Cisco Partner CSC Offers Telepresence as a Service

By Chris Talbot

Cisco Systems partner CSC is adding telepresence as a service to its offerings with Cisco's line of high-definition telepresence systems. CSC's roll out of TAAS comes after a pilot of the service with a few customers.  

CSC’s TAAS is a fully managed and fully hosted telepresence offering that is billed to clients on a per-room basis, enabling customers to move telepresence expenditures from capital spending to operational spending, said Nimesh Shah, vice president of global networks at CSC. The capital costs of the hardware and the operational costs associated with the service element are rolled into one monthly recurring fee based on the size and scope of the telepresence room CSC deploys. CSC would not comment on the range of prices.

"We earlier announced and launched last year our unified communications as a service, which is a charge-per-seat model, and now we’re bringing telepresence asa Service, which is a charge-per-room model," Shah said.

In addition to providing all of the telepresence capabilities common to Cisco telepresence systems, CSC is also tying its TAAS offering into customers’ existing videoconferencing and unified communications systems.

"What we found is a lot of customers are looking for a way to improve and expand their collaboration capabilities," Shah said.

Although there are various collaboration tools available to businesses, Shah said video is the one that is least used, but it’s growing exponentially. He said many clients have been asking for a telepresence system they can tie into their existing collaboration and videoconferencing tools so they can get telepresence’s benefits but without the capital expenditures previously required in telepresence deployments. It makes it a more easily justifiable expense for some businesses, he said. The ability to integrate with legacy video systems is good for clients that don’t want to do a full rip-and-replace of existing systems, he said.

"It’s a much more flexible way to get those services and bring that collaborative capability without a huge investment outlay on their part," Shah said.
Even with TAAS, though, telepresence interest is mostly restricted to large enterprises, but Shah said he expects the technology to move into the midmarket as Cisco integrates Tandberg into its telepresence unit more aggressively.

What TAAS provides to customers is a choice between capital and operating expenditures, which Shah said they didn’t have prior to the launch of the service. Enterprises had to buy everything outright, and now they don’t have to, he added.

"We’ve talked to a number of our prospects who say we looked at this but this is a much better way to go at this," Shah said.

One of CSC’s earlier customers for TAAS is UBS, a global wealth management and investment bank with offices around the world, started piloting the service in summer 2010 and finished its initial implementation in November. According to Doug Rennie, managing director of infrastructure shared services at UBS, the primary purpose of the rollout was to enhance its existing videoconferencing systems with the high-definition capabilities of telepresence.

"Primarily, it’s used as an enhanced meeting experience. At this point in time, the limited number of deployments is primarily used to avoid a lot of executive travel. As much as possible, it’s used for staff meetings pretty heavily spread out from a geography standpoint with major financial cities around the world," Rennie said.

Unsatisfied with more traditional teleconferencing, with poor quality video that is often out of sync with people’s speech, UBS turned to telepresence to increase the quality of its video communications and plans to roll out telepresence rooms to all its main facilities around the world.

However, UBS doesn’t yet see the advantage of telepresence in reducing travel. Rennie estimated that UBS will probably need at least 200 telepresence units rolled out before the technology will actually reduce executive travel in a meaningful way.

"This is really a part of our collaboration portfolio. We’ve worked really hard to try and integrate this. It’s really about trying to bring new capabilities to our clients," Shah said.


This article was originally published on 2011-03-28