Cisco partners pointed to collaboration technology -- unified around a single Webex client and expanded through AI -- as the key theme at this week's Cisco Live conference in San Diego.
Multiple interfaces previously characterized the networking company's collaboration approach. But Cisco addressed long-held partner and customer concerns with the launch of Cisco Webex Unified Experience, which the company said provides voice, video, meetings and group collaboration in a single product.
Cisco partners also highlighted Cognitive Collaboration as an important development discussed at Cisco Live. Cognitive Collaboration is an approach that embeds AI and machine learning into the Webex product line. Examples include People Insights, which creates a profile of each participant logged into a Cisco Webex meeting, pulling together bios, news stories and social media links. Cisco announced People Insights in March 2019, and the offering became generally available in June.
"Collaboration was the star of the show," said Phil Mogavero, vice president of hybrid data center, collaboration and security at PCM Inc., a managed services and solutions provider based in El Segundo, Calif.
Specifically, he pointed to "unification of the client component, with regard to collaboration, and some of the cool analytics that are built into it and, really, more unification within Cisco's strategy."
As for the latter, Cisco aims to "produce solutions that are going to work in the cloud or on premises, and they are going to give the customer the same user interface and management capability, regardless," he added.
Mogavero said unification has been a wish-list item for around three years. "The fact that they've finally done it is amazing," he said.
Unified Webex client
Jason Parry, vice president of client solutions at Force 3, a networking, security and collaboration solutions provider in Crofton, Md., also cited Cisco's unified collaboration client as one of the company's most notable moves at the conference.
"Partners and customers have asked for that for a long time," he said. "Cisco has had multiple collaboration clients for years," he said, noting different clients for calling, messaging, web meetings and video meetings. "That creates user experience challenges for customers. They want to be able to do everything from one client."
The unified Webex client will give customers that ability, while also simplifying development for Cisco, Parry noted.
Phil MogaveroVice president of hybrid data center, collaboration and security, PCM Inc.
Unification "lets Cisco build capabilities into one client instead of having multiple different clients to develop on, maintain and support," he said.
Mogavero, meanwhile, also sees a unification benefit with regard to aggregating data on Cisco Webex meeting participants.
"I can get analytics on people … logged into the conference, and I can find out what company they work for, and I can get their social media information on there, and I can get access into their company information -- all in one aggregated place," he said.
An Umbrella for SD-WAN security
Beyond collaboration, Cisco partners also cited security as a focus at Cisco Live. For example, the company said it is adding features to its Umbrella cloud-based secure internet gateway that will let customers secure their software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) environments from the cloud.
Parry said Umbrella extensions around proxy services and cloud-based firewalls will complete, or add to, secure SD-WAN conversations with customers. He said Umbrella has been a simple technology to deploy and provides considerable "bang for the buck" when considering the platform's capabilities versus its implementation cost.
"The fact that they are leveraging Umbrella to deliver additional capabilities makes a ton of sense," Parry said.
Netskope expands channel program
Netskope, a cloud security vendor based in Santa Clara, Calif., has added a new partner designation for companies able to address large-scale enterprise deployments.
The company's Preferred Service Provider program is by invitation only. Participants complete a training and certification regimen.
"We have specifically chosen partners who have established cloud security practices," said Dave Rogers, vice president of channel sales at Netskope. "Each of our [Preferred Service Providers] has committed to a minimum number of trained resources, in addition to three different training classes, complete with labs and tests."
Thus far, four companies have been selected for the program in North America. Two other partners have been invited to join in that region and are expected to complete the training program by the end of 2019, Rogers said. Netskope recently rolled out the program in Australia and will launch in EMEA later this year.
In addition, Netskope has expanded its deal registration program to include renewals. "Rewarding and protecting our partners' investments in Netskope continues to be a top priority," Rogers said.
- D&H Distributing has redesigned its digital commerce platform, now dubbed Cloud Solutions Marketplace. The new platform enables managed service providers (MSPs) and VARs to provision Cloud Clusters that integrate cloud services, hardware, and partners' proprietary managed and professional services. D&H is currently migrating existing customers of D&H Marketplace to Cloud Solutions Marketplace, with migration slated for completion by June 23, the company said. Cloud Solutions Marketplace integrates with professional services automation software, such as ConnectWise Manage and Datto Autotask.
- Igneous, an unstructured data management vendor, has ramped up its partner resources. In addition to appointing a new channel executive, the company launched expanded market development funds, partner sales incentives and a new program to support partners in their customers' cloud migrations. Leonard Iventosch, who serves as the chief channel evangelist for Qumulo, joined Igneous as its chief channel advisor.
- Data protection vendor Acronis expanded its integrations with ConnectWise. The Acronis Cyber Cloud platform, which integrates with ConnectWise Manage and Automate, now connects with the MSP software vendor's remote support product, ConnectWise Control. Acronis said the integration lets Control users provide Acronis backup service to their customers.
- Host Analytics, an enterprise performance management vendor, expanded its global footprint of channel partners. New partners include solution providers RSM in the U.K., Satori Group in Australia and Altron Karabina in South Africa, the vendor said.
- Master agent Avant Communications rolled out a new market research initiative, Avant Analytics. The research, which Avant will offer to its partners and customers, will focus on IT industry trends relating to cloud, colocation, connectivity, SD-WAN, security and unified communications as a service, among other technologies.
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