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Siemens OpenScape offers tight integration of voice, video and messaging

With its OpenScape Unified Communications Server, Siemens moves further into the software-based communications market with a tightly integrated voice, video and messaging product.

Siemens Communications is tightly integrating voice, video and messaging in its new software-based unified communications product.

The OpenScape Unified Communications Server is an IT application that runs out of a company's data center over an existing IP network utilizing existing data infrastructure. Mark Straton, senior vice president of enterprise systems marketing for Siemens, said the company has recognized that the days of voice as a standalone technology in the enterprise are over. To break out of that silo, Siemens is transforming itself into a software company.

"Our view is that voice as a standalone category will be eliminated, and it's really about delivering communications as a software and the services required to support that," Straton said.

Henry Dewing, principal analyst with Forrester Research, said Siemens' transition to a software-based communications vendor is not unique.

"Avaya and Nortel have sort of valid software strategies as well," Dewing said. "The key thing here is pushing what's been purpose-built hardware onto general-purpose computing platforms with software to drive the flexibility and functionality of the system. I think it's absolutely where the industry needs to be going."

The OpenScape server has three major applications:

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OpenScape Voice, which is really a renaming of Siemens' existing HiPath 8000 VoIP product, which has been rolled into the OpenScape brand.

OpenScape UC, a messaging infrastructure that runs on Linux and can operate in a standalone mode.

OpenScape Video, a new high-definition videoconferencing portfolio that can also run independently. The video portfolio includes room-based high-definition videoconferencing as well as lower-quality desktop video.

"The big deal for them in the announcement that they're moving to including video, mobility and other functionality such as unified communications that puts them a little bit ahead of some of their competitors," Dewing said. "Nortel or Avaya has to set up partnership deals in order to deliver those types of functionality."

The transition from hardware- to software-based UC gives enterprises a lot more flexibility, according to Brent Kelly, senior analyst with Wainhouse Research. Companies no longer have to rely on a single vendor for hardware and software, so they can avoid having their voice and other communications siloed within the company.

"It makes it easier for people to integrate this in with Web 2.0 and those kinds of things," Kelly said. "It makes it easier to integrate it with other line-of-business applications, and Siemens' architecture is really good for doing that."

Observers were particularly interested in the videoconferencing piece of OpenScape.

"It's tied into the unified communications server, where all the presence capabilities and the user interface you would have on UC softphones you will also have on the video side," said Nick Lippis, principal of The Lippis Report. "They did a nice job in having the same control interface for both video and voice, where you see a lot of companies offering separate video technology that's not integrated."

Siemens is hoping that the OpenScape launch will help it expand its North American market share. Observers agreed that the new offering puts the company on the leading edge in unified communications, but some wondered whether that will be enough.

"It just depends on how they execute on this,"Kelly said "The products are good. There's no question about it that they're good. But there's also a lot that goes into making these solutions work. All the supporting things that a company needs to get to market are all going to have to fire well in order to be successful."

Kelly said Siemens, a European-centric company, will face some challenges in North America. Recent news that the company would shed 6,800 workers through layoffs and a sell-off of factories will make some buyers apprehensive. Siemens said the workforce reduction is part of a restructuring plan that coincides with its transformation into a software communications company.

"It's clear … [the layoffs are occurring] because things aren't selling, and at the end of the day, that's what matters," Kelly said.

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