News Analysis: As eWEEK reported earlier this morning, Cisco Systems Nov. 9 jumped into the hosted e-mail and enterprise social networking arenas, challenging Google, Microsoft, IBM and a legion of smaller startups.
Cisco WebEx Mail is a hosted e-mail application that lets customers move from Microsoft Exchange but continue to access e-mail through an Outlook client if they desire.
Enterprise Collaboration Platform is a hodgepodge of tools with which companies are already familiar, including team spaces and communities, profiles, a corporate directory, and social networking tools. Cisco also unveiled a Show and Share video app and a tagging solution called Pulse.
But there are two types of new. There is new to Cisco, and new to the market. At first blush, Cisco’s new solutions appear new to Cisco, following in the hosted mail footsteps of other notable giants and in the social networking wake of a smattering of capable startups.
For example, Cisco WebEx Mail comes months after Google released Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook. This plug-in lets Microsoft Outlook users continue to access their information via the familiar Outlook interface if their companies switch to Google Apps.
Cisco is pitting Enterprise Collaboration Platform as an alternative to IBM Lotus Connections and wiki platforms from MindTouch, Socialtext, Jive Software, Awareness and others that have similar tools. Show and Share has promise, given Cisco’s enterprise video chops.
Yet Google has Google Video for businesses, and MindTouch offers an extension to Kaltura to offer video for enterprises. Pulse is nice, but IBM Lotus Connections has offered its Dogear bookmarking tool for a few years now.
So, what’s new here for Cisco, which is celebrating its collaboration portfolio at the Cisco Collaboration Summit today? eWEEK put that question to Guido Jouret, CTO of Cisco’s emerging technologies group, in a recent interview.
Jouret said that the enterprise world has been locked into a collaboration world that has been focused on documents and PCs within the confines of the company firewall. He argued that Cisco is bringing video collaboration not just to PCs, but to phones and mobile devices using telepresence between corporate firewalls.
So, while previously Cisco focused on letting employees within big businesses work together efficiently, Cisco is applying its network security provisions to its collaboration software to let colleagues, partners, suppliers and customers work together across their firewalls.
How Ciscos Solutions Are Different
Jouret told eWEEK: “If you think about all of the collaboration tools we use inside the enterprise, very few of them make it outside the firewall. At best, we can send e-mail to each other, and that’s about it.”
This “intercompany collaboration” is the theme for Cisco’s Collaboration Summit today. Jouret also defended the Pulse tagging app as original. Most tagging technologies look at corporate e-mail to chart social connections.
Pulse, he said, is a search app that analyzes network data in motion, looking at who is talking to whom to “learn the social graph” associated with corporate networks. Pulse, for example, indexes Web surfing behavior and YouTube videos and tags them based on social relevance.
“We can tag information and assign it social relevance based on the info flowing through the network,” Jouret said. “We don’t have to be in the application either on the server or on the client.”
Fair enough. So how is Show and Share different? Jouret said the app was built with enterprise scale from the start.
Unlike Google video for enterprise and others of its ilk, Show and Share is on-premises, not hosted. It also boasts several security permission levels, from department to workgroup to companywide.
There is also one-click recording from telepresence solutions like Cisco WebEx Connect, Cisco’s Flip consumer digital camera or smartphones. Users can create chapters or upload a transcript, making clips more production-ready.
This makes editing much easier and is a departure from apps such as Adobe Premier. Finally, Show and Share can work with enterprise content distribution networks from Akamai.
This means large businesses can push the video clip into a branch, so that when people press play, they can watch the video without impacting the wide area network because the clip is local.
Pulse and Show and Share sound like unique products, but they also seem as if they were meant to work together: social tagging with enterprise video.
Jouret said Pulse and Show and Share, while not currently interoperable in their first release, will be integrated to work together.