Cisco and Avaya: Dueling Keynotes at Enterprise Connect
For both, the emphasis was on ease of collaboration for the end user, and on the cloud as a delivery vehicle for enterprise communications services.
The waning years of the IP telephony era saw Cisco and Avaya slugging it out for market share leadership, and if this morning's Enterprise Connect keynotes were any indication, they're on a path to continuing their rivalry in a next-gen environment where the emphasis is on ease of collaboration for the end user, and a heavy emphasis on the cloud as a delivery vehicle by which the enterprise can implement communications services for its end users.
OJ Winge, Senior VP/GM, video and collaboration at Cisco, led off the morning with a keynote that emphasized Cisco's efforts to unify the collaboration user interface around its Jabber client. OJ showed that Jabber can integrate with Microsoft Outlook so that the Outlook mailbox shows the presence status that's being pulled from Jabber. He also demo'ed an integration via SDK of the Jabber client out of salesforce.com. As part of his talk, Winge announced that Jabber, which was already available on Android, iOS, Mac, Blackberry and the Cisco Cius tablet, is now available on the iPad and on Windows OS.
The cool demo for OJ Winge's keynote was a demonstration of how easy it could be to integrate video into a Cisco contact center agent desktop, allowing the agent to seamlessly escalate the caller's session to one that used video to solve the problem about which he was calling—in this scenario, he was having trouble integrating a Bluetooth headset into a ski helmet. The integration wasn't just a matter of media transport; the agent had visibility into what actions Winge's client had previously taken on the corporate website, so the agent knew not just that he had recently purchased the helmet (which isn't so revolutionary for the contact center), but also that he had enabled video on his endpoint, so that the suggestion to escalate to video was a logical decision.
When it comes to the cloud, OJ Winge touted Cisco's cloud telepresence offering, and noted that Cisco's UC-focused Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS), which it resells through service provider channels, has signed up more than 2 million customers with commitments over the next two years.
And just when you thought high-end, three-screen telepresence was fading from the limelight, Winge also announced TelePresence TX9000, an immersive system that interoperates with all of Cisco's other collaboration endpoints.
For his part, Avaya keynoter Brett Shockley gave an even more wide-ranging presentation in his keynote. Shockley focused on 4 points: "The problem with presence;" consumerization of collaboration; video; and speeding the pace of adoption.
The problem with presence, Shockley said, is that "It's mostly about making it easy for people to interrupt you,” and it doesn't provide useful, contextual information about the user's actual status. The solution from Avaya is a new capability called Avaya Awareness, which tracks the user's communications and collaboration throughout their network footprint. Brett led a very compelling demo in which he used Avaya's Flare client to show a meeting getting pulled together. As he dragged-and-dropped participants into the spotlight that's used as a metaphor for the active collaborators, the system filtered down the list of possible additional contacts according to the connections that the already-chosen participants had in common. It also pushed archived emails relevant to these participants into the system's "smart contact" folder to make them easy to find and discuss during the collaboration session. Finally, the group was able to collaborate with desktop sharing. It was a very convincing demonstration of the power of context in communications.
The system includes some nuts-and-bolts advantages--for example, if the moderator who organized the session drops off, another participant can take over and keep the session up--a handy feature that those of us living in the world of bridged audioconferences would find useful. Another handy feature Brett described: Say you're dialing hands-free in your car, and can't check your schedule—but it turns out you're booked for 3 concurrent meetings. The system has the intelligence to know, for example, if you're designated the leader of one of those sessions, and will select that as the one it dials into.
When it comes to consumerization of collaboration, Brett took an interesting tack, focusing not so much on fancy applications or devices, but on tools Avaya is providing to protect and bring greater management efficiency to the consumerized devices and apps that are already entering the enterprise. Noting that 77% of CIOs view consumerization of IT as a business risk, Shockley emphasized Avaya management tools for tracking call quality on a connection, delivering QoS on WiFi communications, and Avaya's newly-acquired session border controller (SBC) capabilities for enhanced security outside the firewall without VPNs.
On video, the big announcement was Avaya One-Touch Video, a plug-in that lets any web browser become a videoconferencing endpoint. You just send the link to the person you want to communicate with, and they can join the video conference, even if they're external to the enterprise.
Finally, to speed the pace of adoption, Shockley focused on Avaya's cloud strategy, announcing Avaya Collaboration Cloud (see the full announcement here). The key elements of this offering are Avaya Live Connect, a cloud-based UC service aimed at the SMB; and Avaya Live Engage, the upgrade to the web.alive virtual environment that Avaya acquired with Nortel. The demo for Avaya Live Connect showed a simple self-provisioning process in which a small business could download a client, get a virtual machine spun up in Avaya's cloud, and get its phone numbers assigned and be up and running, all within 5 minutes.