The convergence of mobility and collaboration are a growing reality. And that's the backdrop for Cisco's upgrade of the Unified Communications Manager platform's services and capabilities.
Release 9.0 tackles what Cisco sees as some of the key challenges IT managers are facing as they seek to "collaboration-enable" their employees both in the office and on the go.
"Enterprise IT managers want to address user demands for access to collaborative technologies on a variety of devices," said Thomas Wyatt, vice president and general manager at Cisco. "At the same time, resellers are looking to enable IT managers to maximize the value of existing investments while they transition to next-generation collaboration technologies."
Cisco UC 9.0 aims to do all of this. A new featured called Extend and Connect works with Jabber to bring any third-party phone into the Cisco UC environment. Cisco is also offering support for fixed mobile convergence to give users with any type of mobile phone access to more desk phone-like features anywhere -- without the need of a smartphone, a data plan, or a mobile client installed on the phone.
On the video front, UC 9.0 promises better bandwidth management via a built-in implementation of Call Admission Control. CAC automatically creates a logical view of the network so the system can dynamically update traffic management across clusters and locations to ensure optimal call quality, even during peak usage periods. Cisco is also offering support for additional video endpoints and a dial by e-mail feature.
"We've relied on Cisco Unified Communications for several years, and this latest version brings several updates that answer pressing business needs. Voice traffic has increased exponentially on our network, especially during peak times when applications are due for enrollment and financial aid," said Nick Ciesinski, network architect at the University of Wisconsin. "Native queuing gives us a way to automate the handling of those spikes in call activity."
The list of upgrades to Cisco's Unified Communications platform goes on and on, from customer collaboration upgrades to enhancements to Cisco Unified Contact Center Express and even licensing improvements.
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, said part of Cisco's strategy is to think mobile first.
"There is certainly a big battle in enterprise communications between Cisco and Microsoft. From the customers I've talked to they have become 1 and 1A in the market," Kerravala told us. "He who winds up winning the battle for the client winds up winning this war. You can definitely say the advantage goes to Microsoft when it comes to desktop."
To Cisco's advantage, the end-point computing market is shifting away from traditional desktop computing to mobile devices -- and much of what Cisco has acquired over the years with WebEx and Jabber has been optimized for mobile first.
"Cisco needs to get customers to think mobile first when thinking about Unified Communications," Kerravala said. "That would put the advantage in Cisco's hands because their set of mobile tools was better than what Microsoft offers."
Global availability of Cisco UC Release 9.0 is targeted for the third quarter. Extend and Connect, one of the many key advancements, requires both UC Release 9.0 as well as Cisco Jabber 9.1. Cisco Jabber 9.1 is scheduled to be available in the fourth quarter.