If there’s one thing I can say about the Collaboration Technology Group (CTG), it’s that no one ever seems to sit still. There’s always something new coming along, in the works, and on the roadmap. And with multiple product areas coming together within CTG, it may sometimes feel like a blizzard. On the surface, it may seem like an avalanche of new stuff — but that’s what a “continuous delivery” model provides.

Everything we do is about continual evolution. When it comes down to it, product release cycles are becoming, well, less cyclical. Our product teams are doing two things that combine to drive the increase in our product delivery velocity:

  • Using agile methodologies in development
  • Taking a platform first vs. a product first approach

We told you we’d be delivering more, faster and sooner. We told you we’d be opening up partnership opportunities like you’d never seen before. And we are.

We’ve fundamentally changed our delivery models, the pace of development, and the ability to provide you with greater benefits. Our focus hasn’t changed: Everything we do comes together under simplifying communication, making it more intelligent and intuitive so that you can focus on your business.

So in case you’ve missed anything in the flurry of new things over the past couple months, here’s a recap:

Collaboration with Industry Peers

APIs provide a long list of benefits for product integration, whether it’s a quick custom connection or something more. Cloud-based APIs allow us to work with our industry peers to deliver connections with their products so quickly. Two recent examples are IBM and Apple.

Intelligent Collaboration with IBM: Cisco and IBM are working together, putting our collective expertise toward enhancing collaboration. How? By integrating your business conversations across all channels. We’re working to connect our collaboration and productivity technology while adding the cognitive intelligence of Watson.

Together, IBM and Cisco are building an open, integrated platform using the power of open cloud to bring together key applications. This will capture and understand far more than just documents, leveraging Watson to analyze unstructured data, content, and workflows.

Read more from Jens Meggers  and others to find out how IBM and Cisco are teaming up on cloud collaboration and communications tools.

Improved Business Experiences with Apple: We’ve been working closely with Apple since we announced our relationship last year. With the introduction of iOS 10, Apple announced great possibilities with the integration of new capabilities and APIs. Now with iOS 10, we can share some of what we’ve been doing to improve the business experience:

  • Optimized how iPhone and iPad communicate with Cisco wireless networks to connect by default and improve performance of apps, especially real-time apps
  • Created a “fast lane” that lets your IT team prioritize business-critical apps on the network
  • Brought VoIP to the iPhone and iPad. With Cisco Spark app installed on iOS 10, you’ll be able to tap a contact in your address book and instantly make a VoIP call without needing to take extra steps.

Learn more from Rowan Trollope and others about how Cisco is working with Apple to fast-track the mobile enterprise.

Spark Here, There, and Everywhere

From the new Teams feature to the expanded API set – and everything in between – Cisco Spark is a great example of our commitment to continuous development. With collaboration as important as it is to your business, it makes a lot more sense to make features available as soon as they’re out of the oven. (Much like chocolate-chip cookies, you’d rather not wait for someone else to decide when you can have them.)

Teams: The new Teams feature in addresses three of the biggest requests we’ve had from users of Cisco Spark:

  • “How do I find rooms to get added to?”
  • “How do I find people to talk to?”
  • “Can you create a way to organize my rooms?”

Anyone can create a team and then add users to it. A team can have any number of topic-specific rooms used by that team. And anyone in a team can create these “team rooms.” As a team member, I can easily see all the team rooms, check them out, and join or leave them at will. The moment a new user launches the app, they immediately discover their teammates and relevant discussions.

APIs: Cisco Spark APIs and SDKs give developers tools to transform collaboration experiences to integrate, extend, and customize those experiences. The evolution here is pretty constant, but some of the latest additions and updates include:

  • People API updates let you dynamically create a new user in Unified Communications Manager
  • Updates to the Messages API provide new Markdown support for message formatting and ability to upload local files
  • A new Teams API automates the creation of teams and provisioning rooms for teams, essentially giving you a new way to onboard users.

Cloud Video Expansion: Enable video conferencing in rooms of all sizes without infrastructure investment. Paid Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark customers can now enable virtually the entire video room system portfolio (SX, DX, and MX Series endpoints) to register to Cisco Spark, making it easier and more cost-effective to experience pervasive video. Current availability now extends to customers in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Availability in other countries rolls out over the next year.

On-Premises Portfolio Updates

Cisco Collaboration Systems Release 11.5 is evidence of that constant evolution, delivering many new and improved features in three primary areas:

  • Enhanced Security and Compliance: Safeguard assets while complying with regulations.
  • Improved Administrator and User Experience: Reduce time to deploy, manage, and operate.
  • Extended Collaboration: Incorporate cloud-delivered services and enable collaboration beyond organizational boundaries.

The benefits of Release 11.5 show up in multiple products across the unified communications portfolio. For example, Cisco Prime Collaboration combines essential monitoring and analytics capabilities – and comes preloaded on Business Edition 6000 and Business Edition 7000 packaged solutions.

For more detail, read “Improving Premises-based Collaboration while Embracing Cloud.”

Enhancements to Cisco VCS and Cisco Expressway build in support for Spark Hybrid Services and improve interoperability in mixed environments, including Microsoft Lync and Microsoft Skype. Meanwhile, Hybrid Services connect Cisco Spark with Cisco Expressway, which gives you the best of cloud and on-premises deployment.

Collaboration Endpoint Software 8.2 accelerates Cisco Spark registration and feature consistency across room and desktop video endpoints, among other enhancements. Key features of CE 8.2 include:

  • Cisco Spark registration across MX Series, SX Series, DX70, and DX80 endpoints
  • Collaboration Endpoint software extends to DX70 and DX80 endpoints
  • SX10 support for H.323 protocol
  • Enhancements to ease administrator functions

What’s Next?

Get used to the new pace. Keep an eye out for announcements – big ones and smaller ones. Continuous development and release also yield unexpected benefits along the way. So remember, as a certain executive might say, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Watch the Collaboration Innovation Talk with Rowan Trollope, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Jens Meggers, live from Cisco Live on Thursday, July 14, at 9 a.m. Join us in person or watch online.




Kim Austin

No Longer with Cisco