Tom Nolle
Tom Nolle is the president and founder of CIMI Corporation and the principal consultant/analyst. Tom started his career as a...
Read Full Bio >>

Tom Nolle | October 21, 2012 |


Why Cisco’s Big Push in Collaboration?

Why Cisco’s Big Push in Collaboration? It's not really about UC, it's about boosting traffic and establishing Cisco as a player in the cloud.

It's not really about UC, it's about boosting traffic and establishing Cisco as a player in the cloud.

This month, Cisco did a series of announcements on collaboration, linked to their "Collaboration Summit". For UC types this could be exciting, maybe an indication the market was going to get really hot. For pragmatists, it seems a bit odd that Cisco would spend so much time on collaboration, which surely is a very small piece of its revenue pie. Look deeper, though, and you see the truth. It's not really about UC, it's about boosting traffic and establishing Cisco as a player in the cloud.

The primary focus of Cisco's announcements seems on the surface to be the expansion of their Hosted Collaboration Solutions (HCS), a kit of services offered in hardware/software platform form to providers who want to do telepresence, contact center, and UC. Given Cisco's long-standing efforts to promote router purchases by threatening buyers with exponential traffic growth, telepresence and all forms of video collaboration have always been attractive to them. The problem is that high-cost telepresence is a big jump from voice calls and casual Skype video. A nice on-ramp for buyers would help.

The new Cisco approach is to cloak telepresence in something more populist, which is the video collaboration of WebEx and a framework for collaboration that includes telepresence but doesn't demand it. The lower buy-in threshold makes the Cisco approach more attractive to partners, which is why HCS is a primary vehicle. Cisco wants network operators and cloud operators to use Cisco technology to offer UC/UCC services to others, and not just because it boosts telepresence opportunity and video traffic.

But even a more attractive wrapper for high-end video isn't the real story for Cisco. They want UC/UCC offerings to be based on Cisco's Cloud Applications and Services (CAS) model. Why? Because CAS is the core of the real Cisco strategy for the cloud. Cisco needs to deal with two cloud issues--one short-term and one long-term--and CAS is their pathway to solving both.

In the near term, Cisco's biggest cloud problem isn't its traditional competitors, it's its allies. Allies like who? Well, VMware comes to mind. Cisco has relied on VMware tools for lower-level cloud-building for some time, but recently it's released its own version of OpenStack and started to roll it out in their internal applications. There have also been recurring Wall Street rumors (unconfirmed at this point) that VMware's parent EMC was looking to buy Cisco arch-rival Juniper Networks.

Truth be told, Cisco, like all of the supporters of OpenStack, is trapped in a cut-throat cloud market with cloud software based on the same framework as its major competitors, including HP. If Cisco can layer an application framework on top of the basic cloud software, they can differentiate themselves.

The solution is a classic camel's-nose approach to marketing. Get an application that operators see as a broad near-term, revenue opportunity (UCC and WebEx), build it on a platform that has considerable value to other applications (CAS), and you have an ongoing edge with network and cloud operators. HCC drives partners to CAS, CAS drives partners to more Cisco-based apps, and all this drives Cisco revenue upward. Not to mention undermining VMware's incumbency and making OpenStack into table stakes rather than a cloud enabler.

So does this mean Cisco wants you to run your IaaS on Cisco's CAS? No way, and that brings us to the long-term problem of the cloud. Cisco is realizing that IaaS isn't what the cloud opportunity is going to be about. They're looking ahead to the future, when network operators and cloud providers all join in to provide higher-layer SaaS and feature-as-a-service offerings. Want home security? It's a CAS offering, or so Cisco hopes. Same with bill-paying, booking tables at restaurants, watching live video of Jack's and Jill's soccer get the picture.

Hosting virtual machines via IaaS is a low-margin business and Cisco figures that operators aren't interested in getting themselves into another of those, just as return on network investment is dropping. They're prepared to let VMware or OpenStack competitors fight for virtualized crumbs while they fly up to the top of the food chain to dine.

In cloud terms, CAS might be Cisco's platform-as-a-service middleware to build all those services the operators want to sell. This market space is a green field if ever there was one, because all the cloud giants are still wearing IaaS blinders and chasing Amazon. There are no open-source tools for this new cloud mission either, so Cisco isn't competing with free software that all its competitors could adopt in an instant.

If Cisco can get CAS going quickly, they could have the only solution to the "service-as-a-service" cloud model. That would let them advertise to promote that market, because it would promote only Cisco. By the time competitors had any idea what was happening, Cisco could be sitting on the goal post thumbing their nose.

Then again, they could mess it up. Cisco's reputation has traditionally been as a "fast follower", but the new world of platform-as-a-service middleware is different: CAS is a leadership position. The question is whether Cisco is a fast-follower by its corporate nature (and thus can't change), or whether it simply accepted this role because in earlier generations, networking as an industry defined "differentiated" as "proprietary," and thus Cisco would always have found itself developing a future shared market at its own expense if it jumped out aggressively in a new area.

If Cisco accepts that they're now operating in a new environment, CAS could be their breakout opportunity. If they're just risk-adverse, then this new positioning is only going to confuse buyers and alert competitors who may be more inclined to be bold.


Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
March 12-15 | 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

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

March 7, 2018

Video collaboration is experiencing significant change and innovation-how can your enterprise take advantage? In this webinar, leading industry analyst Ira Weinstein will present detailed analysis

February 21, 2018

Business agility has become the strongest driver for enterprises to begin migrating their communications to the cloud-and its a benefit that enterprises are already realizing. To gain this benefit

February 7, 2018

Enterprises are starting to grasp the critical importance of security and compliance in their team collaboration deployments. And once the risks are mitigated, your enterprise can integrate these n

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
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.