This is part of a series on the evolution of the Cisco Collaboration Cloud platform, exploring the technical and design principles behind its unique architecture.

In the last post in this series, Jens Meggers talked about the huge importance of user experience, and how essential it is to simplify, connect, and delight. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is increasingly essential to delivering those three ingredients.

A true SaaS platform can provide continuous delivery, enabling rapid updates of software to make constant improvements on those ingredients. It also enables A/B testing and metrics-driven software development, which can ensure that the product is in fact delivering a great user experience.

The problem is that all of that works fine and well for companies that can get a complete collaboration solution from the cloud. But – the reality is – these types of greenfield environments are not all that common. Most companies have a huge amount of on-premises software. In fact, most of them have a huge amount of on-premises software that provides collaboration functionality. IP PBXs (like our own Unified Communications Manager), email servers, corporate directories – these all exist en-masse on-prem. And for many companies, these products work and work well, with quite a bit of life left in them. Consequently, even for a company that is excited about the user experience that SaaS can deliver, it’s not clear how to get there because they aren’t greenfield.

For us, this was the most important architectural and product problem we had to solve. How can we deliver this fantastic user experience that Jens talked about – which really requires true SaaS – while at the same time work with the premises software products that companies already have?

This is where hybrid services come in. Hybrid cloud is a heavily used buzzword in the industry today, and it means many different things. For some, it refers to the ability to have a private compute cloud on-premises, and easily migrate existing IT applications from that private data center to a public compute cloud. For others – especially application providers – it refers to the ability of a customer to buy service and obtain it by either installing premises software, or consuming it via SaaS. For us, we believe hybrid is the ability to combine SaaS services with premise software, and use each for what they are really good at. And, in the combination, deliver something unique.

This is exactly what we’ve been working on in the Cisco Collaboration Cloud. SaaS is awesome for rapid updates, great user experience, mobility, and web services. Premises-based is good for highly reliable enterprise applications like call control, email, calendar, and directory, which have been in use for years. The trick is how to combine them so that you can keep that stuff you have today and use it for what it’s good at, and then *add* SaaS services that combine with them to do something new.  This is more than just sweating legacy assets: This is actually about building upon what you already have to create entirely new experiences with the addition of cloud.

In just a few weeks at the Cisco Collaboration Summit, we’ll talk a lot more about this topic and you’ll hear some important announcements from us in this space.


Jonathan Rosenberg

Cisco Fellow and Vice President

CTO for Cisco's Collaboration Business