In my previous blog I talked about the transitions that are coming in the collaboration market. This drives the need for intelligent video collaboration – a consistent user experience across a portfolio of endpoints and platforms. Any-to-any connectivity is fundamental.
From a deployment perspective, there are two solutions in the market – on-prem and cloud services – balancing between flexibility and operational control.
An example of the successful reach of cloud solutions for collaboration is Cisco’s WebEx conferencing solution with more than 2.3 billion minutes of meetings per month. On the other side of the spectrum, operational continuity and security has driven major investments in on-premise solutions. For example, Cisco’s on-prem collaboration solutions are used by 95% of the Fortune 500s, and span every market sector.
Clearly, both on-prem and cloud are needed. The critical question is how do these worlds connect without any burden on the users. The breakthrough for providing flexibility is to connect these two worlds together. A recent example is the connection of WebEx and Cisco Video solutions – WebEx Enabled TelePresence. The user can schedule from a single tool (e.g. Outlook) both WebEx and Video endpoints. Participants can launch meetings with a single push of a button from a video system or through a single mouse click for a WebEx or any SIP client. They are then able to meet over video, audio and share content without restriction.
Another critical and potentially conflicting set of requirements comes from the end users. Is a given user’s needs satisfied by one endpoint experience? Are users more concerned with mobility, quality of experience, or breadth of functionality? There are times when a highly mobile solution is the priority – enabling users to attend meetings irrespective of where they are. Equally, there are times when quality is the key to a successful meeting.
These user requirements necessitate a portfolio of endpoints, but this is not enough alone. A portfolio of endpoints MUST have an intuitive and consistent user experience across them. They do not need to be the same, but users should not be burdened with differences in the User Interface (UI) for similar functions.
So, is the right approach a hardware or software strategy? In my mind, this is a somewhat double-edged question. All hardware needs software to drive it; all software needs hardware to run on. The real goal is to create an architecture (both for endpoints and for infrastructure) that delivers intelligent consistency across a portfolio.
A great example of this is the latest updates for Pervasive Conferencing solution. This conferencing solution can be deployed as virtualized software running on general-purpose servers or on a scalable, dedicated hardware platform. Either option can be selected to fit scale requirements as there is no comprise on features available.
So far we have talked about the flexibility and options for the end user and for the IT Manager, but what about the buyer? The last critical element of a flexible solution is a commercial one. In this fast moving environment buyers are faced with questions like, “Is my investment going to be obsolete shortly after I deploy? How can I ensure I have investment protection? How can I get to the next innovations from where I am now?” In a highly dynamic environment the optimal solution builds the upgrades into the consumption models. This is inherent in a cloud-based architecture, but can also be supported in a similar way for hardware solutions by leveraging a lease or rental agreement. This should include the ability for customers to incrementally build out an existing solution as well as a built-in upgrade path. For example, if I renew my 3-year service contract, I should immediately be upgraded to the latest releases of both software and hardware as part of this service. This provides:
- Investment protection
- Upgrade planning
- Cost management
- Release management
This model works in favor of the customer, the partner and vendors. Customers have a clear commercial model that is aligned with the line of business buyers, and access to innovations (whether they are software or hardware, cloud or on-prem) built into the agreement. Partners and vendors have a smaller number of releases and versions in the field to manage and can therefore drive innovations much more rapidly – a win-win.
From a Cisco perspective the focus on flexibility is central to our strategy – we believe that successful collaboration, a solution that can transform businesses and the working life of the individuals in those businesses, can be delivered without restrictions on quality, experience, or reach and enable us to accelerate the roll out of key innovations.