Cisco Intros Next-Gen Video Conferencing, Collaboration Platform

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print


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Cisco announces a handful of new technologies designed as components of its larger vision of a next-generation collaboration platform that includes HD video conferencing such as Cisco's Telepresence with Cisco's WebEx technologies and taps into technology to make Cisco's technologies interoperable with solutions from other vendors.

Looking to create a complete video-enabled collaboration solution for the new millennium, Cisco today introduced a handful of new products and outlined how they would work together, enabling businesses to increase productivity and reduce travel.

The announcements include nods to next-generation collaboration standards as well as providing an answer to those who have said that Cisco’s video conferencing has lagged in interoperability with solutions from other vendors.  

Cisco’s announcements today follow the announcement of its intention to acquire Tandberg, a major rival in the video conferencing space, a move by the networking giant that was lauded by channel partners and widely thought to be an effort to make greater inroads into the midmarket space. Cisco’s TelePresence system, with its hefty price tag and private and proprietary network, has largely been considered a solution for enterprises on the very high end.

Also, one Tandberg executive has told Channel Insider that Cisco’s TelePresence system had not natively connected to standards-compliant systems. Cisco’s announcements today take it on the road to remedy that problem, as it also integrates the technology of another recent acquisition to make its own system more open, secure and standards-compliant.

Cisco says that it will make its TelePresence HD video conferencing, its unified communications and its Cisco WebEx online conferencing open and interoperable, helping to facilitate collaboration among many different parties both inside and outside of individual businesses.

Further, Cisco said that it is introducing enterprise social software and hosted e-mail to make that collaborative experience even richer and more useful.

Cisco calls the integration of all these technologies "medianets—networks optimized for video and voice delivery that deliver better collaborative experiences for end users across heterogeneous devices, applications and clients."

Among today’s announced technologies are the following:

  • Cisco TelePresence WebEx Engage—a simple scheduling and one-button conferencing initiation solution with video integration between TelePresence and WebEx. Cisco says it combines TelePresence with the reach of the WebEx meeting center.
  • Cisco Telepresence Director—a Cisco-hosted director of endpoints, organizations and people with access to Cisco TelePresence endpoints.  Cisco says the director features a virtual assistant to help schedule meetings across more than 1,200 rooms at more than 80 customers using intercompany Cisco TelePresence.
  • Cisco Intercompany Media Engine—enables communication over any IP network to maximize network efficiency and reduce costs. Cisco says it has submitted the solution to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) today for standardization. Capabilities include HD voice with built-in security. Cisco anticipates service providers will be able to use this to offer new business-to-business services, network capabilities and broader managed services.
  • Cisco Unified Communications System 8.0—adds support for more kinds of endpoints, including video- and Wi-Fi-enabled Cisco Unified IP phones and other smartphones via the Cisco Unified Mobile Communicator. The technology is available as on-premises, on-demand or a hybrid of the two.
  • Cisco WebEx Mail—a hosted e-mail solution from Cisco with native Microsoft Outlook interoperability, optimized mobile device support and browser-independent AJAX Web 2.0 access. Cisco says the mail comes with a highly scalable infrastructure that overcomes the limitations of traditional mailbox size. It’s available on demand.
  • Cisco’s integration of the XMPP standard, through its acquisition of Jabber—Cisco says this enables a highly secure, federated presence across its collaboration portfolio, starting with Cisco WebEx Connect Instant Messaging and Cisco Unified Presence 8.0. Cisco says the XMPP standard also enables support for third-party enterprise instant messaging clients and applications.

Cisco also introduced three new infrastructure products that the company says will help customers convert their IP networks to "medianets." The Cisco Media Experience Engine 3500 and 5600 provide real-time video transcoding, and offer features such as speech-to-text transcription of videos, which makes them searchable as text and Web documents. Cisco says it also enables TelePresence to interoperate with video conferencing devices from other companies.

In addition, Cisco announced Cisco Pulse, a search platform that performs dynamic tagging of content as it traverses the network.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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