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With enterprise communications platforms evolving from traditional telephone switches into packet-based systems that bring together many forms of messaging, Siemens Information and Communication Networks Monday is set to unveil the second generation of its OpenScape software.
Siemens has fleshed out the software, HiPath OpenScape 2.0, with greater scalability and a tool kit that will let third parties do more with OpenScape, including developing new applications. The update also can work more closely with familiar Microsoft applications such as Outlook.
OpenScape provides an enterprise communications portal that shows which employees are reachable and on what medium, as well as easy methods for sending and retrieving messages and starting conferences and collaboration sessions. It is designed to boost productivity by eliminating "phone tag" and other time-consuming communications chores.
"It's really important for people not to have to chase each other and leave messages in four places before we connect," said Gene Rodgers, president and chief executive officer of Star Information Technology, a consulting and systems integration company that is based in Medfield, Mass., and sends consultants and sales representatives all over the U.S. Star uses OpenScape internally and has been a beta tester of OpenScape 2.0.
The best addition to OpenScape in its new version is the software development toolkit, which allowed Star to fully integrate the Siemens software with Microsoft's SharePoint portal software, Rodgers said. Previously, employees had been able to use only about three-quarters of OpenScape's features through SharePoint, according to Christian Manasseh, a technology architect at Star who was in charge of the integration. With the new kit, Star has been able to integrate all the features employees need to use, he said.
This type of software, as well as the market for it, is still in its infancy, according to industry analysts. The move from traditional circuit-based to packet-based infrastructures is a major shift, they said.
"This is the beginning of what will be a large number of value-added applications that extend your traditional telephony environment," said Gartner analyst Jeffrey Snyder. "IP telephony is not just a replacement for your (private branch exchange)."
OpenScape 2.0 can support as many as 2,000 users per processor (specified as at least a 2 GHz Pentium 4 that can access 2G bytes of RAM), up from 500 in the previous version. In addition to running it on multiple-processor servers, users now can group together multiple servers to support more users. In addition, a processor can now support as many as 5,000 formal and informal workgroups among those 2,000 users, said Gary Paris, vice president of HiPath solutions for Siemens.
The voice portal feature, through which users can sign in to teleconferences, retrieve messages and access online information, now supports natural-language commands, according to Tim Miller, technical evangelist at Siemens ICN. That means users can give commands in their own words rather than in set phrases, he said.