Queensland Rail is one of the first Australian companies to test out Cisco's Intercompany Media Engine (IME), which the networking giant describes as a revolution in business-to-business video conferencing.
In a global telepresence call between journalists and customers this morning, Cisco VP and CTO of Unified Communications Joe Burton said IME allows companies that already have a unified communications solution to make and receive secure, high quality IP video and audio calls using their existing telephone numbers and lines.
"From an end user perspective, there is absolutely no re-training, the [phone] numbers you know, you pick up your telephone, you dial exactly the way you did before - same number, same process - suddenly you get wideband audio and video.
"From the IT person's perspective, the benefits are even more pronounced. They have the ability to go and apply policy and say, with whom do i want to do cross-internet calls, with whom do i want them to be video or wideband audio," said Burton.
Queensland Rail uses a compatible Tandberg comms system and according to Lynden Croucher, the organisation's principal engineer for network convergence, IME will be used to improve communications between subsidiaries.
"Queensland Rail as a company has several subsidiaries and we have been investigating this product as a potential way to tie the subsidiaries to the parent company," Croucher said.
Dimension Data is also an IME customer. The company's CTO Gerard Florian told iTnews that the technology is attractive because users don't require training.
"I have turned it on in the company and nobody knew. All of a sudden people were asking, 'how come I can see this guy at the other end?'.
"We integrate it at the backend but the end user doesn't change anything. If you only have an audio device, you get audio - but you get wideband audio. If you have a device that has audio and video capability, it just pops up so we don't have to go and re-educate the workforce," said Florien.
According to Cisco, companies will require access to an IME appliance, which could be provided via a service provider, at each end but only the first time a call is placed between the two locations. After that call is complete, details of the call and an SIP route are transferred from the IME to the company's regular unified communications server.
As the IME appliance is only required the first time a connection is made between previously unconnected callers, Cisco claims one appliance can be used to support "tens of thousands" of users.
The one big question mark about whether the technology will take off depends on other vendors adopting the proposed Vipr standard, which Cisco submitted to the IETF last year.
Cisco's Burton admitted that at present no other companies had publicly announced support for the Vipr protocol but he was optimistic and said it was generating "a tremendous amount of activity".
Pricing for the Cisco Intercompany Media Engine will be announced later this month.
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