Clouds and Sun in Miami – Cisco Collaboration Summit 2011

In my ‘Happy Birthday, Cisco TelePresence’ blog last month, I wrote about the latest and greatest Telepresence offerings Cisco introduced near the five-year anniversary of the birth of the first TelePresence product. To recap, the first two parts of the announcement were a vertical market application for healthcare called Cisco VX-Clinical Assistant, a number of new TelePresence endpoints, including the Cisco JabberTM Video for TelePresence; a standards-based, HD video-calling software application that allows participants to join TelePresence calls from their desktop PCs or laptops, and Cisco TelePresence MX300; Cisco’s newest multi-purpose, room-based TelePresence system, that supports nine people in a room.

The third part of last month’s announcement was the extension of TelePresence into the SMB market with the introduction of Cisco TelePresence Callway, a hosted service that is part of the Cisco Collaboration Cloud. Even though Cisco talked about how the four pillars are mobile, social, visual and virtual, the combination of video and the cloud were the two central themes I took away from annual Cisco Collaboration Summit, held last week in Miami, Florida.

Murali Sitaram, VP /GM of the Collaboration Software Group, gave a presentation on “Cloud Collaboration in the Post PC-Era”. Snorre Kjesbu, VP/GM of the TelePresence Technology Group, and Hakon Dahle, VP/CTO of the TelePresence Technology Group presented “Delivering on the Promise of Video Everywhere”.  We also listened to a very entertaining panel of Cisco executives talk about “Managing and Securing Collaboration in the Cloud”, as well, backed up by a breakout session on “The New Role of Video”, with multiple executives fielding our questions.

Barry O’Sullivan, Senior VP/GM of the Collaboration and Communication Group, started off the summit by talking about the cloud, and stated that WebEx is now the second largest business SaaS application out there with 500M users. Barry then spoke about the announcement of the next generation of WebEx, which extends the experience of the meeting to before and after the meeting. The idea is that users do work before and after meetings, related to those meetings, and this work would be far more effective and efficient, if attendees could have a persistent meeting space where they could file share documents from a desktop or file store, to get ready for the meeting, and leave that meeting “essentially open” for any updates after the meeting.

In Murali’s presentation he outlined a vision of how users collaborate now that we have so many device options and collaboration tools other than just our desktop. As he put it, “we consume experiences, documents, etc. and we do it across multiple devices. The cloud fundamentally enables this world that we live in, which is mobile, social, visual and virtual. The user device is like a piece of glass with the intelligence higher up.” So following up on this concept of a persistent meeting, the idea is to make meetings more expressive and meaningful.  There is knowledge in each meeting that needs to be conveyed to the next one.  With a persistent meeting space you can prepare by scheduling, posting the agenda and meeting materials, meet through video and sharing, on the device of your choice, and then follow up by sharing, continuing the discussion, watching recordings and tracking progress.

We also heard and saw a lot on Cisco Quad, and using Quad to create neighborhoods where employees can work. One demo showed how a vendor could collaborate using WebEx, and we were shown how Cisco has worked on getting the user interface between the Quad and WebEx to look very similar, including sharing a common activity stream. There is also now a history feed in the activity stream, added through the assets brought in from Cisco’s acquisition of Versely. In addition to the history feed, the demo also showed a widget that allows a pop up for an approval on part of the project, chat to get project approval, and then a video popped up via Callway. An additional party was using Telepresence through VXE, and another one was brought in using Jabber client on an iPad.

It is hard to encapsulate two days of Cisco collaboration into a few paragraphs. I’ll just say that from where Cisco was five years ago with the introduction of TelePresence, to the variety of tools and applications in collaboration, including video, that they now have available for users of all company sizes and types, and how they are integrating them, and delivering them is truly impressive.

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