As it stands, Cisco supports Exchange 2010 with Unity 7x and Unity 5x; however, requirements include loading a specific ES (based on the version of Unity) and a MAPI patch. In fact, from my activity on the NetPro forums it would appear that some users still have some integration issues (particularly with Unity 5x). To be fair, I cannot say whether those issues are caused by customers jumping into the integration without being fully prepared or if there are still some kinks to be worked out on the integration side. I suspect that more than a fair share of issues can be traced to lack of preparation but I suspect there may be a few kinks as well.
So, I’ve had a feeling for a while that “now” (or very soon, at the least) may well be the time for the future of UM to begin. The Unity Connection product, for all it’s great features, has always lacked one key feature to push the future into the present. Of course, that feature is true Unified Messaging. Personally, I have been waiting to hear that a new version of Unity Connection would provide UM capabilities in addition to the voicemail only and Integrated Messaging features it provides today. From an operational perspective, the UM integration may not come without some complexity but it would hopefully be simplified when compared to Cisco Unity which is fully integrated into and dependent upon Active Directory and Exchange. This is pure speculation (but hey, sometimes that’s what blogs are for) on my part but it seems as if there are a relative few UC Engineers that are comfortable with integrating and maintaining Cisco Unity. Of those relative few, there are a small minority of UC Engineers that seem to “really get it”. A Cisco Unity UM integration is a lot more complex than it seems on the surface. All you have to do is look at all of the services that run on a Unity server and then research to find out what each service actually does. Without diving too deeply, I can think of many reasons why a Unity Connection product that adds UM capabilities would be more than simply compelling to customers (existing and new)…in fact, it could be a “game changer” (at least within the Cisco competitive space).
Is the future on the way? The following information was released on the NetPro forums which are publicly available so; with that as my disclaimer, I’ll assume that this is public knowledge that can be freely shared. Here is a link to the actual post:
Without further ado, allow me to summarize:
A Cisco Unity Connection 8.5 Early Field Trial (EFT) is targeted to begin in August. Some of the primary features noted for this release are:
- Single Inbox (UM w/Exchange Server 2003 via WebDav, Exchange Server 2007 and 2010 via EWS, and Cisco WebEx Mail)
- New ViewMail for Outlook form (Outlook 2007 and 2010)
- UM Calendaring for Exchange 2010
Of course, there are other features noted as well but the first bullet is quite a statement. It certainly begs the question(s):
Is this the future of Cisco’s UM solution?
Where does Unity fit in if Unity Connection can add UM to its feature list?
Does Unity have a place in the future of UM?
How does or should this affect your sales strategy for potential Cisco UM customers?
So, what do I think? I think I’m going to reserve any commentary for the moment because I’m more of a “when I see it, I’ll believe it” type of guy. However, I think I may have just heard a hammer…but the nail has yet to be seen.