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Distributors add unified communications to their lineup

Westcon, Tech Data and Ingram Micro now all offer unified communications to their VAR customers.

If distribution coverage is any indication, demand for unified communications is ramping up.

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This week, Westcon Group Inc. joined the fray, announcing that its Cisco-focused Comstor Worldwide unit will offer Cisco Systems UCS products to its affiliated VARs, joining Tech Data Corp., which launched a unified communications business unit covering 3Com, Cisco, HP ProCurve, LifeSize Communications, Nortel and Polycom products last month. Both distributors will carry all of Cisco's UCS lineup.

Ingram Micro already carried Cisco's UCS 500 product for small businesses.

Unified communications technology, which blends voice and data on the same PC-based infrastructure, has been hyped for years as Microsoft and Cisco tried to parlay their expertise into a new field against the more established voice-oriented players like Avaya and Nortel. But for all the vendor noise, there appeared to be less than volcanic end user demand. For one thing, despite the expense and age of most PBXes, the PBXes were viewed as more reliable than PC-based technologies, which are still viewed as relatively risky. Many customers are not willing to reboot their phones.

But the perception may be changing and customers may be going beyond the tire-kicking stage and start to actually buy UCS.

"When you look at enterprise class systems, Cisco is seeing orders and the problem there is supply and demand. There are more orders than product," said Bill Corbin, executive vice president of Comstor Worldwide. When it comes to Cisco UCS for smaller customers, the products have barely hit the price list so it may be too soon to tell.

Tech Data is spreading some of its UCS love around. The Cisco UCS will be supported by the distributor's Cisco Solutions Group, which is part of Tech Data's overall data center team. The unified communications specialized business unit will offer appropriate Cisco offerings as well as solutions from the other vendors.

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