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Cisco Seeks Collaboration Differentiation with New Upgrades

Cisco Seeks Collaboration Differentiation with New Upgrades
By Jennifer LeClaire

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"To date, the vision for collaboration, whether it's Cisco or Microsoft, hasn't been that different," said analyst Zeus Kerravala. "Moving forward I think we will start to see some differentiation from vendors. Cisco is really focused on enabling better mobile, virtual and cloud-based collaboration whereas Microsoft is more desktop-centric."
 


At its Cisco Collaboration Summit in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Cisco unveiled improvements to its collaboration portfolio, including telepresence, Web conferencing, unified communications and contact center solutions.

Cisco reported that the number of service providers and partners offering its Hosted Collaboration Solution more than doubled in the past year from 16 to 34. Now, with enhancements to its TelePresence Exchange System, Customer Collaboration, UC and mobility products, Cisco is promising its partners that they can deliver a better UC experience to customers as an "as-a-service" cloud-based model.

Orange Business Services is a prime example. Paul Molinier, vice president of Unified Communications and Collaboration at Orange Business Services, said the integration of Cisco HCS and CTX platforms within the company's cloud infrastructure is making it possible for its customers to deliver as-a-service video and collaboration services across their organizations.

"With Cisco HCS and CTX inside, Orange delivers end-to-end communication and collaboration solutions from the cloud bringing more agility -- as a service model -- more competitiveness -- opex versus capex -- and more security -- data protection from the device to the data center," Molinier said.

A Private WebEx

Cisco also reports that WebEx meetings via the public Cisco WebEx cloud rose 38 percent year over year, but customers are asking for a private cloud-based solution with similar capabilities. In response, Cisco rolled out Cisco WebEx Meetings Server for an on-premise conferencing solution hosted on internal data servers.

John James, eExtension team leader for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in Queensland, Australia, said he prefers to engage face-to-face with many of the 12,000 beef producers across Queensland, but in-person meetings can be challenging given that the state is seven times larger than the United Kingdom.

"Cisco's WebEx cloud-based conferencing solution enables DAFF to engage with producers more frequently and in a highly interactive and environmentally friendly way," James said. "We've estimated that, on average, a one-hour Web conference with 10 participants from regional centers around Queensland saves DAFF 60 hours of travel time and approximately $6,000 in associated salaries, and over $2,500 in airfare costs. These savings enable us to do more with taxpayers' money."

The Post-PC Era

Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, said Microsoft has amped up the competitive pressure and Cisco is looking for a way to differentiate itself with its enhanced portfolio.

"To date, the vision for collaboration, whether it's Cisco or Microsoft, hasn't been that different," he told us from floor of the Cisco event, which continues through Wednesday. "Moving forward I think we will start to see some differentiation from vendors. Cisco is really focused on enabling better mobile, virtual and cloud-based collaboration whereas Microsoft is more desktop-centric."

Kerravala said Cisco's move to turn every browser into a collaborative application is an advanced approach because in a post-PC world consumers can use the browser to collaborate from any device. Cisco is focusing on what Kerravala calls the front-end issues of collaboration.

"With so many different devices, workers have to download different software clients to collaborate and that's a very difficult way to work," he said. "I think Cisco's focus on the cloud and mobile is correct. The old desktop model was very Wintel-based with the OS and the apps. A network-centric model changes where that intelligence lies."
 

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