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IBM Delivers Sametime Unified Telephony Early

I have heard a number of rumors regarding IBM Sametime and SUT I would like to clarify along with some general UC misconceptions:

* I think one of the biggest general misconceptions is--you have to have an IP-PBX to implement UC. The UC Strategies team recommends analyzing what UC application(s) you would like to deploy and then determining the requirements for call control. You may find that you can leverage existing TDM and IP PBXs. IBM's strategy is to deliver a rich and consistent end user experience across multi-vendor environments by leveraging the customer's existing equipment, whether TDM or IP PBXs.

* Sametime is not a Lotus Notes offering, i.e. it is not required to use Notes at all in order to use Sametime or SUT. I personally think this has been a big marketing challenge for IBM. Many think you need to be a Notes shop to implement Sametime. According to IBM, approximately 1/3 of new Sametime customers are Outlook/Exchange shops.

* I have heard that some of IBM's competitors are telling prospects that IBM is a hardware company and only sells software to drive hardware and services. My guess is most customers understand IBM's business model and know they are in both the software and services businesses, and those are profitable. IBM software, including Sametime and SUT runs on many vendors hardware and interoperates with many vendors' gateways and appliances.

* There is a debate in the UC market about the difference between products based on open standards vs. those based on proprietary technologies. IBM emphasizes that they developed SUT based on industry open standards. Some other UC producers use proprietary technologies in their solutions and claim this delivers better functionality. Like most issues they both have pluses and minuses. This point will take more explanation and I will cover it in an article on

* IBM's Sametime is very scalable, based on the IBM documentation and reference cases. Brent Kelly, of Wainhouse Research, illustrates this in his VoiceCon Tutorials, "Choices in Unified Communications: Comparing Microsoft Office Communications Server to IBM Lotus Sametime." Of course, this will result in a lower server count than for many competitive options, primarily for larger enterprises.

IBM's release of SUT is another important milestone for the UC industry for several major reasons. With SUT, IBM expands the functionality of Sametime to incorporate real time enterprise communications in a single system. With SUT, it will be possible for employees in some use cases to rely entirely on IBM Sametime with SUT to meet their enterprise voice communications needs. For all the other use cases in the enterprise, SUT can interoperate with the customer's installed or new PBX systems--TDM or VoIP--to provide the a consistent enterprise-wide communications interface. This may, of course, raise the question of whether IBM is trying to replace the PBX. As we have said many times in the UC eWeekly, innovators in any new market usually focus more on delivering new functionality than on replacing the incumbent solutions; this appears to be the case with IBM SUT, as well.

The shipment of SUT with Sametime provides an expansion of IBM's capabilities for "communications integrated to optimize business processes." IBM has a well-known, positive reputation for delivering the integration of software applications into their customers' business processes.

With this addition of real-time communications, we should expect to see an uptick of UC applications, installations and resulting case studies from IBM, especially in the Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP) category of UC.

SUT provides another excellent solution to choose from - and competition is good for any industry. We wish them good fortune in their launch.