Zeus Kerravala
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his...
Read Full Bio >>

Zeus Kerravala | November 20, 2015 |


Cisco to Strengthen Collaboration Position with Acano Acquisition

Cisco to Strengthen Collaboration Position with Acano Acquisition Acano's technology will advance Cisco's mission of being able to deliver video to any screen, on any device, regardless of the protocol.

Acano's technology will advance Cisco's mission of being able to deliver video to any screen, on any device, regardless of the protocol.

At Cisco's 2014 Collaboration Summit, Collaboration Technology Group (CTG) General Manager, Rowan Trollope was asked what success for him and the CTG group would look like a year from then (which is now). Rowan said, half jokingly, that success would be that the group would see 10% growth and he would still have a job.

At the time, CTG had seen consecutive years of falling revenues and the promise of 10% growth seemed unrealistic if not Pollyannaish. However, the group has been on quite the roll since then. It's seen four consecutive quarters of growth (including 17% growth in this past quarter), the launch of its workstream communications and collaboration (WCC) solution, Spark (profiled in the joint ZK Research/TalkingPointz Report), and the acquisition of one of the leading Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) providers, Tropo.

Today, Cisco made another move to continue the CTG's momentum, announcing it plans to acquire online collaboration platform provider Acanofor a hefty $700 million. Adding London-based Acano to its already broad product line will certainly be accretive to the business from a top and bottom line perspective and should open up new opportunities for Cisco, particularly with the Lync/Skype for Business base of customers. Also, because Acano is headquartered in Europe, Cisco can use its huge pot of overseas money for the acquisition and continue to use domestic currency to bolster shareholder value through share buy backs and dividend payments.


Acano was founded in 2012, and in the few years it has been in existence it has gained significant momentum. Acano's platform was built with three key criteria in mind: scalability through software, multi-vendor interoperability, and multi-device connectivity.

Unlike many of the video and collaboration startups that focused their energies on serving the needs of small businesses, Acano came out of the blocks trying to solve the challenges of the largest organizations in the world. When TalkingPointz principal analyst Dave Michels and I interviewed Acano for our WCC report earlier this year, the company told us they have over 800 enterprise class customers, including four of the five top investment banks and five of the top 10 asset management firms. These are big companies with big challenges when it comes to rolling out collaboration solutions company-wide. Acano also has over 2,000 customers using an Acano-powered service through its 25 service provider partners.

Acano has a highly scalable platform, available as a dedicated appliance or virtualized software, that supports both transcoding and switching where appropriate, making it very flexible. Customers can procure Acano's product and deploy it as a premises-based solution or can buy it as a cloud-based solution from an authorized service provide. Additionally, service providers can support a hybrid deployment model where the cloud- and premises-based infrastructure can interoperate.

The combination of hardware appliances and virtualized software gives Acano incredible scale. Customers can start with a small, software-only solution, and then rapidly scale up to tens of thousands of users and Acano virtual meeting rooms, called coSpaces (similar to a Spark room), while maintaining a high quality audio and video experience. Acano's software-based, highly scalable solution is ideally suited for the trend that has organizations becoming more regionally dispersed.

Because Acano's initial go to market was with large enterprises, it had to engineer a product with the assumption of multi-vendor interoperability, particularly with Microsoft's Skype for Business. Given that Cisco and Microsoft have been mortal enemies in the area of collaboration, it may seem strange that Cisco would want a product that has much of its installed based built on Microsoft.

However, today's Cisco isn't your father's Cisco. Over the past few years the company has made it a priority to build products that are open and interoperable. Evidence of this is in security, the WAN, and data center; this makes collaboration interoperability much easier. In every conversation I've had with Rowan Trollope since his arrival to Cisco, he has discussed the importance of being open and interoperable, and now he is putting Cisco's money where his mouth is. Acano's technology will advance Cisco's mission of being able to deliver video to any screen, on any device, regardless of the protocol. The ability to easily drop into a Microsoft Skype for Business deployment will be good for customers and remove a significant barrier to entry for Cisco.

For Acano, this is a good time to be brought into the Cisco fold. As I mentioned, Acano's focus has been to sell into large enterprises. It has taken a "land and expand" strategy, in which Acano is initially used for scaling multi-vendor video; then Acano looks to sell in its broader coSpaces solution after. Cisco's massive channel and high touch sales force can accelerate the expand part of the strategy. Cisco's channel will also help Acano scale down market to mid-size enterprises that have similar video scaling and interoperability issues.

The acquisition of Acano marks the return of Acano's CEO, OJ Winge, to Cisco. OJ has extensive experience in the video industry from his days at Tandberg and Cisco, leaving Cisco in 2012 for Acano, and now returns to his old stomping grounds, much wealthier given the price tag for Acano, but also more experienced in building a product designed for a mobile-first, cloud-centric world, which aligns nicely with CTG's vision.

One last interesting element of this news is how the roadmaps of Acano's coSpaces and Cisco Spark will come together. Both are excellent WCC solutions, but there is a fair amount of overlap between the two. I haven't learned yet how this might evolve, but I suspect Cisco will take the best of each and bring the two together. Given that both are software-only solutions, this task should be something Cisco can do relatively quickly.

The combination of Cisco and Acano enables Cisco to deliver multi-vendor video any way the customer chooses -- in the cloud or via a hybrid model. We all know that Cisco licked premises-based deployments years ago, but WebEx, HCS, Spark, Tropo, and now Acano give Cisco the broadest cloud-first portfolio in the UC industry.

Related content you might be interested in: Dave Michels interviews Cisco's CTG head Rowan Trollope

Follow Zeus Kerravala on Twitter and Google+!
Zeus Kerravala on Google+


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.