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On Premise Collaboration

When people think of WebEx the first thing that comes to mind is cloud collaboration and while that definitely is a viable and powerful collaboration tool, Cisco just recently has released an on premise version of WebEx that is currently at version 1.5.

The benefits of collaboration are numerous. Being able to share or schedule on the fly is nowadays critical in a work force that is distributed. Couple that with video and it’s even more powerful.

Requirements

Many customers are moving many parts of the UC workload to the cloud. However in some cases customers still see the need for an on-premise solution, especially when collaboration involves audio/video/web. The reasons can be:

  1. Compliance
  2. Audio minutes (most cloud collaboration solutions charge for the audio minutes on top of the web charges). If the majority of calls are on-net it might be best to have the traffic contained within the network.

That doesn’t mean cloud doesn’t have its place, especially for large town hall meetings where supporting a large number of servers in house and having many PSTN trunks pointing to the system to allow for callers to call in isn’t feasible.

Features

Cisco’s WebEx Meetings server is an integrated solution that supports audio, video and web collaboration. For customers familiar with the WebEx interface, features such as sharing, white board, polling, chat and Q&A are all supported.

In addition to supporting web sharing features it also supports voice over PSTN and VOIP in the same meeting. This is key for users who don’t want to incur long distance or international charges dialing into an audio bridge call in number. Now they can use the built in VOIP feature and listen and respond back through their computer.

The product also supports Video in 360p quality where you can see not only the presenter but also the participants.  This in effects provides a great experience in seeing everyone in the meeting and can also provide for an effective instructor-student training experience not to mention video bridging capabilities.

On Premise Collaboration2.jpg

The product also supports capability to record audio/video/web that can be stored on a NFS or SAN.

In addition, it supports the WebEx productivity tools. These allow for scheduling meetings from a plethora of applications such as Outlook, Windows task bar, Jabber, and other Office applications. There is support for the iPhone and iPad to schedule/join meetings using the same free WebEx app that is available on the app store. SSO (Single Sign on) is also supported with any SAML (Subject Assertion Markup Language) 2.0 compliant IDP provider that provides ease of authentication.

However if a customer doesn’t want to lead with SSO, they can do also a LDAP (Lightweight directory access protocol) integration with UCM. A number of detailed reports are also included such as meeting duration, number of participants, minutes broken down by audio, VOIP, Video and web sharing, as well as user utilization reports measuring the number of meetings scheduled by the user

Design/Architecture

Cisco’s on premise solution, also known as the WebEx Meetings server, runs on a virtualized Cisco UCS server and supports VMware ESXi 5.0 and vCenter. At a high level there are two components to the product. An “Internal” server and an “IRP” aka DMZ server. The DMZ server can sit in the perimeter of your network and provides access for external clients to join without VPN. This is especially powerful when dealing with mobile devices since it has to be seamless to the end user to join meetings. Sizing/Pricing the product requires two questions to be answered:

  1. How many unique hosts/users in your company will start/schedule a meeting?
  2. How many concurrent users will join a meeting?

From a licensing perspective only hosts are counted. Users joining the system, whether they are external or internal, aren’t counted.

The number of users joining the system, however, is important from a sizing perspective. There are four models to choose from: 50, 250, 800 and 2000. Depending on the number of users that will simultaneously join across all meetings the right server can be picked for the design. If High Availability is desired, the number of servers can be doubled.

Customers who currently have an investment in Cisco collaborations solutions such as Meeting Place Express or Meeting Place and have a valid support contract get to migrate for free to this product.  Even if the customer only bought audio they get to avail of the benefits of audio/video/web as they migrate to this product.

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