Cisco targets midmarket with revamped UC offerings

Cisco Business Edition 3000

Cisco Business Edition 3000 handset

Cisco Systems is aiming to serve the midmarket unlike before by way of rebranded unified communications (UC) offerings enhanced and designed to provide midsized businesses access to “enterprise grade” collaboration tools.

Roberto De La Mora, senior director of worldwide IP communication solutions marketing at Cisco, said his company is turning its attention to midsized business UC needs for a number of factors including that the segment is ripe for a telephony refresh.

“We’ve always cared about this market and we’ve had offerings there for a long time, but we believe we need to give greater attention to it,” he said. “This is a market that has been dominated by legacy voice systems that are ageing and failing. These customers have limited options in terms of support and growth.”

Knock! Knock! Is that opportunity for Cisco’s channel at the door?

“We think there’s a huge opportunity here for our Cisco collaboration partners to benefit from these advanced solution capabilities,” said Mark Bissell, product manager for UC at Cisco. “Particularly for Cisco Business Edition 3000, there’s an opportunity for partners to be more relevant to their customer base with a solution designed, packaged, and priced more appropriately for them.”

The Cisco Business Edition 3000 and the Cisco Business Edition 6000 (each formerly known as the Cisco Unified Communications Manager Business Edition 3000 and 6000 respectively) are built to appeal to the midmarket with cost-conscious price points. Designed to be simple to use, configure and support, this announcement caps the Cisco WebEx and Cisco Telepresence for small to midsized business introductions made last week.

“(Midmarket customers) want something built specifically for their market. They want solutions that are simple to operate, deploy, manage, maintain and at a price they can afford,” De La Mora continued. “They also want their solutions to come from a vendor that they can trust and one with a path to grow in order to protect their investment.”

Ergo, Cisco is making available IP telephony systems for as little as $100 per user for a 100-person organization while also including functionality that allows smaller shops to harness the power of UC solutions.

The Cisco Business Edition 3000 includes the integration of features such as SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) trunking via the Cisco Unified Border Element and integration with the Cisco WebEx conferencing solution. There’s also integration with Cisco Jabber for IM and presence. Utilizing the Cisco Unified IP Phones 8941 and 8945, video calls can be placed by dialling a regular phone number and the participants see one another on their respective devices.

To enable rapid set-up, new country-specific dial plans are available for the U.S., Canada, China, India, Russia and Australia; dial plans for the U.K., France, Spain and Italy will be available in early 2012. Lastly, the Cisco Unified IP Phone 8961 integrates with the Cisco Unified Attendant Console Compact Edition to ensure smooth customer call handling.

The Cisco Business Edition 6000 includes integrated Cisco WebEx Meeting Center and Cisco Jabber for IM and presence. BE 6000 already addressed midmarket needs to control costs by virtualizing applications that enable the system to provide everything from voice messaging to call control. This latest release takes it a step further by embedding the virtualization software required to operate those virtualized applications.

Though BE 6000 is geared towards companies with 150-750 users, Cisco said it recognized that it might be attractive to companies with a smaller number of users and ones that anticipate substantial growth; same goes for large enterprises with branch offices or subsidiaries. Thus Cisco said BE 6000 lowered the limit to 50 users from 100.

Expected customer pricing for the Cisco Business Edition 3000 starts at $100/user for a 100-user system; for the Cisco Business Edition 6000 pricing starts at $158/user for a 225-user system, officials said.

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