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From its large enterprise and service provider customers Cisco has heard end users demanding better, more unified experiences across a broader array of mobile devices. Enterprise IT administrators, on the other hand, are driven to acquire easier interoperability options, better alignment of product capabilities with user requirements, and help in scaling their deployments. And CXO’s are intent on driving higher productivity from their workforce through better collaboration experiences, while protecting and leveraging their current investments. The just announced Release 9.0 of Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager (CUCM R9.0), with GA scheduled for Q3 CY 2012, adds feature/functionality aligned with these business requirements.
Controlled by Jabber and enabled by CUCM 9.0, Extend & Connect brings third-party phones into the Cisco UC environment. This feature offers those enterprise customers migrating to CUCM 9.0 an opportunity to leverage their existing investments further without compromising the ability of their employees to benefit from new UCC capabilities. In addition, telecommuters and business travelers can initiate a Jabber session on their PC device, input the phone number of their preferred voice device, and have CUCM route all voice traffic directly to that phone number while all the call control remains anchored in the Jabber client. In this way a knowledge worker can initiate a conference call from home, for example, with office features and billing associated with his/her office phone.
Extend and Connect operates on signaling and call control data, not VoIP, so it requires no Quality of Service (QoS) and is bandwidth stingy. That means users will be able to leverage the Cisco UC environment despite slow or unreliable connections, including those sometimes found in cafes, hotels, and home offices.
This feature definitely addresses the CXO’s desires mentioned above. But we question the usefulness of the additional mobile worker flexibility. It’s a nice to have feature, no question. But is it really useful? Today’s mobile worker generally has a smartphone or tablet for taking calls. What they want is reliable and secure anywhere, anytime communications and collaboration on the device of their choice with the same quality of experience across both fixed and mobile domains (i.e., FMC). To this point according to BroadSoft’s 2011 Mobile Enterprise of the Future Study, 73 percent of respondents in the study expect mobile devices to replace office phones, with 60 percent expecting the transition to happen in the next five years.
Using the combination of CUCM and the user’s mobile service provider’s infrastructure, users of any type of mobile phone get access to such enterprise telephony features as unified inbox, message waiting, callback, conferencing, direct extension dialing, etc.
We believe this gets at what the mobile worked wants. And we’re happy to see Cisco moving in this direction as they’re not alone in trying to meet this user demand. MetTel’s Mobile integration Service (MMI), for instance, provides users the same office and wireless phone number, combined voicemail, mobile extension dialing and transfer of active calls between mobile and desktop phones. MMI allows users of any type of mobile phone to have deskphone-like features since no mobile client installation is required as this service is 100 percent network-based.
In support of the rise of video in the enterprise CUCM R9.0 supports a unified call control platform for both voice and video. And it is Cisco's platform to manage allcollaboration endpoints. Key enhancements are:
This is just the first step on a development roadmap that Cisco has started on to make sure that video can be deployed pervasively across networks. Both endpoints and the network are being scrutinized as this effort progresses.
Contact Center software is a keenly competitive UC system component. Cisco has strengthened its positioning here by bringing basic contact center capability directly into CUCM with the following feature introductions:
With the release of CUCM R9.0 Cisco is introducing user-centric licensing throughout its entire collaboration portfolio. User-centricity means that businesses can purchase licenses based on four distinct types of workers: deskless (roaming) workers who typically have very basic telephony needs; desk-bound workers who have advanced IPT needs; hybrid workers who are occasionally-mobile and have UC needs, but do not require mobile connections; and, finally, road warriors who have advanced UC needs and require mobile connections. This alignment of licensing with worker types is a good competitive move against Microsoft which initiated this type of breakout with its Office 365 licensing. In that case, however, there were just two categories – Kiosk (or deskless worker) and Information Workers.
More categories may, however, add complexity and confusion into the mix. To help out here, Cisco has also added a new management tool as part of the CUCM platform to do automatic and dynamic licensing management for customers. This new software permits “temporary licensing on demand”. Customers are allowed to deploy more services than they are actually entitled for. They can take care of business and then go back through the normal procurement process to get the required permanent licenses.
Cisco’s licensing stack changes build on the Jabber for everyone foundation laid in April wherein customers with release 7.1 and above of CUCM got Jabber IM and presence software at no extra charge. The UCL (User Connect License) Essential serves the deskless worker. The deskbound workers who have need for only basic voice require the UCL Basic license. Those requiring video capability can move up to the UCL Enhanced license. Hybrid workers get access to the full Jabber client delivering the desktop voice and video softclient capabilities allowing them to have some level of mobility. In Asian markets that don’t require messaging the license choice would be the UCL Advanced license. In other cases, such as North America and Europe, CUWL (Cisco Unified Workspace) Standard would be the license of choice. Finally, moving up the stack to the mobile worker requiring advanced UC functionality we come to the CUWL Premium and Professional editions. Both license types include Jabber mobile clients that are available on iOS, Android and Windows Mobile platforms. Mobile workers requiring web conferencing (WebEx) would be supported by CUWL Professional.
To Customers: Cisco’s current repositioning on licensing and feature/functionality updates appear primarily focused on recapture UC ground lost to Microsoft among others. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing! Clearly today’s UC environment is highly competitive with new hot features coming out almost daily, it seems. But the devil is, as always, in the details. Customers need to see beyond the hype and consider the solution’s ability to scale, ease of interoperation, channel competency to advise and deploy, and vendor’s speed of innovation in areas of central concern to their customer’s competitive differentiation. And certainly do some proof-of-concept testing.
Furthermore, in cases where enterprises already have Microsoft IM/P on the desktop, they will need to assess the pros and cons of a rip and replace with Jabber strategy. This is especially true if the existing system is tightly integrated with other collaboration applications, like e-mail and software for setting up collaborative workspaces and sharing documents.
To Partners: Cisco's announcement is definitely good news for partners. There’s additional hardware/software to sell with attendant professional services. VARs now have more opportunity now to use Jabber for everybody to create upsell opportunities and drive adoption of the wider collaboration portfolio.
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Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
UC integrates real-time and non-real time communications with business processes and requirements.
Uses presence capabilities for coordination, and presents a consistent unified user interface and experience across multiple devices and media types.
Learn more at What is Unified Communications all about?