Cisco buyouts may ease voice integration

Cisco buyouts may ease voice integration

A pair of Cisco acquisitions may help bring voice into enterprise applications.

Cisco Systems' planned acquisition of two small middleware companies could mean big changes for enterprise developers.

Last Friday, Cisco said it would acquire Metreos and Audium, two private companies with software that makes it easier for developers to integrate applications with Cisco's Unified Communications System. Some of the middleware from those companies already works with widely used applications, such as Metreos with SAP products, which should mean relatively quick integration of Unified Communications with those products, according to vice-president and general manager of Cisco's Contact Centre Business, Laurent Philonenko.

But an even bigger payoff is likely to come from a common application development interface for Unified Communications that Cisco aims to create by combining technology from the two acquisitions. That interface would bring the same ease of integration to the thousands of applications developed within enterprises, a far larger target than the big-name software offerings, according to IDC analyst, Abner Germanow.

Cisco couldn't do the work on all those applications, he said.

The idea behind the development interface was that developers who knew the in-house application could do the integration work without any specialised knowledge of the communications software, Germanow said. That would fit the budgets and time frames of enterprises for innovation in this new area.

"They need to be able to try an application with a fairly low investment before they can figure out if it's right for them," he said.

A major goal of breaking voice into data packets and putting it on the same network as PC application traffic is to build voice-call functions into those applications. The idea is that, for example, a sales representative using customer relationship management (CRM) software might look into that application for a prospect and then start a call with that person from within the application. Other forms of communication, including videoconferencing, text messaging and collaboration, also are part of this vision.

The two acquisitions, though small -- Audium has 26 employees and Metreos just 19 -- set Cisco on the path to the new development environment, according to the company.

"They absolutely open the enterprise application world to unified communications," Philonenko said.

Metreos has already worked with Cisco at several major customer accounts, including Oracle Corp. and Lehman Brothers.

The buyouts, which were expected to close by the end of next month, could put a number of related companies, such as IPcelerate, in play, IDC's Germanow said.

Cisco rivals such as Avaya and Nortel Networks might buy related companies or form closer partnerships with them, he said.

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