Cisco, Avaya Back Unified Communication

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At the VoiceCon Spring 2006 conference this week in Florida, rivals such as Cisco Systems and Avaya are poised to announce support for each other's IP communications technologies under the banner of the Session Initiation Protocol and other open standards.

For example, Cisco Monday has announced native support for SIP as part of its new Unified Communications system. That capability will enable newer Cisco IP phones to work with third-party applications such as IBM's Lotus Sametime and Microsoft's Live Communications Server 2005.

Separately, Citrix Systems will announce plans to use SIP to integrate its network and application access tools with Cisco's communications software.

And Avaya will introduce a version of its Converged Communications Server that supports a broader range of SIP endpoints, including IP phones from Cisco. Avaya also plans to announce that it's working with about 50 companies, including Citrix, to develop communications applications based on SIP and other standards.

After years of selling voice-over-IP products that didn't interoperate with one another, vendors are starting to cooperate more closely to bring voice, video and presence-awareness technologies to corporate desktops and handheld devices, analysts said.

"We're starting to hit that wave where interoperability and partnerships will define the long-term winners and losers," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group Research in Boston.

Although Cisco and Avaya will make news at VoiceCon, which starts today in Orlando, analysts said that Siemens and Nortel Networks have had unified communications strategies for a while, but with some capability gaps.