of its focus on voice, data and video network infrastructure, and which, in April became an authorized reseller for Siemens Communications’ line of HiPath Real-Time VOIP technologies.

“It certainly makes it easier to sell a merged product,” he said, since potential clients are assured of interoperability and vendor cooperation. “Traditionally, both vendors have been very supportive.”