IBM, Cisco Partner to Deliver Cognitive-Infused Collaboration Stack
Broadly speaking, the Watson capabilities can be classified in two ways: to provide more of an action-oriented decision support role and to provide a knowledge-oriented access-to-information role, Brill said. "There's a whole set of bots and APIs that will be available to the service for users to tap into," he noted. For instance, two doctors in an e-meeting together, wherein one might be looking at a patient and another is consulting with the other remotely, could tap into the Watson bots for knowledge and information that would support the decision they're trying to make about a particular diagnosis. "Today that information is either not easily consumed or requires them to leave the context of the environment they're working in and go look it up somewhere else," Brill said.IBM watcher Rob Enderle, founder of the Enderle Group, noted that with a partnership between giants it is almost impossible to initially tell who benefits more. "Given both companies are also partnered with Apple, but in kind of competitive roles, getting this partnership to work out will be difficult and there are lots of conflicts between the firms now," Enderle told eWEEK. He said he expects this will be more of a cross-firm bundled product effort than a long-term strategic partnership. It serves both firms to showcase they are willing to partner to further their social collaboration efforts, which should strengthen these efforts. "Both firms are experienced in partnering with competitors successfully as well, so while I don't expect this partnership to be that deep, it should be relatively long-lasting and it is more likely to meet its sales goals than similar partnerships between firms, like HPE, that aren't good at making complex relationships work," he added. Brill said IBM realizes Cisco has a well-developed channel of partners that sell their solutions and have not had the opportunity to sell a collaborative stack, especially with an email engine. "So we think that's a whole new route to market, especially for small and midsize businesses, he said. The partnership also provides greater viability for the IBM Connections Cloud solution because now it's not just IBM standing behind it, but IBM and Cisco together. Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, agrees that the partnership will benefit both companies. "IBM has long been a smaller player—compared to Microsoft—in collaboration solutions and services, so integrating Cisco's popular WebEx and Spark solutions should help increase the satisfaction and retention of its customers," King said. Similarly, the deal should open doors—or open them wider—to Cisco among deep-pocketed enterprise customers, he added. And if the cognitive features IBM talks about deliver what the company promises, the results should be even better, King said. "At Cisco, we are constantly innovating to improve the collaboration experience and there has never been a better time to take our offerings to the next level," said Jens Meggers, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco Cloud Collaboration Technology, in a statement. "That's our goal here—to think exponentially and together with IBM create the next generation of collaboration."
IBM has entered into a number of partnerships with other major players that not enhance IBM's offerings, but also enriches opportunities for IBM's partners. The IBM partnership with Apple is a prime example of this, in which IBM has developed more than 100 IBM MobileFirst for iOS applications.