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Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter, Some Things Are Better Together

Collaboration is an inherently social concept. It’s about people and connection. It’s about communicating, working together, interacting to meet goals, accomplishing tasks, innovating, and creating. Just as people have unique personalities, so do the ways they collaborate for business, whether 1:1 or in groups, in structured meetings or hallway conversations, sitting at desks or on park benches, in real-time conversations or long-term interactions.

As technology evolves and geography becomes less relevant to connecting with others, the options for how we collaborate multiply. And multiply again.  But technology itself is an enabler of collaboration, the value is in the connections that people make – with each other, information, and ideas.

Finding ways to improve the connections between people and the information they need to share is critical to improving business. From our perspective we want the technology to disappear; providing the ability for people to interact in the ways they interact best, wherever they are.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”―Helen Keller

We see great value in providing social solutions to our customers. Bringing together social networking with communications technology provides people with the means to collaborate and gives them flexibility to do the best work they can. Like Helen Keller, we believe people working together can achieve extraordinary things. We believe the same is true of companies.

Increasingly, organizations are looking for ways to integrate social solutions into their collaboration tools and business processes. Throughout the past decade, Cisco has continued to weave social into the fabric of our own collaboration portfolio.  At the same time, we continuously looked for opportunities to collaborate with other companies to integrate new technologies and improve what we can offer our customers – bringing the best of the best together to provide our customers with the ideal solution to fit their business needs.

Today I am happy to announce that we are entering a relationship with Jive Software
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What do WebEx QoS and Phone Troubleshooting Have in Common? Part 2

April 25, 2014 at 12:07 pm PST

What do WebEx QoS and Phone Troubleshooting have in Common?

If you read my previous blog then you’ll already know that the answer is Medianet. In Part 1 of this 2 Part blog series I discussed the new reverse Metadata capability, provided by a Cisco network, that allows an Enterprise to enable granular QoS marking for all the different media streams that make up a WebEx meeting. In this 2nd instalment, we’re going to take a look at how we can extend Medianet’s Mediatrace capability to Cisco’s 79XX, 89XX and 99XX IP Phone portfolio.

The other recent innovation for Medianet is Prime Collaboration’s ability to now invoke a Mediatrace for a number of IP Phones models that don’t support the MSI (Media Services Interface). As these devices cannot originate Metadata, it has been previously impossible start a Mediatrace through end point selection for telephones in Prime Collaboration. It is now possible, reactively and proactively, to troubleshoot voice quality issues on 79XX, 89XX and 99XX devices, using the same combination of Medianet and Prime Collaboration tools that have previously only been applicable to personal and room based video systems. Take a look at one of my previous blogs, “Medianet in Action”, for some additional background material on video troubleshooting. The demonstration below shows how to start a Mediatrace for a pair of phones.

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What do WebEx QoS and Phone Troubleshooting Have in Common? Part 1

April 15, 2014 at 11:37 am PST

What do WebEx QoS and Phone Troubleshooting have in Common?

The answer is Medianet, which in conjunction with a Cisco network can provide an innovative solution for two very different real life problems. In Part 1 of this 2 Part blog we’re going to discuss how customers can use Medianet Metadata to provide a robust QoS mechanism for the WebEx cloud service within their Enterprise Networks. Keep an eye out for Part 2  where we’re going to take a look at how we can extend Medianet’s Mediatrace capability to Cisco’s 79XX, 89XX and 99XX IP Phone portfolio. I’ll also point out the benefits for each of these completely different Medianet use cases.

WebEx is a SaaS Conferencing service providing web based data, audio and video conferencing for millions of users. As it’s a cloud service, it’s inherently secure and in a lot of use cases it will tunnel all its media streams within HTTPS. That’s great for secure transport, but it’s resultantly challenging to map the constituent parts of the WebEx application into a granular Enterprise QoS policy. Why would we want to do that anyway? Isn’t it good enough to mark all the WebEx traffic the same?  As the saying goes, there is a method to our madness.The tunnelled WebEx traffic contains control packets, data-sharing traffic and possibly VoIP, which are relatively low bandwidth media streams. On the flip side any tunnelled video traffic will likely be bandwidth hungry by nature. The challenge we want to circumvent is how to ensure the WebEx video traffic does not “swamp” the other types of meeting traffic. Ultimately, we want to allow end users to enable the video service they have paid for, without the risk of video having a negative impact on the overall quality of the online conference. We do everything with the end user in mind to make sure you have the best possible experience.

For those of you that don’t know, a WebEx client can generate Medianet Metadata. In simple terms, Metadata is a way for a Cisco application to announce itself to a Cisco network. In the case of WebEx, different Metadata packets are transmitted onto the network, uniquely identifying all the component media streams (including video) that comprise a WebEx conference. This allows a Cisco network to useWebEx Metadata to differentiate between any WebEx traffic types, even when securely tunnelled over a HTTPS connection. The figure below provides an illustration of the different Metadata packets that will be generated for different types of WebEx traffic.

Figure 1 – Identifying Different Flows using Metadata

Figure 1 – Identifying Different Flows using Metadata

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Clouds Are Everywhere, But Which Cloud for Collaboration?

Which cloud is best for Collaboration?  Simple -- the one that fits your needs. With so many cloud options out there offering a variety of different services, it’s easy to get confused. When making a decision, consider what is essential to collaboration in your business. How do users want to experience the services? What are their needs?  Let’s break it down using me as a use case:

  • Conversations & Conferencing -- I am heavily reliant on voice and video. I need it on all my devices, with no compromises on availability, security or quality.  About 40% of my day is spent in web or video conferences, with one or many people  (I guess this is why WebEx is the second largest business SaaS service!).  For me, I must have a reliable service that performs regardless of how it is deployed.  If my company has chosen the cloud for strategic or financial reasons then that is kind of irrelevant to me – I just want it to work…  and work well.
  • Email, IM and Content -- IM enables me to get information when I need it.  If not, I typically get it from a document sharing space.  Happily, I am spending less time in email these days.  So for these types of collaboration tools I am more interested in what the cloud has to offer.  Decisions made by IT have a material impact on me and my working environment.  Here at Cisco I jump at the chance to be on a trial or pilot of a new technology.  Not only do I get to play with all the new toys, I get ahead of the pack and get access to new productivity tools that make me more effective…  they help me.
  • Customer Services -- I like to choose how and when I interact with people.  I also like to help myself first, and then call out for help as required.  So I like to do business with organizations that allow me to do this.  If they don’t, I generally try to avoid doing business with them.

For most organizations, Read More »

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How Video Makes a Difference in the Way I Work

February 17, 2014 at 12:00 pm PST

Last fall, I was standing in a hotel lobby in Boca Raton, Florida, where I was attending our annual Collaboration Summit. I noticed an energetic woman walking directly toward me. “It’s so great to see you!” she said when she reached me.

I quickly attempted to access the facial-recognition software in my own brain to identify her.
Click, click, click…
I’m terrible with faces.
Click, click, click…
I think I recognize people I don’t know, and I don’t recognize people I’ve met.
Click, click, click…

She saved me further embarrassment and introduced herself. We’d recently worked on a big presentation together. Over instant messaging and e-mail. And on the phone. We’d never met in person, but she recognized me immediately. Why? Because I always use video in online meetings and conference calls.

Later that evening, I went to a reception with a group of customers. In the weeks prior, I’d had WebEx meetings with many of them to review agendas and answer questions. Several people approached me saying they’d recognized me from the call. One said she wasn’t sure she was at the right reception until she saw me there.

I don’t use video because I’m enamored with my own visage, but because I find it useful. And easy to do. At first it was a bit awkward – did I just scratch my nose? – but it quickly became routine. Sometimes I’m the only person on a call using video. Other people will often start their video after noticing that I’m using mine.

A Forrester study of how knowledge workers collaborate showed that 71% work from a personal desk within their organization four to five days per week. And even for collaborative tasks, employees tend to work from their desks to a much greater extent than at any other location, such as a conference room. Case in point: they make 88% of phone calls from a personal desk at work. Read More »

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