Cisco to expand work with HP on unified communications

But the definition of unified communications remains unclear.

Cisco Systems and HP jointly announced Wednesday that they would work together to sell more unified communications products, with both companies investing in training and building global marketing and sales programs.

Cisco and HP have already been working together on customer accounts to deliver unified communications technology and services, with Cisco officials pointing to several examples of cooperation in Malaysia, England, Canada and the U.S. In the U.S., both vendors have worked with the Heritage Valley Health System, Cisco said.

Cisco officials praised the benefits of working closer with HP, which sells products from both the Cisco portfolio and from Microsoft. Neither company elaborated on the amount of the investment each is making.

In general, the move is seen by analysts as a way for Cisco to drive market interest in unified communications technology. "No vendor can go it alone in UC, so I'm glad Cisco is realising that," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston. The implication is also that customers will need to work with several vendors to find comprehensive solutions.

Kerravala and many analysts have viewed unified communications as an overly broad description for a range of technologies that usually allow voice, video and data to run over networks in some sort of unified fashion, although the definition of "unified" varies.

"UC is basically a melting pot of communications products right now," Kerravala said. "Any vendor that has any kind of communications or collaboration tool claims to be a UC vendor."

While some customers are interested in particular technologies such as converging instant messaging with voice, the overall market is "long on hype and short on adoption so far," Kerravala added.

Cisco, Microsoft and IBM appear so far to be the dominant players in the broad unified communications category, he added.

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