Cisco Grows Collaboration Portfolio with New Software, Hardware

Company officials say the focus of the new offerings is on meeting demands brought on by mobility and distributed workforces.

Cisco Systems officials are expanding the company's enterprise collaboration portfolio with new offerings aimed at addressing a workplace that is rapidly evolving due to such trends as greater mobility and distributed workforces.

At the company's Collaboration Summit Oct. 23 in Boca Raton, Fla., Cisco Systems announced it is rolling out a range of new products that address everything from greater security and efficiency to new endpoints and more tightly uniting the mobile and on-premises worlds. The goal is creating a collaboration environment that is easier to use, offers a good user experience and begins to converge the various unified communications (UC), video conferencing and collaboration endpoints that many enterprises are now trying to juggle, according to Chris Wiborg, director of collaboration portfolio marketing at Cisco.

"We're saying, 'How do you start to blend those teams?'" Wiborg told eWEEK. "How can we connect these teams in a more mobile, simple way?"

Among the new offerings is Cisco Expressway, a gateway designed to make it easier for mobile workers to collaborate by creating a way to secure communications—through everything from voice and video to presence and instant messaging—without the need for registering devices, creating accounts or using passwords. Cisco Expressway, part of the company's Collaboration Edge Architecture, means that collaboration can be accomplished in improved real-time fashion, which is important for mobile workers, telecommuters or customers, he said.

"We really think this will make [collaboration] more pervasive," Wiborg said.

Cisco's Jabber Guest solution uses the same security functionality found in Expressway to give secure access to people outside of the corporation, such as a business partner, consultant or customer needing help. Through Jabber Guest, people who fall into these categories can use high-definition voice and video through a Web browser or mobile device to securely communicate with employees inside the company without the need of a subscription for a licensed application. With Jabber Guest, users click on a link that is given to them via IM or on a company's Website, enabling them to quickly enter into a two-way video conversation.

In addition to voice and video collaboration, employees also can share data with people outside the organization.

Cisco also is looking to address the rapidly growing number of mobile devices workers use and such trends as bring-your-own-device (BYOD). A solution called Intelligent Proximity will enable workers to more easily link their personal mobile devices—such as smartphones and tablets—to their on-premises office systems.

The first Cisco endpoint to leverage Intelligent Proximity will be the DX650 Smart Desk Phone, which users will be able to wireless sync with their Apple and Android-based mobile phones, according to Cisco officials. The linkage will include importing contacts and call histories from their mobile phones to the DX650 as well as moving live calls back and forth between the mobile devices and the DX650.

At the same time, Cisco is unveiling two other endpoints, including the second-generation TelePresence MX300. The team or room-based system offers a more modern design and can be assembled and auto-provisioned in about 15 minutes. Users can connect an additional screen or monitor to it, and up to four endpoints can connect simultaneously without the need or a multipoint control unit (MCU). Through its support of the H.264 SVC protocol, the MX300 can interoperate with third-party systems.

Cisco's IP Phone 7800 Series is aimed at the midmarket, with a more ergonomic design, intuitive navigation capabilities and wideband audio, according to company officials.

Through its Prime Collaboration solution, Cisco is offering a unified, single console that organizations can use to manage most of the Cisco collaboration products. They can do such jobs as deploy servers, provision desk phones, laptops and other devices, schedule and monitor UC upgrades, and oversee the products' health and diagnostics.

Cisco's Wiborg said the new offerings illustrate the company's belief that a full UC environment needs both hardware and software components, as opposed to the software-only push by some vendors such as Vidyo.

"At the end of the day, hardware also matters," he said. "You can't do everything in software. We believe it's got to be both."