Cisco, Salesforce Partner on IoT, Cloud, Collaboration

The alliance with Salesforce is another example of Cisco's strategy to use partnerships with other top-tier vendors in its push into growing markets.

Cisco partnership

Cisco Systems is continuing to turn to partnerships with other top-tier tech vendors as a way to expand into emerging growth areas like the internet of things, the cloud and network virtualization with a new alliance with cloud-based enterprise-software giant

Officials with the two companies on Sept. 22 announced a partnership that will include integrating various products to give enterprises the tools to drive employee productivity through greater collaboration capabilities, improved customer service and enhanced cloud services.

The alliance also will help both companies grow their presence in a crowded cloud market that includes such large vendors as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google and a resource-rich Oracle, which is making the cloud a cornerstone of its business plan moving forward.

Cisco and Salesforce officials are looking to make it easier for workers to leverage an array of technologies that will make them more productive. On the collaboration front, the companies will natively integrate Cisco's Spark communications platform and WebEx online collaboration product into Salesforce's Sales Cloud and Service Cloud. The integration will be done through Salesforce's Lightning Framework and will enable joint customers to communicate using such tools as chat, video conferencing and voice calls without having to leave their Salesforce environment or to install a plug-in.

The customers won't have to toggle between apps to collaborate, officials said.

"Our goal is for technology to fade into the background so people can get their best work done," Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's IoT and Applications groups, said in a statement, adding that the alliance with Salesforce "can eliminate the friction users experience today so they can become more productive."

The integrations will extend to the cloud as well. The vendors will integrate Cisco's IoT platform—which Cisco inherited earlier this year when it spent $1.4 billion to buy Jasper Technologies, whose technology made it easier for enterprises to connect their products via the cloud—with the Salesforce IoT Cloud. Through the integration, customers will get a more comprehensive and intelligent view of their IoT services, with Jasper providing real-time visibility into managing and monetizing IoT devices throughout their life cycles and Salesforce's IoT Cloud connecting billions of IoT events and the company.

Data will be able to seamlessly pass between Jasper-managed IoT devices and the Salesforce cloud, they said.

The two companies also are targeting customer services, integrating Cisco's Unified Contact Center Enterprise for contact routing, call treatment and network-to-desktop computer telephony integration with Salesforce's Service Cloud customer service application.

The partnership will "simplify the customer experience across sales, service and IoT and empower our mutual customers to be far more productive," Ryan Aytay, executive vice president of strategic product alliances at Salesforce, said in a statement.

The alliance between the two companies is the latest example of Cisco's newfound interest under CEO Chuck Robbins to partner with other vendors rather than try to do everything on its own, according to Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research.

"The digital era is shaking up almost every industry, and businesses do need to move faster to maintain a leadership position," Kerravala wrote in a post on the No Jitter blog site. "Cisco has been aggressive with taking partnerships to the next level. The partnership with Salesforce brings together the #1 collaboration vendor with the #1 CRM vendor, and can provide joint customers with new ways of collaborating, servicing customers, and gaining new insights through the analysis of IoT data."

It follows an array of other partnerships Cisco has entered into over the past year, most notably with Apple and Ericsson. Cisco and Apple last year announced an alliance to bring Cisco's networking and collaboration technologies to Apple devices and software based on the iOS mobile operating system to enhance how iPhone and iPad users could communicate. The first results were put on display with the release earlier this month of Apple's iOS 10.

Cisco and Ericsson last year announced they were teaming up to push into a number of markets, including the IoT, software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV). Officials for the companies said the alliance could mean as much as $1 billion to each vendor by 2018.