Everyone wants choice, and software customers are no exception. Software vendors have traditionally offered different versions of their applications, with labels like Deluxe or Premier, to distinguish what type of functionality is included.

Another area where vendors are increasingly providing customers with a new type of choice is where to deploy their software. Traditionally, customers deployed software within their premises or with a partner/outsourcer in a hosted model. However, as public cloud delivery models have moved mainstream, customers are increasing moving to SaaS deployment. According to Cisco Research, 56% of cloud workloads will be in public (vs. private) cloud data centers by 2019.

The challenge for many customers is that they have already made large investments in on-premises technology and want to continue leveraging these. New customers may not be ready for “cloud-only” deployment across their entire infrastructure. This has given rise to hybrid deployments, where customers consume some services via the cloud and others on-premise. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, hybrid will be the most common cloud deployment choice.

Once again, customers want choice. This time in where to deploy their software – either on-premise or via the cloud. This results in a question for vendors: How can a single offer give customers the flexibility to deploy either way?

Companies have approached this different ways. Microsoft, for example, has had a large installed base of on-premise Exchange customers. While Office 365 includes Exchange in a SaaS model, most customers already had Exchange on-premise. To help facilitate the transition, Microsoft provided their Office 365 cloud-based users with rights similar to those offered through their on-premise Client Access Licenses, eliminating the customer’s need to pay for both. This helped fuel the growth of Office 365.

Just because the software can be deployed either on-premise or in the cloud, doesn’t mean that there is seamless interoperability between the two. While the customer has investment protection, migrating users likely requires a project, especially for complex environments.

Within Cisco, we’re providing customers with deployment flexibility, in software subscriptions that enable customers to deploy software on-premises, in the cloud, or across; and the freedom to move between deployment models as necessary. We’re rolling out this Flex Plan capability across the portfolio.

One example is Cisco Spark Flex Plan, where customers have the choice to deploy meeting capabilities either using cloud-based Spark Meetings or the on-premise Meeting Server. Similarly, customers can conduct phone calls using the cloud-based Spark Call or on-premise Unified Communications Manager.

Similarly, Cisco Hybrid Email Security, offers customers the option to run the on-premise Cisco Email Security Appliance or access that functionality via the Cisco Cloud Email Security service. Additionally, they can shift users across these two deployment models at any time.

Not only does this allow customers the flexibility to choose the deployment model that fits their business, it allows them control the pace of their journey to the cloud.

Going forward, we’ll be providing this Flex Plan model across more of our portfolio as we release new cloud-based software. We think it’s going to be a hit. Let us know if you think this approach hits the mark!


Dan Lohmeyer

Vice President

Product Management