Cisco takes it down to the little guy

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Cisco has moved to address a gap in its portfolio, targeting SMBs through the channel with a set of cut-down IP communications offerings and related support options.

Ross Fowler, Australia and New Zealand managing director at Cisco Systems, said the new product set mainly targeted organisations with 20 to 150 users.

‘Over the last 12 months, we have been setting up our channel and distribution to specifically target [smaller] SMBs within Australia and New Zealand,’ he said. ‘So that when this [product release] did happen, they were ready to take them to market.’

Fowler said Cisco had been focused on high end, enterprise and mid-market customers, leaving the tinier end of town to consumer-focused subsidiary Linksys.

However, he denied Cisco would be cannibalising Linksys' customer ranks in any way. Linksys, he pointed out, targeted consumers. Also, service would be a differentiator.

‘We feel there has been this opening in the market that hasn't been served by Cisco products or Linksys and the usual suspects in the consumer space,’ he said.

But he admitted that smaller companies had been using Linksys products because the higher-end Cisco offerings were often too expensive and complex for their needs.

Cisco's new offerings were designed to be quick to configure. The portfolio included the Cisco Business Communications Solution system, for SMBs with 20 to 250 staff. The system was based on the vendor's new Catalyst Express 500 switches, the company said in a statement.

The IP Communications Express Solution had Cisco's CallManager Express - with MeetMe conferencing for 20 to 96 users - call routing and queuing functions and security.

It also included Unity Express with auto-attendant integration, basic automatic call distribution, support for five new languages and used the vendor's Integrated Services Router (ISR).

Catalyst Express 500 series switches were a family of wire-speed layer 2 managed fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet switches built specifically for businesses that wanted to run converged networks, the company said.

Fowler said resellers could use Cisco's Network Assistant 3.0 software to ease network configuration and enable wireless LAN and IP communications for smaller business customers. Also, a quotation tool and ordering bundles would make purchasing a breeze, he said.

‘You can do it more quickly and simply,’ he said.

Configuration could be a lengthy task, with many parts of the system taking an hour or more each. However, the entire new IP communications offering for smaller companies could be done in 1.5 hours, Fowler said.

Cisco also introduced an SMB Support Assistant with voice functionality that gave access to technicians, software updates, advance hardware replacement, a portal and client tools, the company said.

Fleur Doidge attended the Networkers forum on the Gold Coast as a guest of Cisco Systems.
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