A Brief History of Cloud Collaboration
This is part of a blog series on the evolution of the Cisco Collaboration Cloud platform, which explores the technical and design principles behind its unique architecture.
I came to Cisco with the idea that, in many ways, enterprise communications technology had fallen behind consumer technology. And that we could apply to enterprise communications much of what the industry had learned in the mobile cloud revolution.
So it’s no surprise that I believed the next generation of business communications technology would be powered by the cloud, delivered on mobile devices and browsers, and used in larger settings (like conference rooms) through group systems.
The first thing we did as a team was define the “ultimate experience.” We assembled a small group of really smart people from around the world who had invented many of the collaboration technologies we all rely on today. We asked them to dream and dream big! From that dreaming, we created a vision of the future experience we could aim towards.
Assembling the Pieces
The missing piece of the puzzle was a cloud platform to power this next-generation experience. Just one minor catch: The cloud platform we needed simply didn’t exist, though many companies had built pieces and parts. WebEx had web conferencing to which it later added video. A handful of startups had video calling and bridges in the cloud. Some companies had cloud-based telephony systems. And others had even built closed networks to deliver 1:1 and small group video conferencing in the cloud.
To complicate things further, no one had a solid idea of how to build the platform we needed.
So, we found them. We brought in some brilliant individuals to formulate ideas on a new approach. Enter Jonathan Rosenberg, who I hired from his previous role as the CTO at Skype.
Jonathan and I made a pact that our mission in life would be: To revolutionize enterprise communication technology through the cloud.
In my last post I explained how we set about to build this cloud with the most modern technologies.
The Beginnings of SaaS
We realized that the fundamental cloud architecture used by virtually every modern born-on-the-web company worldwide was using to deliver software-as-a-service (SaaS) wasn’t good enough.
Why wouldn’t it work? To explain, let me briefly recap the history of cloud architectures.
The first incarnations of cloud architecture were pioneered by companies like Salesforce.com. For simplicity sake, you could think about this architecture as a single-instance, multi-tenant service delivered from multiple, globally- available data centers.
As companies began to build new services using this design pattern, they quickly encountered a design limitation of latency and response times.
For example, it may be okay to wait for a web page to load. If you apply this same architecture to real-time capabilities like video, the quality of the experience quickly erodes. Look no further than consumer video-calling services delivered with “best-effort” quality, which often is not very good. That’s okay for cheap or free services, but what if you wanted to deliver higher quality and more reliability for businesses? For us, the end-user experience was critically important.
Our team recognized the benefits of a true cloud architecture. But we needed to solve the reliability and quality issues.
To offer a real-time communications cloud for business, we also had to solve for security and compliance issues. We had to consider that government-regulated entities may need to keep voice and video traffic within national boundaries. Or healthcare organizations may have to keep customer information on-prem.
Thanks to a lot of hard work and some truly innovative thinking, we overcame all these challenges.
Next in the series from Jens Meggers: How we designed our cloud platform to deliver the awesome user experience people expect today.
At the Cisco Collaboration Summit, we will share all the details of how we have achieved this feat. Please join us for the keynote to hear from myself and Collaboration CTO Jonathan Rosenberg. Register today and watch on December 8 at 9:00 a.m. PST.