Eric Krapf
Eric Krapf is General Manager and Program Co-Chair for Enterprise Connect, the leading conference/exhibition and online events brand in the...
Read Full Bio >>

Eric Krapf | September 24, 2008 |


Cisco's Big Collaboration Announcement: A Game Changer?

Cisco's Big Collaboration Announcement: A Game Changer? The big product news today is Cisco's announcement of a major suite of products and services aimed at the collaboration/Unified Communications/Web 2.0 space. The most significant part of the announcement is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, WebEx Connect, that Allan Sulkin of TEQConsult Group says could be a "game changer."

The big product news today is Cisco's announcement of a major suite of products and services aimed at the collaboration/Unified Communications/Web 2.0 space. The most significant part of the announcement is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, WebEx Connect, that Allan Sulkin of TEQConsult Group says could be a "game changer."

The big product news today is Cisco's announcement of a major suite of products and services aimed at the collaboration/Unified Communications/Web 2.0 space. The most significant part of the announcement is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, WebEx Connect, that Allan Sulkin of TEQConsult Group says could be a "game changer."The Cisco announcement has four parts:

* Cisco Collaboration Framework * Unified Communications System Release 7.0 * Telepresence Expert on Demand * Cisco WebEx Connect

That last point may be the biggest news out of today. According to Sulkin, it clearly sets Cisco apart from its communications competitors:

The most important part of announcement is Webex Connect, a full featured UC-based conferencing and collaboration "cloud" service that supports ANYONE ANYWHERE. It brings together all elements of customer supply chain, expanding beyond the reach of the private enterprise system. This service, utiizing Cisco's vast private network, moves Cisco far ahead of the other UC competitors. Cisco is leveraging many of its offerings to create a "unified" solution available to the universe of stations users (Cisco and non-Cisco enterprise systems, alike). Competitors like Avaya have no equivalent response. MSFT could possibly offer something similar using its MSN platform; Google could as well. But Cisco is ahead of the curve, way ahead. The other announcement offers, UCM R7 and Telepresence Expert on Demand, are also important, but not as wide ranging and important to raising the bar for UC market positioning. Webex Connect bypasses the need for major capital investment, especially important in today's crisis economy.

This announcement looks to be a GAME CHANGER.

Cisco is touting WebEx Connect's ability to enable business application mashups that can leverage both network-based and enterprise-located capabilities, combining, "online meetings, presence notification, chat, audio and video conferencing, business widgets, as well as document and task management in virtual workspaces."

"The WebEx Connect Platform is application agnostic; you can link both on-demand and on-premise applications to the framework," the company announced. "Every mash up you create on the Platform conforms to a common framework that ensures inter-communication between every other application."

Here's an example of such a mashup, as Cisco envisions it:

Develop a bid and proposal application.

Create a WebEx Connect space that combines live access to your CRM system with a third party proposal management system. The sales team uses the roles and permissions already set up in WebEx Connect to access information and work on their specific proposals-and then collaborate with customers to finalize the deal.

The vision of WebEx Connect represents the culmination of Cisco's mantra, often repeated at VoiceCon and everywhere else, that UC and collaboration are "all about the network." My own sense, at first glance, is that Allan Sulkin is definitely right about this announcement giving Cisco an offering that no one else in the enterprise communications space can match.

The question is, will enterprise managers want to build their business-critical communications system on network-based, SaaS offerings from anyone? History says no, and there will certainly be lots of questions that need to be answered before they change their minds about network-hosted services, especially complex ones involving interactions among elements residing in different places.

Most important is performance. Where your network based services live, physically, and where your users are distributed, geographically, will have an effect on how the services perform for those users. For a latency-sensitive, mission-critical service, Cisco WebEx Connect will have the burden of proof to show that the applications and mashups will work as advertised.

The other concern with network-based services that feature mashups will be to make sure there's a clear understanding about the terms of service, and who owns the intellectual property that's created when you combine elements of a public service with elements of software that the enterprise purchased under a perpetual-use license.

On the flip side, Allan makes a really good point about the economic outlook over the next couple of years: If it's as capital-constrained as we all fear it could be, using a service that provides breakthrough functionality, and paying for that functionality out of operating expenses instead of capex could give an edge to enterprises that take the plunge instead of waiting for the capex picture to improve.

The logical thing to expect is that enterprises will start with some small pilots and proof-of-concept developments that incorporate WebEx Connect, and if the service holds up, gradually build upon it.

There's also another point to consider, which is that this announcement broadens the industry's vision of what Unified Communications and collaboration are. Not only is the PBX no longer the center of the communications universe, the enterprise infrastructure itself may not be, if Cisco WebEx Connect triumphs.

Ultimately, I think Allan's right that this is a game-changer, in that SaaS is now an unavoidable part of the enterprise communications landscape. Managers might say yes to it, or they might say no, but most large users will at least feel they need to consider it.


Enterprise Connect Orlando 2017
March 27-30 | Orlando, FL
Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem

Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Special Offer - Save $200 Off Advance Rates

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

April 5, 2017

Its no secret that the cloud offers significant benefits to enterprises - including cost reduction, scalability, higher efficiency, and more flexibility. If your phone system and contact center are

March 22, 2017

As today's competitive business environments push workforces into overdrive, many enterprises are seeking ways of streamlining workflows while optimizing productivity, business agility, and speed.

March 8, 2017

Enterprise IT's ability to innovate is critical to the success of the business -- 80% of CIOs agree. But the CIO role has never been more challenging than it is today, with rising operational respo

March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.