At the Cisco Collaboration Summit 2014 conference this week, Cisco announced a number of new initiatives, including a cloud-based application that combines chat, audio, video, multi-party meetings and content sharing and an alliance with Box under which content stored in the Box cloud service can be accessed via the new Cisco application.
Ross Daniels, director of solutions marketing for Cisco, says that the Cisco Project Squared application is based on a Cisco Collaboration Cloud that can be deployed on Cisco data centers or in third-party data centers. It extends the portfolio of Cisco WebEx collaboration service in a way that makes collaboration applications more accessible.
Accessible from any device, once Project Squared is downloaded, users can start “a room” on any topic, and invite others inside or outside the organization to join simply by entering their name or e-mail address. Once they enter the virtual room, users can securely share messages, post files, and start voice and video calls. Files are rendered in the cloud and are immediately viewable alongside messages with no further downloading of files required.
Daniels says this approach gives IT organizations a way to centrally control the overall collaboration environment without hindering any of the productivity gains afforded by being able to collaborate via the cloud using mobile computing devices.
Daniels says Cisco also intends to create an ecosystem of third-party applications that will be built using an application programming interface (API) for Project Squared, which as a service can be federated across multiple cloud service providers that have signed up as Cisco Intercloud partners.
This week Cisco also moved to upgrade the on-premise videoconferencing experience with the introduction of the Cisco TelePresence IX5000 series designed to deliver video collaboration for six to 18 people. Cisco claims it does this with only half the bandwidth using H.265 compression rather than other three-screen systems and requires less power than a hair dryer.
Finally, Cisco announced the Business Edition 6000S (BE6000S), a collaboration platform that is built into an integrated Cisco router; its sales are aimed at organizations that have as few as 25 users.
Obviously, Cisco is trying to leverage its networking base and WebEx collaboration service to drive new classes of collaboration services in the cloud. The degree to which it can succeed in making that transition in the face of stiff collaboration-service competition remains to be seen. But the one thing that is for certain is that the collaboration experience across the cloud is about to dramatically improve.