During the course of my regular briefings with industry professionals I often come across information that I find newsworthy. We have created this recurring feature as a way of sharing these items with you. Below, in alphabetical order, are notes and thoughts from a few of my most recent briefings.
Angie Mistretta (Director, Collaboration Solutions Marketing) gave me the rundown on Cisco’s big announcements from their San Francisco partner summit. There were four big announcements, with an expected heavy focus on Spark.
1. Cisco Spark Depot
Cisco doesn’t just want Spark to be one of the tools in your productivity toolbox. They want it to be the hub of your communications and project/team messages in particular. Integrations with complementary services like Salesforce can greatly increase the stickyness of an app like Slack by creating an efficient workflow. The new Cisco Spark Depot is basically like an app store for Spark. Cisco takes this very seriously, putting their money where their mouth is with a $150 million fund to sponsor integration developers. Many of the 70 initial integrations in the new Depo are from that program.
2. Cisco Spark Flex Plan
Initial feedback from Spark customers included a common theme. The purchasing options were a little too complicated. For example, there were different costs for having meetings hosted on premise, or on Cisco’s Spark cloud service. Figuring out the right mix for a hybrid deployment without usage stats is a bit of a CapEx vs OpEx guessing game. With the new flex plan Spark is a flat fee per user per month, regardless of where the meeting is hosted. In other words, Cisco has decoupled the purchasing decision from the deployment options. You buy based on the number of user accounts you need, you adjust your deployment later based on usage patterns. This should take a lot of the stress out of initial purchasing.
3. Cisco Spark Hybrid Media Service
This is an interesting approach to hybrid. I tend to think of the typical hybrid situation as when a company is hosting their video calls on an existing on-premise server and wants to send overflow to the cloud. This is almost the opposite. This service allows Spark cloud customers to set up a free “node” at their location. The system will then host calls on this local node, unless overflow into the cloud is needed.
4. Cisco Business Edition 4000 and 6000
The desktop phone is still an office staple. The new BE4000 server is a more affordable way for SMBs to support up to 200 Cisco IP Phones. In addition, they are updating the management portal for the BE6000. Among other features, this will allow users to better pre-configure the apps on the server for easier installation and setup.
Clear View Innovations
Steve Frank has found an interesting niche in the videoconferencing market with CVI. As a sign language interpreter, he noticed several issues with the typical presentation dynamic. First of all, the interpreter has to stand next to the presenter, facing the audience. That makes it hard for the interpreter who can not really see the presenter’s face. Secondly, the hearing impaired audience members all have to sit in the same section so they can easily see the interpreter. By clever use of tablets and the Zoom video service, Steve can interpret from any location, giving him a better view of the presenter. Also, hearing impaired audience members can sit anywhere, viewing the presenter directly and watching Steve on their mobile devices.
These innovations led to the creation of a series of complimentary products. Specifically various stands, holders, and clips for mobile devices. This further increase the flexibility for setting up a presentation session with an interpreter.
I checked in with Tom Morgan (Founder and CEO) to see how the Australians are taking to today’s collaboration offerings. As a value-added reseller and service provider he is still seeing interest in the traditional meeting room vendors from his customers. However, he sees the raising demand for cloud and is gearing up to provide Cisco Spark as a service.
I caught up with Anders Løkke (Marketing), to find out how Pexip is reacting to the newly aligned video platform marketplace after the big Cisco/Acano deal. Pexip is continuing to grow globally, opening new offices in the US and expecting business in 2016 to double that of 2015. They currently support several dozen active service partners in addition to their enterprise customer base. While the details of his customers are NDA, they include some big deployments, with one customer alone using 10,000 Pexip licenses in 90 countries.
Two major customers have just recently become public knowledge:
- Western Union – See this case study for more info.
- Vodafone – Mentioning Pexip as a key technology in how they enable their teams.
Pexip sees the Microsoft Surface Hub as an opportunity for them due to their strong support for Skype for Business. In response they are working on features that will improve the experience and workflow for Skype/Hub users. This includes VbSS support for higher quality content sharing (currently a work in progress) as well as the ability for Pexip callers to see slide decks shared through Skype’s unusual PowerPoint sharing dynamic (now available).
I was particularly impressed with a recently announced feature, which Pexip claims is an industry first. Pexip has always allowed for a hybrid deployment, running Pexip’s Infinity software on a physical server at their location and on a cloud such as Amazon Web Services, with automatic overflow capability. Many offerings allow for similar hybrids, with some calls on premise and some on the cloud. The only concern this raises is over purchasing. In other words, if you only need the cloud piece sometimes, for overflow, you don’t want to pay to have something continuously running on Amazon. With this new feature, Pexip calls will be hosted on the local server until it reaches capacity, at which point an instance will be spun up on Amazon Web Services to handle the overflow. If use subsides, the instance on Amazon will spin down to save costs.