PostPath Deal Adds to Cisco-Microsoft UC Fight

Network goliath Cisco Systems steps further into the cloud-computing space

Network goliath Cisco Systems last week stepped further into the cloud-computing space by announcing the acquisition of privately held PostPath, a provider of hosted e-mail and calendaring solutions based in Mountain View, Calif.

The acquisition puts Cisco in a head-to-head competition with Microsoft in the unified communications and collaboration (UCC) market, according to a Gartner News Analysis.

Cisco already had advanced into the Web-conferencing cloud when it acquired industry-leader WebEx last year. Future unified communications solutions from Cisco could include a combination of features, including Web conferencing, e-mail, instant messaging, voice, video, data and more.

"The acquisition of PostPath complements our strategy to develop an integrated collaboration platform designed for how we work today and into the future," explained Doug Dennerline, Cisco's senior vice president, Collaboration Software Group, in a prepared statement.

Cloud-based solutions have the advantage of being available via desktop PCs as well as mobile devices such as BlackBerrys and iPhones.

PostPath makes a Linux-based e-mail and collaboration server that had cut a small swath through the e-mail server frontier long dominated by Microsoft. PostPath Server features "drop in" compatibility with Microsoft Exchange Server and is marketed as the "replacement" for Exchange.

PostPath Server is also interoperable with Microsoft Outlook and sports a browser-independent AJAX Web client. PostPath's literature says the company's e-mail server is highly secure and scales to meet requirements of both large and small business.

The UCC market represents interesting turf for two competitive, but cooperative, elephants in the room.

For example, Microsoft recently made a significant investment in the voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) market, which is one of Cisco's core business verticals. At the same time Cisco has been leveraging its position in the VoIP market to migrate into other communications areas, such as UCC, of which e-mail is a core component.

The two giants also are working hand-in-hand to better serve mutual customers on the client-server networking front. Last year, Cisco and Microsoft announced an agreement to strengthen their technological collaboration to enhance interoperability between network and software products.

In an interview issued by Microsoft on Sept. 3, titled "Cisco and Microsoft Interoperability Efforts: One Year Later," the two companies reaffirmed that collaboration.

"Although Microsoft and Cisco will continue to compete for customers in the unified communications arena, both of our companies share a joint commitment to ensure the appropriate level of interoperability between our respective products for the benefit of our customers and partners," stated Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Server and Tools Business at Microsoft, in the interview. "We will keep working together to communicate clearly with our customers, partners and sales forces as to how we are competing and cooperating."

-- Herb Torrens

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