A new self-managing appliance packages Lotus Sametime solutions to enhance collaboration and productivity.
IBM this week announced a self-managing appliance that combines multiple communications tools into a single solution.
The "office-in-a-box" solution provides all the communications and collaboration tools that a small or mid-sized business needs in order to implement an advanced unified communications (UC) solution. For those smaller businesses with limited IT resources, the idea is to reduce complexity and give employees immediate access to people and information.
Playing on the Lotus Foundations theme, IBM is calling the new solution Lotus Foundations Reach. It extends IBM's Sametime capabilities and allows small and medium businesses to install and configure an entire UC system in about an hour, according to IBM. While other companies in the telephony niche offer a number of competing products, IBM says its Foundations Reach solution greatly reduces the need for human intervention by automating IT tasks that might include detecting and repairing problems, checking the system for security and network reliability, and adjusting workload demands.
Lotus Foundations Reach follows on the heels of IBM's all-in-one software appliance Lotus Foundations Start, which includes email, security, and backup and recovery features and provides small businesses with a universal computing solution that requires little or no IT support. Lotus Foundations Reach reduces the complexity of deploying and managing communications and collaborations solutions, IBM says.
"Until now, the complexity and cost of creating an IT solution combined with UC and IP telephony capabilities have been a deterrent for small businesses," said Caleb Barlow, director of Lotus Foundations for IBM." With Lotus Foundations Reach, IBM enables telephony partners to combine their technologies with IBM's UC solution to create a comprehensive offering that is affordable and simple enough for the smallest of businesses to use."
A number of IBM Business Partners are building solutions based on Lotus Foundations and Foundations Reach. IBM released the names of five firms that are developing solutions for Lotus Foundations reach, and they include the following:
- Envision Solutions, LLC is combining its current suite of applications with Lotus Foundations Reach to offer an enhanced collaboration package for the SMB market.
- NEC is creating a complete UC and business collaboration solution for SMBs and branch offices by customizing its UNIVERGE Sphericall communications software to work with Lotus Foundations.
- NextiraOne Mexico will deliver a complete communications and collaboration solution for growing businesses by extending Lotus Foundations Reach to include its own IP telephony technology.
- ShoreTel will provide a complete unified collaboration solution for SMBs that incorporates its existing IP telephony platform with the new Lotus Foundations Reach appliance.
- SPEECH DESIGN GmbH has a solution it calls Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) that will deploy on Lotus Foundations Reach to create an appliance targeting mobile communications needs. Speech Design's Mobile Unified Communications appliance will offer telephony and the ability to know who's online, Speech Design's FMC, instant messaging, as well as audio and Web conferencing in a single solution for small and medium businesses.
IBM has lumped its unified communications and collaborations tools under the umbrella that it's calling UC². The solutions include integrated presence, instant messaging, email, telephony, Web conferencing, and optional audio/video--all working together. At the heart of UC² is Lotus Sametime, a family of solutions designed to facilitate communications and collaboration among workers. The individual Sametime products include the following:
- Lotus Sametime Standard
- Lotus Sametime Entry
- Lotus Sametime Advanced
- Lotus Sametime Unified Telephony
Lotus Sametime Standard is an award-winning offering that includes integrated enterprise-class instant messaging (meaning it's a secure channel), VOIP, video chat, and Web conferencing.
Lotus Sametime Entry is an affordable instant messaging solution that provides secure IM communications to companies whose employees may be using Yahoo or AOL instant messaging, unaware or unconcerned that, by themselves, these are not secure channels.
Lotus Sametime Advanced fosters connections between people who may not know one another but who have the knowledge, expertise, and information that the other person requires. It includes everything in Sametime Standard but adds the ability to identify human knowledge resources.
Lotus Sametime Unified Telephony allows users to access telephony functionality from within real-time collaboration software and is at the heart of IBM's new appliance. The solution combines the immediacy of instant messaging with telephone capabilities on a user's desktop so the person can collaborate with another knowledge worker more quickly and effectively than previously possible. Telephony features include integrated presence awareness, softphones, call control, and rules-based call management, so it can be used with a wide variety of telephone systems. According to IBM, the middleware in Lotus Sametime United Telephony masks the complexity of back-end integration by providing connectivity to both legacy time-division multiplexing (TDM) as well as the newer IP private branch exchange (PBX) systems.
Sametime United Telephony allows users to access and manage their communications from a Lotus Sametime or Lotus Notes IBM client; a Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Exchange, or Microsoft Office application; or an enterprise application. Companies can reduce employee telephone costs since calls made through the softphone feature avoid PBX telephone charges. Call management capabilities can even direct calls to whatever device the user chooses, so colleagues don't have to call a variety of instruments to find someone.
IBM Lotus has built a tremendous amount of flexibility into its collection of unified communications solutions because it sees the writing on the wall: classic TDM phone systems are a thing of the past, and growing companies, whether they're small, medium or large, are moving toward unified communications and IP telephony.
IBM's new Lotus Foundations Reach appliance, which will be available in August, provides companies with a way to reduce cost and leverage employee knowledge through collaboration by utilizing Sametime technology, even if the company doesn't have sophisticated IT resources or money to hire consultants. The appliance raises the question, however, of whether all IT functions may be automated in the future, a question we will be looking at in days to come.