Unified Communications Nation

Dec 21 2012   4:43PM GMT

Another look at Cisco’s collaboration strategy — its side of the story

Gina Narcisi Gina Narcisi Profile: Gina Narcisi

After Cisco’s quarterly earnings call in November revealed soft numbers for the company’s collaboration business, I wrote a story about how Cisco was planning to bolster its collaboration strategy for the coming year. The story mentioned that users wanted to see more integration and interoperability from Cisco, something that CEO John Chambers mentioned in that same earnings call.

After the story published, Cisco requested a follow up conversation to talk more about the notion of integration and interoperability, so I got back on the phone with Roberto De La Mora, senior director of collaboration solutions marketing for Cisco.

De La Mora emphasized that customers are asking for better interoperability from Cisco, but they’re looking for the ability to integrate with third-party technology.

While Cisco’s collaboration products — like TelePresence and Jabber — can be purchased separately, they all play nice with one another. Businesses can purchase these products separately and the pieces do fully integrate with each other, even if they are purchased at different times, he said.

“We have bundling and pricing also to make it cheaper, but if you only want to buy WebEx for example, you can buy only that,” De La Mora said.

As an example, if a company starts off with only Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCUM), and then purchases Jabber down the road, Jabber will connect with CUCUM to allow phone and video calls. And because Cisco’s tools configure automatically, there is little involvement from IT needed, De La Mora added.

“All these pieces were designed to work together from the get-go, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy them all at once,” he said.

Sometimes for customers however, less is more. Other vendors — like Microsoft — bundle their collaboration product licenses into larger purchases for their customers. Cisco had always included Jabber as a separate line item charge for their customers, but recently saw the value in consolidating and began bundling Jabber licenses into CallManager.

Customers are fine with a monthly WebEx spend — but they don’t want to see the extra Jabber line item that could be growing rapidly each month. “When customers are seeing this extra line item spend increase, it’s an easy target to say ‘let’s eliminate that’,” said Bill Haskins, senior analyst for Wainhouse Research.

“People like WebEx, and so integrating that Jabber spend into something they are already buying is a great approach,” Haskins added.

Third party integration

UC and collaboration is still very much a mixed vendor environment, and customers have made it clear that they want better integration between Cisco products and their existing UC tools. Cisco will be making strides in satisfying their users in this area.

“We are doubling up on software investments, because most of those integrations users want aren’t just on a hardware level, but on a software level, too,” De La Mora said. Cisco currently offers integration to platforms like Microsoft’s Exchange, Office or Lync, and Google’s Gmail.

“If a user wants to start an instant message session with someone using Lync, or a video conferencing session with a person that has a unit from Polycom, we have open APIs and we use industry standards to make sure it’s not just integrated with Cisco,” he said.

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