Cisco: VARs Can Now Bring Their 'A' Game To Enterprise Video

Cisco Tuesday rolled out a number of new capabilities it said will drive adoption of its video collaboration technologies in the enterprise and help partners more quickly take these video solutions to market.

The enhancements, which Cisco unveiled at the Enterprise Connect conference taking place this week in Orlando, Fla., include tools for monitoring and adjusting network resources on-the-fly to better accommodate video-based meetings, along with integration between Cisco's TelePresence and WebEx platforms.

The overall aim, Cisco said, is to make video a more feasible and cost-effective option for enterprise users.

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"We're trying to make [video] not exclusive to just one type of worker," said Roberto De La Mora, senior director of Worldwide IP Communication Solutions Marketing at Cisco. "Video, in the enterprise, has been considered many times a niche play."

The first of Cisco's new offerings is a new type of software embedded into Cisco's collaboration infrastructure that will allow networks to dynamically adjust their resources, including audio ports and bandwidth, to better accommodate videoconferencing.

The software, which is being embedded within Cisco TelePresence Server and TelePresence Conductor, helps a network recognize the type of endpoints being used to access a video meeting and then determine the optimal amount of bandwidth and other resources needed to run that meeting.

The software, for example, knows to designate fewer resources to support standard-definition video for a fixed or mobile endpoint, while reserving more resources for more bandwidth-hungry tasks, such as deploying high-definition video to an immersive TelePresence endpoint.

Cisco said this network intelligence software, which is compatible with any standards-compliant video endpoint, will make users' existing video collaboration infrastructure 70 percent more efficient than it already is.

For Cisco partners, it represents an opportunity to help existing customers with the network software upgrade as well as attract a new base of video customers, said Richard McLeod, senior director of Cisco's Worldwide Collaboration Channel Sales.

"We're dramatically lowering the cost of bringing this type of technology to the market for our partners," McLeod told CRN.

Cisco Tuesday also unveiled enhancements to its Medianet architecture for network optimization. The new features will arm IT managers and Cisco partners with the ability to monitor video traffic from all endpoints and pinpoint potential bandwidth or quality issues to ensure users' video meetings run as smoothly as possible.

McLeod said partners can integrate these kinds of networking monitoring services into their broader managed services portfolio.

"We are putting additional tools into the partners' hands for their managed services and giving them the ability to bring more value-add to managing the customer's network," McLeod said. "So this could actually be a money-maker, as an extra service for partners."

Andy Dignan, director of Collaboration Aolutions at CDW, Vernon Hills, Ill., said the new video-specific networking management features for Medianet are crucial from a managed services standpoint -- especially since customers tend to abandon video solutions altogether if the quality isn't top-notch.

"If you have a poor video experience, people just aren't going to use it," Dignan said. "And video, from a bandwidth perspective, is obviously more than voice. So being able to monitor the network, and then ... use Medianet to be able to real-time monitor the call quality is critical."

NEXT: Cisco TelePresence-WebEx Integration

Cisco Tuesday also said it has integrated its TelePresence and WebEx Web conferencing solutions to enable more collaboration and content-sharing. The integration will create a joint WebEx and TelePresence conferencing environment, through which users can join the same meeting and see the same video, regardless of whether they're accessing the session from a TelePresence or other standards-based video endpoint, or from a WebEx client on a PC or mobile device.

The WebEx-TelePresence integration will facilitate file sharing across the two solutions and offer an integrated scheduling tool from which users can send out meeting invites to any TelePresence or WebEx user through a single URL.

"Historically, there have been separate islands, whether it's Cisco or anyone else. There was a Web conferencing island and TelePresence island, and at best you could kind of stitch those islands together by conferencing them and getting at least the voice portion shared between the two," McLeod said. "Now, we are allowing these islands to come together from a scheduling standpoint, from a one-touch-to-join-the-meeting perspective, and full two-way interactivity of the content, the video and the voice."

McLeod said he anticipates the integration between the two solutions -- a move Cisco partners had been requesting for quite a while -- will help video-focused VARs embrace Web conferencing and extend their reach into the collaboration space.

"This is a real motivator now for our historic video partners to move into WebEx as the next natural progression, as they move into a broader collaboration play," McLeod said. "So this is additional revenue for them, additional profit for them, additional VIP [payouts] for them, and the ability to create a meeting experience that nobody else in the industry can provide."

Troy Treto, business video practice manager and team lead of Collaboration at Nexus IS, a Valencia, Calif.-based solution provider, said he was happy to finally see TelePresence-WebEx integration and he anticipates his customers will feel the same.

"Our customer base has been excited about this promise of a unified collaboration experience for some time, and now Cisco is delivering. It really breaks down the silos of collaboration by enabling our TelePresence customers to extend their video meetings beyond their video rooms to customers or partners or employees that may not have access to video codecs, which has been a major barrier to collaboration," Treto said. "Further, as a Cisco partner, it increases our value to our customers versus TelePresence competitors like Polycom, or Web collaboration competitors like GoToMeeting."

CDW's Dignan also said Cisco partners and customers have been requesting integration between WebEx and TelePresence for some time, especially with the mobility boom enabling more and more workers to connect outside the four walls of an office.

"This is something customers have been asking for and really demanding to get more investment out of their WebEx purchase and their video purchase," Dignan said.