Cisco Gives Users Access to Premium Collaboration Tools from Unlikely Places and Multiple Devices

25 Jun 2012

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.

Principal New Features of CUCM R9.0

Cisco Extend & Connect

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.

Support of Fixed Mobile Convergence

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.

Video Quality, Security, and Usability Improvements

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:

  1. CUCM R9.0 supports both legacy as well as Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) dialing systems enabling the preference of the user to dictate choice. URI is essentially an email-style end user dialing option that brings the worlds of video and voice together under one single dialing plan. With a single email address URI dialers can reach any user on any device across the Cisco collaboration portfolio whether it's a phone, video endpoint, jabber client. Moreover, it doesn't matter if a collaboration partner has ten endpoints or one since URI dialing is a single number reach capability as well.
  2. CUCM has an upgraded Call Admission Control (CAC) capability to support both voice and video. This is an important step forward in the area of integrating voice and video call control together across all endpoints, whether hard or soft. CAC automatically creates a logical view of the network so the system can dynamically update traffic management across clusters and locations.

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.

Continued Innovation in the Contact Center Space

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:

  1. Packaged Contact Center Enterprise: Cisco is now providing pre-engineered, packaged versions of its enterprise contact center software making it easier for partners and customers to roll this technology out.
  2. Unified Contact Center Enterprise has been updated with the addition of precision routing and a new web administration tool. Precision routing enables contact centers to drive complex call routing decisions - based on business logic and agent attributes.
  3. Cisco Unified Contact Center Express: Here, Cisco is delivering customizable reporting through Cisco Unified Intelligence Center, new channels for customer care with the addition of web chat and support for Cisco SocialMiner, and supervisory mobility through a new mobile skill manager.
  • Cisco Unified Intelligence Center is a web-based reporting application that provides realtime and historical reporting in a wizard-based application. It allows contact center supervisors and business users to report on the details of every contact across all channels in the contact center from a single interface.
  • Cisco SocialMiner provides a social media customer care solution for Cisco Unified Contact Center Express that enables a company to proactively respond in realtime to customers and prospects, communicating through the same social network customers are using to communicate be it Twitter and Facebook or other public forum or blogging sites.
  • Cisco Mobile Supervisor allows supervisors to remain connected to realtime reporting information and to monitor their teams from their mobile devices. Supervisors can view a subset of Cisco Supervisor Desktop reports, including a list of queues belonging to a selected team, the queue summary report for a selected queue, and agents belonging to a selected team or a queue, along with their current agent state.
  1. CUCM R9.0 also supports native call queuing, so in-bound callers/groups of callers can be automatically put on hold and properly routed into a queue and given custom greetings and announcements.
  2. One Button to Recordis another new feature, allowing users to start or stop recording a call directly from an endpoint. The other party also gets informed immediately that a recording has been initiated.

Licensing Improvements

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.

What This Means to You

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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