Michelle Burbick
Michelle Burbick is the Associate Editor and a blogger for No Jitter, UBM Tech's online community for news and analysis...
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Michelle Burbick | December 08, 2015 |


Cisco's Spark Moves Lights Up Analyst Insight

Cisco's Spark Moves Lights Up Analyst Insight Is Cisco's Spark platform move a wake-up call or its own death knell? No Jitter bloggers weigh in.

Is Cisco's Spark platform move a wake-up call or its own death knell? No Jitter bloggers weigh in.

As mentioned in today's No Jitter post, "Cisco Spark Grows Up," Cisco kicked off its annual Collaboration Summit with a flurry of news surrounding Spark, once merely a collaboration application but now a full-fledged, multi-services communications and collaboration platform.

Here's a quick rundown of some of what Cisco has planned with Spark:

  • Cisco Spark Service - As No Jitter blogger Sheila McGee-Smith, founder of McGee-Smith Analytics, wrote in today's post, Cisco is now making calls, messaging, and meetings take place in the cloud so that companies do not need to invest in additional infrastructure or worry about complex IT setups.
  • Spark Hybrid Services - Slated for Q1 2016 availability, these services will connect existing on-premises Cisco calling capabilities and apps like Cisco Call Control, Microsoft Exchange, and Microsoft Active Directory to Cisco Spark capabilities in the cloud.
  • Spark for Developers - Leveraging the communications APIs gained in the Tropo acquisition, Cisco is enabling voice and SMS services to be embedded into business apps and processes. It opened up an initial set of Spark APIs aimed at fostering app integrations, which means that developers can extend the capabilities of Cisco Spark (see related post, "Altocloud Taps Into Cisco Spark Developer Service").

Cisco's Spark strategy centers on mobility and the cloud.

If you, like me, have been waiting to see how Cisco would counter Microsoft's recent moves around Skype for Business and Cloud PBX, this is it. The Spark evolution is pretty much exactly what I was waiting for... and then some. But for a level-set, I checked in with a handful of our No Jitter bloggers, top industry analysts all. Here's what they had to say -- positive and negative -- about Cisco's latest moves with Spark.

Irwin Lazar, Vice President and Service Director, Nemertes Research
Cisco is now presenting Spark "as an alternative collaboration environment that offers more enterprise control than SaaS apps like Slack, that integrates into the rest of the Cisco portfolio, and that takes full advantage of their WebEx Cloud."

However, Cisco still has some work to do in several areas, Irwin told me.

Because these kinds of apps tend to be confined to small teams and extensive external collaborators (such as software developers), Cisco must show that Spark has mass-market appeal, he said. "What's the total addressable audience for Spark?"

In addition, Cisco has to clear up the confusion around its app strategy and whether that revolves around Jabber, Spark, or WebEx. Ultimately, Irwin said, he wants to know how these apps integrate and whether we should be looking at Spark as a replacement for Jabber.

Likewise, Cisco needs to elaborate on how the Spark Service will compete with Cisco's Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS), how these announcements impact Cisco cloud partners, and whether it has is a strategy for Office 365 integration. (Watch this space. As the week unfolds at Collab Summit, Cisco may very well share more about adoption, partner strategies, and more, and I'll be here all week trying to get these answers.)

Dave Michels, Analyst, TalkingPointz
"Clearly Cisco is going all in on Spark -- this is a wake-up call to customers and channel partners. The distinctions between Cisco and Microsoft are widening."

While Microsoft is all about an email-centric model, Cisco is moving toward a workstream communications and collaboration (WCC) model, and "there is nothing more important in our space right now than WCC," Dave said. "ShoreTel, Mitel, Unify, Cisco, [Thinking Phone Networks], RingCentral, and others are racing toward this along with several other firms from outside our industry (Slack, HipChat, etc.) ... UC is basically done."

As the week unfolds, Dave said he will be aiming his antennae at APIs, seeking to better understand what Cisco is doing with Tropo.

For more analyst insight, jump to the next page: Zeus Kerravala, Brian Riggs, Brent Kelly


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