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Cisco is significantly expanding its hosted collaboration and cloud-based unified communications (UC) and contact center offerings, including a slew of telepresence and Web conferencing options and a number of new incentives to help partners back Cisco's cloud strategy for that crucial market segment.
Cisco, which is making a big deal of cloud at this week's Cisco Collaboration Summit in Los Angeles, added 16 new partners for its Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) in the past year, bringing the total to 34 as of October. Among new offerings as of this week are a "static bridge" service option for allowing customers to conduct telepresence meetings without a reservation and the integration into HCS of Cisco TelePresence Exchange (CTX), meaning partners can leverage the infrastructure they have to support HCS across the entire customer base, instead of having to make individual infrastructure investments on a per-customer basis.
"A lot of what customers are saying about [cloud] is driven by business requirements," Michael Smith, Cisco director of marketing, collaboration solutions, told CRN. "It's coming up in every conversation."
Cisco has positioned the overall UC and collaboration space as at least a $42 billion total addressable market (TAM) for Cisco partners over the next few years. The networking titan has plowed resources into the space as it competes with Microsoft and its fast-rising Lync platform, and as other competitors like Avaya and Polycom shift their attention toward enabling partners to sell hosted collaboration and video services.
Updates to Cisco's overall UC&C portfolio have come at a steady cadence in 2012, including June's updated Cisco Unified Communications Manager release and the expansion of Cisco's WebEx brand to cover its social collaboration and hosted telepresence products. Cisco in August also changed the licensing structure for its UC products as a way to give partners more flexibility in how they deploy UC packages for customers.
Along with the CTX announcements Tuesday, Cisco said partners will also have an easier time managing various contact centers using updated software in Cisco's Customer Collaboration enhancements for HCS. They also now have access to a customizable collaboration desktop that makes it easier to organize and distribute information to call center agents.