Today as expected, Cisco announced they have finally embraced SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). The platform for doing so will be Cisco Unified CallManager5.0, the call-processing component of the Cisco Unified Communications system.
As the last major IP systems and equipment vendor to accept SIP, it does kind of seem that Cisco was dragged kicking and screaming into the SIP camp. Well, maybe not "dragged kicking and screaming," but more like biding their time before they could not do so anymore because of SIP's potential and customer demand.
Cisco has finally realized they just can't make IP phones, boxes and routers anymore. As Cisco vice-president of IP Communications tells my colleague Marguerite Reardon today, "IP telephony isn't just about toll bypass anymore. "It's about improving productivity and allowing people to do their jobs more effectively. And people need to be able to communicate and collaborate through the means that suits them best."
For Cisco, the move into SIP had to be a grudging calculation that customer demand for SIP compliance outweighed the risk of cannibalization that SIP poses.
That risk is in the nature of SIP itself- as a protocol that oversees how VoIP phones establish contact and perform essential services. Cisco SIP compliance could, in far more than theory, enable customers to combine Cisco SIP phones with other systems from rival vendors. For example,the SIP support contained in the new Call Manager could enable compatibilty with non-Cisco IP phones- most of which are far less expensive than the $500 for some Cisco phone models.
But concurrently, the beefed up CallManager will now be able to handle presence awareness and multimedia applications seamlessly.
Already, we are starting to see announcements from Cisco vendor partners. Microsoft says it will work with Cisco to integrate the SIP-based Microsoft Live Communications Server with the now SIP-enabled Cisco Unified Communications System of which Call Manager is a key component.
And also today, BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion said its BlackBerry Wireless LAN Solution will integrate with Call Manager 5.0 via SIP to facilitate VoIP calls via enterprise networks to the BlackBerry 7270.
I am sure we will be seeing more such announcement in the weeks and months to come.
Couldn't end this post without a key point Andy Abramson made in his blog today: that Cisco has already had SIP capability via Linksys. "What's ironic is their subsidiary, Linksys, was SIP compliant from the time they bought SIPURA, and got a bottom up strategy going, rather than a top down," Andy writes. "The Linksys IP PBX called the 9000 provides a lot of really cool CallManager like features for fractions of the price of what a Call Manager can deliver."
That makes me wonder about the thoroughness of how Cisco has, or has not, integrated Linksys. Heck, they bought Linksys back in 2003!