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Cisco Spark and Webex Platform Convergence: More than a Rebrand

- April 18, 2018 - 39 Comments

This week at Cisco’s Collaboration Summit in Phoenix, we made a series of significant announcements regarding the convergence of the Cisco Webex and Spark platforms. This included a new Webex Meetings application, a new Webex Teams application (formerly known as Cisco Spark), the new Webex Assistant, and the Webex Share hardware device.

Watch a quick overview of our announcements and customer reactions to the new stuff.

The convergence of the Webex and Spark platforms is far more than just a rebrand. Significant technical work has gone into combining these platforms, and I wanted to highlight several of the key customer benefits that come as a result.

Spark Meetings are dead. Long live Webex meetings.

Prior to this convergence, we had Cisco Spark with its own type of meeting – the Spark meeting, but we still had Webex with its own Webex meetings. Users could join Cisco Spark meetings only from the Cisco Spark app, and Webex meetings from the Webex app. Users could join Webex meetings from Cisco Spark if they were clever, but they did not get any of the critical meetings features. With this convergence – it’s all simplified. Everything is a Webex meeting, with a common set of features – roster, meeting controls, PSTN connectivity, and so on. All Webex meetings are joinable from either the Webex Meetings application or the Webex Teams application. Webex Teams supports a new type of meeting, called a Webex team meeting, which takes advantage of the participants in a space to provide a highly secure easy to use new type of Webex meeting – the team meeting.

The Webex backbone network now powers all meetings.

Prior to this convergence work, both Webex and Cisco Spark had meetings capabilities, but they were quite disparate. Even in the back end, Webex meetings were supported by servers sitting in the Webex data centers, and interconnected with the powerful Webex backbone IP network. This IP network provides global transport between customer ISPs and our meeting servers, optimizing for video quality. Cisco Spark meetings were powered by servers in public clouds, and weren’t making use of the Webex backbone.

Now, with this convergence, the Webex backbone is used for all meetings, regardless of whether they are joined from the Webex Meetings app or the Webex Teams app. We have meeting servers in both public clouds and in our own data centers. The Webex backbone interconnects with both of them. This means that customers get the best quality, lowest latency experience possible. This is particularly important for video, since the Webex backbone was purpose built for video meetings.

Control Hub gains powerful features for Webex analytics and troubleshooting.

Prior to this convergence, the Cisco Spark management tool – Control Hub – provided some basic analytics for Cisco Spark. Webex customers used a different tool – the site admin – and had a good set of analytics capabilities there. With this platform convergence, the Control Hub now supports customers using both Webex Meetings and Webex Teams, and its analytics functions for Webex Meetings have taken a significant jump forward.

Hybrid Media Services is now called Video Mesh – and works for all Webex meetings.

Prior to this convergence work, Cisco Spark had an amazing capability called hybrid media service. This service allowed a customer to deploy servers on premise which could be used for the audio, video and content share streams for Cisco Spark meetings. But, they worked only for Cisco Spark meetings. With this convergence, these hybrid media nodes can now be used for any Webex meeting type – regular Webex meetings, PMR meetings, and Team meetings.

Users joining those meetings from SIP endpoints, our cloud connected video endpoints, or the Webex Teams app, will connect to these media nodes when joining any of those meetings. With this convergence, we’re also renaming hybrid media services to video mesh, in recognition of the truly disruptive and now broad applicability of this capability.

The industry’s first secure multi-company Collaboration solution.

Specific to Webex Teams, the backend convergence has enabled us to deliver this industry first.  It is increasingly common to work outside the boundaries of your company, and our competitors solve for this by allowing guest accounts to be created on their team collaboration instance in the cloud. End users need to ask for administrator intervention to create guest accounts, they need to maintain multiple accounts, and they need to log in and out of the app when they want to collaborate outside of their company. This is a huge pain, but it also creates a huge security risk. Guest accounts enable users to share information outside of their company in a way that cannot be tracked by compliance tools. This means that an employee can accidentally – or purposefully – share confidential information outside the company, and the company won’t be aware of it, and won’t be able to take steps to remove the leak.

We have solved this problem with Webex Teams. All Webex Teams users reside in a single, shared cloud instance – each with just a single account. There are no guest accounts. B2B collaboration is built in so users can work with everyone, both inside and outside of the company, from the same application, without asking their IT guy for help. In addition, this means that each company can make sure that their employees don’t share confidential information outside of the company, and if they do, it can be detected and remediated. Webex is the industry’s first Team Collaboration solution to deliver secure multicompany collaboration.

As you can see, the convergence of Cisco Spark and Webex is not just skin deep – it goes to the platform level and brings an amazing set of benefits to our customers.

 

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39 Comments

    Everyone knows WebEx in the market. All cloud based collaboration solution should be under WebEx brand.

    Hi Jonathan, I have watched the entire keynote from the 2018 Collaboration Summit and I must say that the demos and announcements are amazing. Your explanation on some of the technical aspects iss especially good. With this new launch, what is the difference between WebEx Meetings/Teams and the Cisco Meeting Server? I noticed that you can use the DX series and MX series endpoints to dial into a WebEx meeting for video but can the same not be done with other endpoints such as SX, C, MXP series? Maybe I'm missing something here but if you could provide some insight on this, that would be great! Thanks!

  1. Is the new brand Logo also planned ?

  2. Is this related to Microsoft Teams?

  3. Great new features !

  4. I'm a huge fan of Cisco, I'm in school for wireless info systems and networking support. Hope to be apart of a leader in technological advancements one day. Being a part of a team developing software like this, something that enhance ours lives and makes our work easier is a great and rewarding aspiration. Hope to work with you all in the near future.

  5. That will be a streamlined product with a very high expectation regarding experiences of the users. I am looking forward to test it.

    Is there any plan to combine Jabber into the Webex Teams app so we have one less client? or provide IM&P (including third party federation) in Webex Teams?

  6. I assume most of the re branding and changes will be for the WebEx could services, will there be any of this convergence changes to WebEx On-Prem?

  7. So you can join webex meetings in both application? Will you still get pop-ups from both application(Webex meetings & Webex Teams) to join the same meeting?

      You can join Webex meetings from either the Webex Teams app, or the Webex Meetings app. Notification popups are generated by the Webex Teams app; note well that since today Webex is not a persistent desktop app it doesnt generate its own notifications. These come from Jabber. Those notifications can be disabled from settings.

  8. Combining the two platforms is a good step. We have several customers getting confused on using so many platforms/applications and requiring to log in multiple times (hopefully the new WebEx Team app will be rich enough)

    Webex is good but I would like to see Spark as a separate SaaS and beat Slack and Microsoft Teams with more features, becoming a leader in the markets of group collaboration tools and hosted PBX services for SMB customers. To me as a Cisco partner, I cannot position and sell Spark as the next generation of collaboration tool/app anymore. Webex has been perceived as a web meeting player similar to BlueJean, GoToMeeting or something similar. I am so disappointed that Cisco killed the chance to become a new leader in the group collaboration tools market. Spark to be integrated into Webex will not work anyway because group collaboration is not just what Webex is providing. So far we are able to sell Spark to SMB customers with all they want - group collaboration, video conferencing, hosted phone system, customer care, etc - a perfect alternative to BE6K with Jabber, Expressway and Telepresence. And When they need more sophisticated web meeting, we sell one or two Webex subscriptions to be shared. I can't see anything wrong with Spark's market positioning. If the re-branding is more to the platform level, let's see how it goes. Right now in the corporate group collaboration app market, Microsoft SFB as a leader together with Google hangout and Slack account for 65% of market share. When the collaboration is moving from the phone to app, it's imperative Cisco to become a lead in this market.

      well asked!!

      Thanks for your feedback. We really want our partners to come with us on this journey. We had a challenge here either way. If we kept the Spark brand, our challenge is to grow recognition. If we go with Webex, our challenge is to expand brand association beyond meetings. It is our view that the barriers are lower for the latter. And, using the Webex brand allows us to make it clear to our large Webex install base that this product works with what they have.

  9. When is this being rolled out?

      Roll out begins in May.

  10. Could you please elaborate on "There are no guest accounts."?

      Cisco Spark <ahem> I mean Webex Teams does not have the notion of a separate guest account. All users have a single account associated with their email address, and using that account can communicate with any other user in the entire Webex Teams universe. THe best way to understand it is by analogy to consumer products like twitter. As a user you have a single twitter handle; anyone in the world can follow your or DM you as long as they know it. It works like that in Webex Teams.

  11. The third product that you showed on stage yesterday was Webex Call (powered by BroadSoft). Can you explain how this will fit into the Webex Meetings and Webex Teams products? Is it an integrated experience?

    Control Hub gains powerful features for Webex analytics will be a feature but again looks like cisco is competing with Microsoft for names.

      We're seeing the market move towards the term 'team collaboration' to describe this category, so we felt it made a lot of sense, and simplified things, to use Webex Teams. Its similar to what we saw in the prior generation - "Messenger" was a generic term and each company had their version - AOL Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, Windows Messenger, and we still have Webex Messenger. "Team" is a generic term, and its becoming the way people understand the value of this type of tool.

  12. How original! I'm a big Cisco and Webex fan, however why would you so blatantly copy Microsoft and rebrand it as Teams? We all get teams is a generic word, however this is so unoriginal and lacks innovation from a company like Cisco. Unless your plan is to create some confusion and chaos in the market deliberately.

      Innovation in the product. Simplicity in the name.

    Love the board and the room kits, only real niggle is not being able to share the camera when running up to S4B, this doesn't move us any closer but it does hopefully remove one less icon on the desktop and calls to service desk asking which solution to use.

  13. This was the obvious next move, great for the user experience and I thin that Webex is a better brand. Great Team !

  14. The multi-company collaboration does seem to provide a competitive advantage over Microsoft Teams. However, your not accurately representing the experience of Microsoft Teams. For example, it's not necessary to involve an IT guy to add a guest user in Microsoft Teams.

      Tom - great observation that my comments during keynote arent about MS Teams. They were directed at a mix of Slack and MS Teams - can only do so much in a keynote so I spoke about them in a general sense together. In Slack, only the admin can add guest users to a team, and thus they suffer the challenges I outlined.

    I imagine Spark Boards will receive firmware or other updates to leverage WebEx convergence, looking forward to it (the best of everything)!

      Yes, thats the power of the cloud.

    It was a big question for years a go? What is the future of webex after spark get mature? it seems that the webex not only is strong enough to survive but also it became the backbone of meeting, conferencing and other parts of Cisco collaboration.

    Finally the 2 great apps combined, lookin' forward!

  15. This simplifies a lot for Customers. Great Article.

  16. This is good. I thought that the Spark moniker was confusing to customers. What does this mean for customers who recently bought Spark licenses? Will they be offered a free transition?

      No transition is required - our licenses entitled users to both apps, and they still do. All that changes is new features and new branding as these apps auto-update as normal.

  17. Hi Team Excellent news. What is the impact on the cost of the product and how do I merge my existing WebEx and Spark Accounts? Thx and Have a great day! Kind Rgds Roger Sydney, Australia.

    • Can't wait to watch the keynote this morning. Can I say thank you, and "Finally" in regards to the Webex Share hardware device. There's been a gap that needed closing, and this is a step in the right direction. An audio+share (no cameras) codec would also be a great addition to the portfolio. Steps in the right direction.

      There is no cost increase associated with this, no changes in licensing or anything like that. The new linking capability, which enables yoru existing Webex users to get Webex Teams, will have online documention to explain how it works. The feature has just recently GAd.

      • One catch, you must be WebEx annuity. Existing non-spark enabled WebEx customers are not eligible.