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Cisco’s Jabber acquisition heats up the collaboration race

Cisco Systems has acquired open source instant messaging and presence company Jabber less than a month after it picked up e-mail and calendaring software provider PostPath. The move signifies Cisco’s ongoing moves to reach out of the network and onto the desktop.

Terms of the deal have not yet been announced. Cisco executives were unavailable to discuss the impact of the deal on Cisco or Jabber partners.

Though Cisco already owns instant messaging and presence features, Jabber’s applications are open source and based on its own Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP). These applications are therefore easier to integrate into emailing, calendaring and other Web 2.0 software across the board, giving Cisco a leg up in the collaboration race against Microsoft and IBM.

Cisco said in a statement that the Jabber acquisition would enable presence and messaging to be used in WebEx Connect and its UC platform to provide both “on-premise and on-demand solutions.” Cisco executives said in August they would make Webex collaboration announcements this month, and those will also likely be part of this collaboration strategy.

“Enterprise organizations want an extensible presence and messaging platform that can integrate with business process applications and easily adapt to their changing needs,” said Doug Dennerline, Cisco senior vice president of the collaboration software group, in a statement. “Our intention is to be the interoperability benchmark in the collaboration space.”

Cisco is not actually leading the way when it comes to open source collaboration, since, for example, Novell’s Teaming collaboration offering is open source and can integrate into most emailing, calendaring and enterprise 2.0 applications.

Also, Cisco is not alone in identifying collaboration as a space for immediate movement. Last week, IBM announced an expansion of its enterprise Web 2.0 strategy, which will enable social software platform Lotus Connections to integrate into iEnterprises’ CRM software, as well include new mashup capabilities. IBM also announced The Center for Social Software, a social software research center that will serve as the incubator for new enterprise 2.0 products.

For Cisco, the Jabber acquisition also brings a new set of customers to maintain and possibly up-sell. The Department of Homeland Security, Wells Fargo and FedEx are just a few of Jabber’s extensive list of major customers that have both implemented its products and built up customized applications based on XMPP.

“This isn’t just a technology, this is an ecosystem,” said Peter O’Kelly, principal analyst at O’Kelly Consulting. “It’s in Cisco’s best interest to keep that vibrant community.”

O’Kelly added that Cisco has a good track record of acquiring companies and “not breaking them.”

The Jabber acquisition is expected to close in the first half of fiscal year 2009. Upon the deal’s close, Jabber employees will be incorporated into the Cisco Collaboration Software Group.

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