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Cisco says collaboration is a $42 billion market opportunity for Cisco channel partners -- a figure that doubles and in some cases triples when services are taken into account.
That opportunity is in everything from upgrading core networks to supporting the demands placed on them by mobility, video and virtual desktop infrastructure, to network optimization, consulting and application integration. And if there's one message Cisco has tried to bring to partners, even in a year of major corporate changes at the networking titan, it's that Cisco's collaboration story is the one to beat.
"This is the partner investment opportunity of the decade," said Richard McLeod, senior director, collaboration sales in Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization (WWPO).
Cisco's overall collaboration strategy -- in other words, how it will go to market with partners to attack what McLeod said is expected to be an $8 billion contributor to Cisco's revenue pie -- is organized around four tenets: mobile, social, visual and virtual. Cisco's approach is to attack each of those transitions with products that, while not the cheapest offerings by category, instead form an architecture around which partners can make money and increase their profitability behind value-adds such as application development and services.
"We still have all of those old PBXes that need to become collaboration solutions," McLeod said. "The installed base is needing a refresh once again, and we're looking at opportunities now for even the installed base of video that was standard definition video."
With PC shipments expected to continue to decline over the next few years, the days of what McLeod described as a "monolithic stack of Win-Tel solutions" are going away, he said. More than 70 percent of workers will be totally mobile over the next two years, he said, and trends like that create a need for collaboration tools that can be deployed at any time on any device from anywhere.
"To have your work follow you and your capabilities follow you is phenomenal," he said.
Cisco has spent much of the year broadening and updating its collaboration portfolio even in the midst of a broader corporate restructuring that saw the company cut headcount, pull back spending in some product areas and eliminate others entirely.
Several of its big collaboration announcements were made in October, when it launched version 2.5 of its Virtualization Experience Infrastructure (VXI) for virtual desktop deployments, launched a version of its video Show and Share software for iPad and iPhone, and debuted Cisco Callway, a subscription-based telepresence service for SMB customers.
Most recently, Cisco made updates to two of its most popular collaboration applications, WebEx and Jabber, framing a theme of moving beyond the era of PC-based collaboration during the Cisco Collaboration Summit in Miami this month.
Behind every big launch, Cisco has looked to align its motives with analyst data about collaboration-centric trends and customer adoption rates, such as the oft-cited statistic that more than 250,000 corporate desktops will be virtualized by 2014, McLeod said.
"That drives costs out of the business," McLeod said. "But it also makes the management of everything so much more smooth and [allows you] to build a new level of security onto things. The actual data is not on the device itself, it's held back at the data center, in the cloud."
NEXT: How Cisco Will Motivate Partners Behind Collaboration