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Can Polycom Squeeze Cisco?

4:50 PM -- Can teaming up with Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) help Polycom Inc. (Nasdaq: PLCM) compete with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) when it comes to selling video technology to service providers?

Yes, says Irwin Lazar, analyst with The Nemertes Research Group Inc.

"Cisco has been doing much better at the higher end, in immersive video," Lazar says. "They are the dominant vendor in telepresence -- they have deals with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), Tata Communications Ltd. , and a lot of others."

But by making it easier for service providers to offer managed video services that are, in turn, easier for businesses to use, Polycom is opening up more opportunities for itself, Lazar says.

The Juniper/Polycom pairing does this in a few ways. (See Juniper, Polycom Take Video Vows.)

First, by connecting Juniper's network resource control platform and the Polycom video call control system, the partners intend to let service providers make managed video part of the converged services offering they deliver to enterprises, and not a separate and more expensive overlay network, says Jerry Passione, director of service provider alliances.

Also, the integration enables the Juniper gear deployed within the network to recognize Polycom video traffic and either automatically guarantee the bandwidth needed, negotiate with the Polycom gear to lower the bandwidth required, or reject the call, says Dean Schoen, vice president of business development for the Video Solutions Group at Polycom.

Because the video services are being offered on a converged network, however, more bandwidth may be available than there would be on a separate video network, Passione says.

The other advantage for Polycom, says analyst Lazar, is that it can tie together its diversity of videoconferencing systems, including desktop and room units as well as telepresence systems, so an enterprise can enable intra-company video calls to more locations, and inter-company video-calling becomes more realistic.

Polycom continues to stress its adherence to video standards and try to paint Cisco into a proprietary corner, but to date, that hasn't slowed Cisco's telepresence push. Cisco's acquisition of Tandberg was also a boost to its videoconferencing aspirations.

"The Cisco strategy throughout isn't all that great -- they are getting better with the video gateway service they announced in November, but it's not available yet," Lazar says. "One strength that Polycom has is that it can much more easily tie in desktop, room, and even mobile videos with high-end telepresence."

Service providers targeting companies that already have some videoconferencing facilities will find Polycom's offering more attractive, Lazar believes.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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