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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.