Cisco announces changes to its collaboration portfolio, with a strong focus on improving collaboration in the cloud.

WebEx Heads to the Cloud

Let's start with the web conferencing. Customers now have choices for how to support their meeting needs. Prior to this release, WebEx was an on premises solution for organizations. Many organizations also used the Cisco Public WebEx cloud offering (usage has increased 38 percent year over year according to Cisco). But for those who want to take advantage of the cost efficiencies of the cloud and keep control of their own content, something new was required.

Cisco has announced the Cisco WebEx Meeting Server built to run in private cloud environment where organizations can ensure data privacy. It's also a great solution for those who are still tied to a capital expenditures model as opposed to the new utility model that comes with cloud-based hosted solutions. This is a virtualized server solution that is designed for the Cisco Unified Computing System, so deployment and management is simplified.

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If you also have Cisco Unifiied Communications Manager, you can extend IP telephony to your web conference. And this is a nice capability coming in January of 2013: if you are doing an IM session using Jabber, you can quickly turn that into a web conference directly from the Jabber interface.

Cisco Host Collaboration Solution

Whether you have the entire Suite of capability or only a couple of modules, there are some updates to the Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) that you will be interested in hearing about:

Telepresence capabilities have been enhanced: This includes enabling partners to conduct meetings at any time without a reservation, expanding intra- and inter-company collaboration with video experiences. The Cisco TelePresence Exchange (CTX) is now integrated into HCS which means partners can manage their infrastructure across all their customers. It also means that customers can now connect multiple locations at the same time.

HCS for Customer Collaboration (Contact Center): The workflows and management capabilities for each customer contact center can now be integrated together offering a more seamless way to support clients across the board. This includes a new Web 2.0 customizable desktop that supports call center agents.

Advancing Unified Communications: Enhancements for HCS here include supporting third party SIP endpoints and an expansion of the IMS Jabber integration to support third party phones in the Cisco UC environment.

Taking Collaboration to New Levels

Sometimes we talk about collaboration like it's something we've not been doing for years. The tools have changed though to support quicker ways to work together, often more efficient ways. And that's what we are seeing with much of the Cisco announcements today. This "collaboration" as Cisco clearly notes is not just internally focused, it's something we need to get better at with our partners, our suppliers and our own customers.

Much of the functionality announced today is expected to be available in the fourth quarter of this year.