VOSS Solutions

A Postcard from the Cisco APAC Collab Summit: Why Hybrid Spark is so Exciting

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Christopher May, VP Asia Pacific, VOSS Solutions

I was fortunate enough to attend the APAC Cisco Collaboration Summit two years ago and have just returned from Cisco's latest Collaboration Summit. It's been "a long time between drinks", but wow, both events have been memorable for me. In 2014 the excitement centred on the DX80 – Cisco’s push into word class design. In 2016, the excitement is firmly rooted to Cisco Spark, which has really come a long way in the last 12 months, but for me, the event was all about the potential of "Hybrid Spark".

To be honest, until my trip to Bali, I had been skeptical about Spark. My concern being that Spark seemed a bit “me-too” against Slack and Hip Chat. Plus Spark is up against Office productivity tools, such as Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. And we all know that nothing is going to be an email killer in business, for at least the next 10 years, let alone change the use of MS Office applications. And Spark was only ever going to be targeting small business (i.e. less than 20 seats), so it was never going to impact me.

But after a week at the Collaboration Summit, I’m a complete convert to Spark.

Here are 10 reasons why:

  1. Spark replaces Jabber and becomes the equivalent of a corporate Whatsapp, with full, persistent chat and no issues with battery life
  2. Spark ensures messaging security, with carrier grade encryption
  3. Spark includes two really amazing features in proximity awareness and call awareness. The Spark client is aware if a Cisco video device is nearby (don’t ask me how) and it offers you the option of flipping the call to the more compelling video device, without dropping the call. Similarly, if you are on a call at your desk and have to go somewhere, the Spark Client on your mobile device will be aware of the call and you can flip the call to your mobile device.
  4. Spark is interoperable with other vendors, through Acano, which means Spark can actually call a Skype user … how good is that?
  5. Outlook integration is easy and it’s much easier now to schedule WebEx meetings … something that I always found frustrating. You just type @WebEx in your calendar and Spark sets up the meeting for you automatically
  6. There is going to be a fixed/mobile convergence solution based on the Apple devices. Basically, your iPhone will become just like another Cisco desk phone, with all the enterprise voice features. Anywhere anytime becomes so much simpler.
  7. The new CCA-SP audio bridge capability is impressive. Cisco WebEx will now support its own audio bridge, with super high quality audio.
  8. There are many API-based application opportunities. With the integration of Tropo, Spark will now be able to compete with the pure API vendors, such as Twillio. We can expect a bunch of cool enterprise applications to be made available to Spark users from all the 3rd party developers.
  9. And saving the best for last … Hybrid Spark
  10. It’s going to be so impactful, so it’s worth mentioning Hybrid Spark twice!

Yes, the real eye-opener for me at this year’s Collab Summit was that Cisco has now reversed its original Spark go to market approach (ignoring their base) and fully adopted the concept of Hybrid Spark as their new go to market strategy. What this means is that, rather than only focusing only on the small enterprise market, replacing the legacy PBX, they will now fully integrate with an organization’s PBX, whether this is on premise, or in the cloud with a Service Provider.

Make no mistake; Spark is now fully compatible for both Cisco HCS partners and organizations that want to keep their Cisco UC on-premise. Everyone can benefit. And, as Peter Hughes (Head of Cloud for APAC) said; "Spark is going to be as revolutionary to the Enterprise Communications industry as IP Telephony was, 15 years ago."

Frankly, I think the way Cisco will be really successful with Spark, and where they will challenge Microsoft, is through Hybrid Spark. Here’s where I see the value of Hybrid Spark:

  1. Integration between Spark and HCS clouds will mean that larger companies get the benefit from Spark, but retain all of the sophistication of their HCS-based UC applications. It’s Win-Win-Win for Cisco, Enterprises and for Users.
  2. Executives are going to love the new Spark client on their smartphones, given that it will open up access to device and call awareness capabilities back to their CUCM devices, but as a messaging applications, it will genuinely offer all of the Whatsapp features and ease of use, but with carrier grade security
  3. WebEx meetings become so much easier for HCS-based customers through the Spark client
  4. The role of the service provider and Enterprise IT team is fully cemented within the Hybrid Spark solution and they are the ones with the market credibility for enterprise communications and the sales and support staff that organizations demand
  5. The tens of thousands of Cisco Certified Voice Engineers will now no longer see Spark as a threat … this was always going to be the major blocker to Cisco’s Spark strategy.

My final thought after a fantastic week of discussions and networking and strategizing with clients in Bali: VOSS CUCDM operational management system is now going to play a major role in the delivery of Hybrid Spark.

We demonstrated our current Spark integration at the Bali event (showing our ability to be first to market with our new business framework architecture), and received many accolades from clients and Cisco team members alike. We can’t wait to get all our Cisco HCS partners, our Managed Services Partners and our direct Enterprise customers onto Hybrid Spark.

Please get in touch to discuss this in more detail.