Is Cisco Announcing a "Jabber Cloud"?
Could this be a model for UC processes that reside in the cloud, working with user devices?
Cisco just made a major upgrade to its Jabber client to let it participate in a broader set of collaborative activities. They also announced they were making it work with virtual desktops and third-party browser-based interfaces and appliances. On the surface, this seems like both a general push at the UC area and an example of Cisco's never-ending desire to make everyone into a video-collaborating machine. But is there something under the surface?
I think it's interesting that Cisco talks about "virtual desktop" and "third-party thin clients" in the same sentence. Why? Because a virtual desktop is a cloud-hosted PC, and because thin clients are linked to cloud-hosted virtual applications. And because I think Cisco may be thinking about pulling these two things together.
If we had to think of an ideal model for UC in a BYOD-and-cloud world, I think it's clear that model would be a combination of a hosted UC process inside the cloud linked to a device-specific agent. All of the intelligence of the application would be concentrated inside the cloud process; all of the communications pathways for this particular user would terminate there. The UC process would be always-on, always-connected, always-ready because it's in the network and not roaming around out there in the disorderly world. The user would simply connect to that UC process through whatever device was convenient.
The approach would sure simplify the BYOD problem, at least for collaboration, and it might also introduce a way for applications in the data center or cloud to connect with devices of all sorts. While collaboration might drive the approach, a truly flexible architecture might well become a framework for cloud-device relationships in general.
The question this model raises is just what the relationship between the UC process and the agent appliance would look like. There seem to be three choices.
* Model One is from VDI; we have what's in effect a virtual GUI linked to a virtual PC.
* Model Two is the one that Mozilla is proposing with its Firefox OS--a phone becomes an extended browser platform, an HTML5 client that can draw on some local scripts but depends mostly on external services that reside in the cloud. "Featurephones" can also work this way, allowing operators to offer additional features to these lower-end devices without the user needing to upgrade to a smartphone.
* Finally, with Model Three, we might see a truly cooperative model where the user's device and the hosted UC process cooperate with each other almost like a form of distributed computing.
Here's an example of how the process would work for any of the three examples above, and how it would differ among the three as things proceed: Suppose a UC user is invited to a conference, be it audio, video, web, or some combination of these. The initial contact is really with the hosted UC process, which presumably would then apply policy filters to determine--based on the location and device capabilities of the user, presence, and other factors--whether to even signal the user for the invitation. Assuming that signal is made, the user could still reject it, but let's say that the user accepts. This is where the three models would diverge.
Next page: The 3 models in action