IBM, Cisco Partner to Deliver Cognitive-Infused Collaboration Stack

IBM and Cisco Systems are joining forces and tapping into the power of Watson, Cisco Spark and WebEx for analytics to transform the way people work.

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IBM and Cisco Systems on June 30 announced plans to partner and integrate their collaboration tools and add some cognitive technology to help transform the way people work.

IBM will integrate Cisco's Spark and WebEx collaborative workspace platforms with IBM's cloud-based Connections and Verse collaboration solutions to form a suite of tools that will tap into the power of IBM's Watson cognitive computing system to help users gain insights from information they have access to.

Cisco Spark offers three types of communication for users—messaging, meeting and calling—from the cloud. WebEx is Cisco's online meeting and video conferencing solution. IBM Connections is a set of social solutions, including software, real-time social communications and content management capabilities, while IBM Verse is a cloud business-email hosting platform and messaging software as a service.

The goal is to simplify collaboration and provide users with analytics by combining IBM's social and email solutions with Cisco's collaboration solutions and adding a little taste of Watson to spice things up. That is, to help provide the right insights in the right context, IBM said.

Ed Brill, vice president of offering management for IBM's collaboration solutions, said the partnership is bringing together a market leader in real-time telepresence, voice and video with a market leader in social collaboration to offer a combined solution in the collaboration stack space and compete with the likes of Microsoft Office 365 and Google for Work.

The idea behind it is two-fold: to provide best-in-class technologies across the stack so clients are able to choose the market leaders together without having to consume them separately or doing their own technical integration; and to enable both companies to incorporate and consume cognitive capabilities and use Watson to redefine the way people work together.

Later this year, IBM will introduce the WebEx and Spark capabilities integrated directly into Connections and Verse, both for the meeting service and chat capabilities themselves and to enable users to do more. For example, a user looking at a file in Connections may want to have a meeting about that file—the integrated solution would provide them with one-click ability to launch that meeting in the WebEx environment, Brill said.

"We intend to sell this as a single solution like we do today with IBM Connections Cloud and incorporate the capabilities into that so the customer does not have to go and buy or license things from two separate vendors if they don't want to," he said.

However, neither company will bundle the technologies as a new product. "What we'll probably do is put together some more advanced offerings," Brill said.

Users looking to incorporate all of the Cisco voice, video, telepresence technology will have to pay a little more.

"We'll have an advanced offering for that," Brill said. "I think it will similar to how Microsoft has E3 and E5 plans for Office 365. We'll probably get into a bifurcation or some sort of segmentation like that. But it's still Connections Cloud and Verse. It's still the things we sell today."

Meanwhile, as part of the integrated solutions, IBM's Watson will provide a set of capabilities and APIs the companies will consume throughout the service and also make available to developers who want to develop collaborative apps on top of the service.