Cisco Revamps Licensing Model for UC Solutions

Cisco is modifying its licensing model for such tools as WebEx and Jabber to offer software-based choices, and the company is paring down the menu to three options.

Cisco Systems is changing the licensing structures of its unified communications portfolio to reflect the evolving ways people are working and the growing trend toward software-based collaboration tools.

The networking and collaboration giant announced the modified licensing for its Unified Communications Manager UC Release 9.0 Aug. 30, including making the licensing software-based rather than device-based, according to Richard McLeod, senior director of worldwide partner collaboration sales for Cisco.

In the past, Cisco had tied the licensing of its UC solutions to Cisco IP phones that customers had to buy.

"We're separating the software licensing from the hand telephone set," McLeod said. "This historically has been tied together."

Now customers can choose from three software-only models that are based not on the devices they use, but on the needs of the user, McLeod told eWEEK. This better reflects the widening range of devices-from smartphones and tablets to desktops and notebooks-that workers are using in their jobs and for communicating and collaborating. Employees increasingly are using their own personal devices in the workplace, part of the burgeoning bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend.

With the new licensing model, employees can use any of these devices with Cisco's UC solutions.

"When it comes to employee collaboration, the 'go-to tools' are multiplying as the workspace is changing," Robert De La Mora, senior director of UC platforms and endpoints, said in an Aug. 30 blog post. "Some employees still do the bulk of their work from behind a desk at company headquarters; others split their time between the office and more on-the-go locales; still others need 'full mobility' with access to the best software collaboration offerings available so work can happen in coffee shops, airplanes, hotel rooms-wherever."

The new licensing reflects those disparate needs, offering three options with various levels of collaboration solutions, including Jabber, WebEx Social and WebEx Conferencing, McLeod said. The three UC licensing options are Standard for more traditional workers, Enhanced/Enhanced+ for workers who split time between the office and being on the go, and Professional for the fully mobile workers.

Cisco wanted to find a way to offer greater collaboration capabilities through a less costly and simplified licensing plan, according to De La Mora. With all three options, all users will now have access to the Jabber UC platform.

In addition, all options include Cisco's Enterprise Licensing Manager (ELM) application for free. ELM is native in UC Release 9.0, and offers users an easy way to manage their licenses-including removing licenses and adding new ones, moving them and changing them. It gives workers an easy way to adapt their licenses as their collaboration needs evolve. McLeod said the capabilities in the applications are a key differentiator for Cisco.

"What we've bolted into ELM are things that no one else has," he said.

The new licensing model also reflects a growing trend within the UC and video collaboration toward a greater demand for software, one that vendors like Cisco, Avaya and Polycom are all looking to address. Cisco officials have been making significant moves to bring the company's various UC components together. For example, in June, Cisco brought its portfolio of online collaboration tools under the WebEx umbrella and grew the capabilities of its WebEx Social (formerly Quad) enterprise social networking offering.

Later that month, Cisco rolled out UC Release 9.0, greatly expanding the capabilities of its UC tools and services, including the ability to work better with third-party endpoints.

Cisco's McLeod said a number of trends, including greater demand for collaboration over the Web and the growth in the use of video, are driving the evolution of UC.