Mini Unified Communications : Cisco enter the fray

Cisco bring unified comm’s to the smaller business – the proper way ? well maybe – Microsoft Take Note!

The Unified Communication 500 series brings Cisco Unified Communications Manager to the small business, in a markedly different strategy to Microsoft’s Response Point UC 500 is actually a numerically restricted version of full Communications Manager Express delivered on dedicated hardware.

uc500

The UC 500 is designed to be purchased as fixed configuration units with 8 IP endpoints as standard supporting either 4 x analogue or 2 x ISDN Basic Rate trunks and SIP trunking. each UC 500 has 4 FXS ports for analogue  devices like faxes or modems. the unit has an expansion port for additional trunks if necessary – no PRI support is available in this release.

The UC 500 can be extended to 16 endpoints by addition of a Catalyst Express 520 POE switch, a planned release in Autumn 2007 will extend the capability to 50 endpoints, I suspect leveraging the existing Catalyst Express 500 range.

 

uc500_catex520

the key features are :

Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express

Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express is a Cisco IOS® Software solution embedded in the Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series appliance that provides call processing for Cisco Unified IP phones. Simple to deploy, administer, and maintain, Cisco Unified Communications Express is a reliable, feature-rich telephony solution.

Cisco Unity Express

Embedded Cisco Unity Express enables voicemail, desktop messaging, and Automated Attendant services for increased customer service and rich employee communications experience.

Cisco Unified CallConnectors for Desktop Applications

The Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series integrates with common Windows desktop applications to give small business owners access to productivity gains once available only to large businesses. With Cisco Unified CallConnectors, customers can integrate their Cisco Unified IP phones with common applications including Microsoft Outlook, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, or Salesforce.com CRM.

Integrated Network Firewall and Security

Security is a fundamental building block of any network, and Cisco products play an important role in embedding security at the customer’s access edge. The Cisco IOS Firewall is a stateful-inspection firewall available with the Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series. Built from market-leading Cisco PIX® Firewall technologies, Cisco IOS Firewall is supported on the Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series platform as a base feature. Cisco IOS Firewall is an ideal single-box solution for protecting the WAN entry point into the network.

Virtual Private Networking

VPNs carry private data over a public network and extend remote access to users over a shared infrastructure. VPNs maintain the same security and management policies as private networks and are the most cost-effective means of establishing point-to-point connection between remote users and a central network. VPNs have been the fastest-growing form of network connectivity, and Cisco takes this approach to a new standard by making VPN functions an integral part of the Cisco Unified Communications offering. The Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series includes built-in hardware-based encryption acceleration that offloads IP Security (IPsec), Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), Data Encryption Standard (DES), and Triple DES (3DES) encryption and VPN processes to provide increased VPN throughput with minimal effect on the Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series CPU.

LAN Switching

The Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series has an integrated managed Ethernet switch that provides 8 ports of 10/100 Power over Ethernet (PoE) optimized for integration with the Cisco Smart Business Communications System. Additionally, the system capacity can be expanded by connecting the recommended Cisco Catalyst Express 520 Switch. The Cisco Catalyst Express 520 Switch provides 8 additional ports of 10/100 PoE and it ships with a predefined software configuration to work immediately with the Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series for Small Business.

Wireless Mobility Services

The Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series supports an optional integrated wireless LAN (WLAN) access point for secure WLAN connectivity. Small businesses can easily extend access to data applications as well as WLAN telephony. Wireless services allow greater mobility for employees, partners, and customers, resulting in increased productivity.
 
The UC 500 has a fully enabled default configuration with basic dial plans and IOS firewall support as standard ( this is common in this market where up to 75% of deployed systems are in their default configuration)
The UC 500 supports a wide range of endpoints including the full range of existing Cisco IP handsets and two dedicated UC 500 handsets designed to provide key and lamp working common in this market place

IPendpoints

Microsoft take note this is the way to do it – UC 500 is to UCME and UCM what Response Point should be to OCS. UC 500 has all the capabilities of UCME and has lovely open connectivity into third party applications.

There is however one question about this device…… why do it?

To be honest I think UC 500 in it’s current format dilutes the Unified Communications Manager Message, commodotises it.   at 16 endpoints the small business might be better placed looking at a hosted solution which provides much easier remote management and support and access to more advanced features.

There is a massive move to hosted voice and IP Centrex, frankly why waste your time with your own kit when you can rent services easily which provide all the features you need. this is Cisco’s attempt to capture the small business before they get away.

As a 50 user system the argument is slightly different and a box of that size is probably a worthy addition to the portfolio on technical merit.

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