Cisco Partners: Jabber Move Is Just The UC Jolt We Needed

Of all the news from last week's Cisco Partner Summit in San Diego, it's Cisco's Jabber for Everyone play -- in which it will make presence and IM capabilities and Cisco Jabber clients available at no additional licensing cost to Cisco customers -- that should pay immediate dividends, partners say.

Cisco's Barry O'Sullivan, senior vice president and general manager, Collaboration Technology Group, confirmed at the Partner Summit that presence and IM capabilities and Cisco Jabber clients are now available for Cisco Unified Communications Manager customers for free.

Cisco acquired Jabber in September 2008 and has continued to fine-tune the plaform, positioning Jabber as a way for customers to embed Cisco-related UC functions, from presence to video, into a wide range of devices and operating systems. Collaboration overall is at least a $42 billion opportunity for the channel, Cisco has said, and Jabber is a key piece of its strategy.

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If solution providers can entice customers to Jabber with easy access to IM and presence, those customers are more inclined to invest in other UC and collaboration tools and leverage Jabber to do so, O'Sullivan said.

"Consequently, once licensed for additional workloads, customers can use Jabber to move beyond IM to more advanced collaboration capabilities that can transform their business -- such as enabling employees to easily engage in a TelePresence meeting from their mobile devices," wrote O'Sullivan in a post to Cisco's Collaboration blog last week.

Steve Reese, vice president of collaboration and security architecture at Presidio, a Greenbelt, Md.-based solution provider, saluted Cisco's move as a way to get Jabber in the hands of more customers, more quickly, at less cost to both solution providers and end users.

"On the surface it doesn't look like much, but this gives us an ability to deliver," Reese said. "IM and presence are table stakes. They're an expectation. They're a means to an end. They're my ability to see what skills are available to me to launch another wave of more advanced communication: a voice call, a video call, a Web conference. We need to get there faster."

To get customers comfortable with Cisco UC systems and their ability to do those more sophisticated communications, Presidio was absorbing much of the Jabber license costs itself, Reese sad.

"We were offloading that cost because we knew there was a bigger element that fell on the end of it -- we didn't want the cost of those licenses to be a stumbling block to getting to that next level," he said. "We don't want to spend $1 million to make $100,000 decisions. We do want to spend $100,000 to make $1 million decisions, and make them faster. So we look at Jabber as an entree to getting to that total connectivity. The brick-and-mortar challenge of any organization that has more than a few branches is how do you scale your best resources everywhere."

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Gary Berzack, COO and CTO of TribecaExpress, a New York-based solution provider, said Jabber for Everyone was a move Cisco had to make to get Jabber more traction against "a lot of competing products that do this."

"This is significant in that it's both client and server licenses incorporated for entire organizations," Berzack said. "It's a mature product. It's important it's a Cisco-branded free product, because you can now reliably implement a commercial Jabber that other additions can be plugged into. Embedded hardware, with Jabber in it, is now going to be viable because you've already made this investment in the free version."

Several solution providers viewed the move as a counterstrike against Microsoft, which is gaining traction with its UC platform, Lync, and which Cisco called out from the stage as a major competitor.

Gia McNutt, CEO of SOS, a Loomis, Calif.-based solution provider, said that one of SOS' stalwart Cisco voice customers recently decided to move to Microsoft's platform. The Jabber announcement would offer more to partners to help prevent those types of defections, she said.

"This is a potential game-changer in the face of Lync," McNutt said. "Lync is getting out there, no question. This is going to make it easier for Cisco customers to use Jabber and keep them."

Along with the Jabber for Everyone move, Cisco also confirmed it would invest $1 million in a fourth fiscal quarter promotion to assist partners in driving Jabber adoption. Specifically, said Rob Lloyd, Cisco's executive vice president, worldwide operations, Cisco will reimburse partners for services associated with deploying Jabber to customers -- up to $20,000 for each partner, depending on the number of Jabber seats deployed in the fourth quarter.

Partners agreed that Cisco needed to catalyze Jabber adoption.

"I wonder if Facebook buying Instagram for $1 billion really showed [Cisco] what could happen if they got 35 [million], 50 [million], 100 million people using this technology," Berzack said. "It's going to depend a lot on how well they market it. They're asking the community to do it, this audience of partners. If that community each deployed some 100 to 1,000 seats of that technology, you could easily see, in the commercial space, 10 million Jabber users in a short period. Let's hope they spend time getting Jabber to be clean, crisp and deliverable."