Cisco Puts Social Media, Consumer Tech into Enterprise Collaboration

Cisco is unveiling a host of enterprise collaboration products that take advantage of social networking and consumer technologies to expand enterprise communications capabilities. The offerings include the Quad collaboration platform and a prosumer version of the Flip video camera. Cisco will demonstrate some of the products at the Enterprise 2.0 show in Boston.

Cisco Systems is drawing on social networking and consumer technologies to help businesses improve their collaboration capabilities.

Cisco on June 11 unveiled a host of new offerings, led by the much-discussed Quad collaboration platform, which are designed to enable employees to more easily connect with people, access and share content, and improve productivity.

In a TelePresence conference with journalists and analysts June 7, Cisco officials said communications offerings until now have been housed in silos such as voice and video. Given the increasing demand for multiple communication channels in enterprises, that has to change, said Murali Sitaram, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Enterprise Collaboration Platform Group.

"These silos have to be broken down and [the communications technologies] put onto one platform," Sitaram said.

Irwin Lazar, an analyst with Nemertes Research and the moderator of the panel discussion on the TelePresence conference, said businesses are showing an increasing interest in transferring the communications capabilities inherent in social media sites such as Facebook and MySpace into the business environment. However, the issues of security and management have to be addressed, Lazar said.

"We're seeing a lot of companies being a lot more serious about putting together collaboration [environments] that go beyond the silos of audio and video," Lazar said.

That includes integrating consumer products-Skype's VOIP (voice over IP) service, Apple's iPad tablet PC and Cisco's Flip personal video camera, to name a few-into the workplace.

"The line between consumer products and [the enterprise] is blurring a bit," Lazar said.

Cisco officials said Quad is a perfect example of that. The enterprise collaboration platform will combine asynchronous communications technologies-e-mail, microblogging, updates-and marry them with more real-time tools like live video conferencing.

Quad will feature a landing page called MyView, which can be customized and lets users view the people and projects they're following, check their calendar, keep tabs on communities and activities they're involved in, and communicate in multiple ways, including instant messaging, e-mail and video conferencing.

Cisco also is bringing enterprise-level management and security into the mix, including integration with Cisco's Enterprise Policy Manager offering. Security features include rules-based policies, encryption for communications and the ability to manage restricted and private communities.

In addition, Quad will support integration with business tools like Microsoft SharePoint and Exchange and EMC's Documentum, and will include Cisco's own collaboration products, including Cisco Unified Communications offerings, WebEx conferencing, and Show and Share social video technology.

In addition, Cisco will offer Mobile Quad applications for the Apple iPad and iPhone to enable remote employees to communicate with their colleagues.

Cisco plans to demonstrate Quad at the Enterprise 2.0 conference held June 14 to 17 in Boston. The platform will be released later in 2010.

In addition to Quad, Cisco will roll out a Prosumer Video solution that includes a business-class version of its Flip video camera-called the Flip MinoPro-and a new online video workspace, dubbed FocalPoint, that will offer cloud-based management, sharing and editing capabilities. FocalPoint will give businesses a private and secure video platform through adoption of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) technologies.

The Prosumer Video solution will be available in August.

"We're leveraging these [consumer] technologies and creating new products ... to solve enterprise problems," Paul Fulton, general manager of Cisco's Prosumer Business Unit, said during the TelePresence conference.

The Prosumer Business Unit was built to address the intersection of consumer and enterprise technology, and the Flip video camera is a perfect example, Fulton said.

"We found that consumers bought these cameras and brought them into the workplace," he said.

Procter & Gamble executives use Flip cameras to send out messages, and CNN has used them to send images from disaster areas such as Haiti after the January earthquake.

Cisco also unveiled WebEx Connect 6.5, its enterprise IM product, which now lets users access their contact lists and send messages through a browser-based IM client. It also is localized for French, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese, and businesses can use server-side capabilities to capture logs of IM traffic for compliance requirements.

In addition, Cisco is drawing on its acquisition of Jabber in 2008 to enable businesses to add presence and chat capabilities to their applications through its AJAX XMPP library, which will help developers more easily create XMPP-enabled Web applications by supplying such tools as source code, code samples and documentation.

Cisco developers used the library to build the chat and presence capabilities in Cisco's Quad platform.