Cisco Puts The 'Spark' In New Collaboration Services

Cisco Systems unveiled a set of collaboration services built from partner and customer feedback with the goal of creating new recurring revenue streams for partners through services, analytics and consulting.

At Enterprise Connect 2015 Tuesday, the San Jose Calif.-based networking giant launched Cisco Spark, an enhanced cloud-based application originally introduced as Project Squared. Spark creates secure, virtual rooms where teams and people can connect from anywhere across any device, said Richard McLeod, senior director of worldwide collaboration channel sales, in an interview with CRN.

"These new offerings were built from the ground up with partners in mind," said McLeod. "Our partners can not only set up proof-of-concept or trials for customers with this portal, but likewise they can pull the analytics out of it -- such as who is using it, who's using it a lot, who's utilizing the video aspects of it, who's creating lots of team rooms. And they can use that as part of adoption services and consultation with the customer to really drive true value-add and create new revenue streams and new consulting streams."

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Chris Bottger, senior vice president of collaboration services at IVCi, a Hauppauge, N.Y.-based solution provider and Cisco partner, said Cisco Spark will enable IVCi to leverage the company's global infrastructure and create new services.

"A lot of Spark's power is in the mobility that it has, and that analytics piece is key for us as well," said Bottger. "We're not building anything, but what we can do is we're delivering the integration service within the customer environment, within a video environment or from our cloud."

Team members in a virtual room can securely send messages, share and view files, start multiparty voice and video calls and share their screens, said Chris Wiborg, director of collaboration portfolio marketing at Cisco in an interview with CRN. Files, documents and decisions are stored in the same place where the team holds its virtual meeting so teams are instantly more productive, according to Wiborg.

"The various security concepts in terms of protecting the data and sharing only relevant information with specific partners is a novelty, and [is a new] approach in the market of cloud services in the collaboration domain," said Julie Burroughs, CEO of Acqueon, a Dallas-based software solution provider that partners with Cisco and Microsoft. "Kudos to Cisco."

Cisco Tuesday also rolled out its Context Service for cloud-based storage of customer interaction data that will be built into Cisco Contact Center Solutions.

"We are doing development around Context Service," said Burroughs. "We plan to leverage the Context Service to archive large-scale transaction details, which can be used for analytics to build more accurate prediction algorithms in terms of best time to call [or] number to call."

Burroughs said such operations traditionally require large storage space and computing power. A cloud-based solution is a cost-effective alternative for companies that want to leverage the functionality but not pay for acquiring and managing the premise-based infrastructure, she said.

Also at Enterprise Connect, Cisco took the wraps off the Telepresence MX800 Dual, a new videoconferencing system with 70-inch screens with dual cameras.

"We're really looking to spark new revenue opportunity for our partners, to spark new value-add for them, [and create] new recurring revenue streams," said McLeod. "From the video perspective, there's a huge opportunity of video equipping every single meeting room and also a huge opportunity to [upgrade] older video equipment."