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Collaboration and a Glimpse at Cisco Unified Communication Manager 8.0
Yesterday Zeus Kerravala posted a story about CEO John Chambers' presentation at this week's C-Scape conference in San Jose. I'm going to dive down one level and write about one of the breakout sessions titled Collaboration: Cisco Unified Communications. The session was led by SVP of the Voice Technology Group, Barry O'Sullivan. Understanding that above all analysts love a good technology update, Barry--with a little help from his CTO Joe Burton--talked about and demonstrated a couple of capabilities scheduled for the next release of Cisco Unified Communications Manager (Cisco UCM.)First a word on the title of the session. I was frankly confused after the last Cisco event I attended, Cisco's UC Summit in San Diego last September. I thought that the new emphasis on collaboration was supplanting the notion of unified communications for Cisco and that Cisco was attempting to differentiate their message by saying that UC was irrelevant and collaboration the new game in town.
Turns out that for Cisco collaboration is the combination of three technologies: Unified Communications (everything that falls under the Voice Technology Group, including CUCM, contact center, MeetingPlace, etc.), Video (TelePresence) and Web 2.0 (for Cisco this mainly means WebEx). The big vision is for the on-premises components and the on-demand capabilities to be able to share a set of services, such as call control, presence and location, routing and queuing, etc.
A discussion with Cisco's VP of Market Development Collaboration Rick McConnell helped me clarify this still further. Like infinity, the vision of all services being available on-premises and on-demand may be approached but never achieved. Some collaboration capabilities (as defined by Cisco as UC, Video and Web 2.0) are better supplied either on-prem or on-demand and a third subset can be supported realistically in either realm. It's that last group where most of the work is being done, e.g., combining WebEx and MeetingPlace conferencing capabilities.
All of which brings me to one of the CUCM 8.0 features that was discussed, Business to Business Unified Communications. O'Sullivan explained that a capability is being built into CUCM will enable presence and other data sharing between trusted companies, such as partners and customers.
As explained and demoed, Business to Business UC seems relatively simple. A call is placed from the trusted partner to a user on CUCM. CUCM checks its directory to see if the caller location is on the list. If so, presence info is allowed to flow between the two locations. What might this mean? One example is that a customer calling into a MeetingPlace conference call would be able to see presence and have their presence seen by the usually proprietary conferencing tool.
What I like most about the capability is its apparent simplicity. Call once, be authenticated and added to the directory and going forward the connection is seamless. The walls of the gardens may soon be coming down.