Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cisco Collaboration Summit - Day 1

Yesterday was the kickoff for Cisco's Collaboration Summit. Last year I attended virtually, and this was my first time going in person. As with other Cisco events, it's very well staged, and has the feel of a rock concert at times. Given that the focus is on collaboration and using all the multimedia tools to fullest effect, it all felt about right.

There was a lot of buildup around the slew of releases coming from Cisco now, and they made this clear repeatedly, so the basic message is that Cisco is up to some big things and jumping to new curves. That's not a new message from Cisco these days, and they shared a lot of vision with us about how they're taking collaboration and the cloud to new levels, and how this is going to change the way we work.

A lot of the discussion was around plumbing and architectures, and not being an IT guy, the technical revelations were not as interesting to me as the focus on what collaboration and the cloud means to the enterprise and the end user experience.

Things opened with an appropos reference to the fall of the Berlin Wall, which happened 20 years ago yesterday. Of course, Cisco is trying to do the same thing with their vision for collaboration. They view this as a $30 billion opportunity, and in short, their definition of collaboration is people + teams + information. Fair enough, but it's going to take the better part of 3 days to explain all this to us.

Even though yesterday's session was only 2 hours long, I wasn't alone in trying to get my head around the multitude of announcements and initiatives Cisco shared with us. Lots of talk, esp from John Chambers, about the need to have strength in two areas - the underlying technologies, as well as being supported by business processes that are driven by specific goals for the enterprise.

They spent a lot of times demonstrating this by Cisco's own example in terms of how they've done a lot of this themselves. John Chambers talked about the cultural changes Cisco has gone through, shifting from "command and control" to "teamwork and innovation". He backed this up talking about Cisco making 4 acquisitions in the past 45 days, which could only been possible by having all these collaboration capabilities in place. Am not sure if enterprise customers have taken these ideas totally to heart, but Cisco sure seems to have made the move, and it's hard to deny that they have a lot of agility for a company of its size and global reach.

Otherwise, lots of impressive demos and messaging about how "the new normal" is driven by collaboration, especially video. Most of the focus is about Webex and Telepresence, with a few references to IP phones (esp the new 9971 video-enabled phone). Remember routers? Not a word here. This is all about defining the new normal - helping IT cope with the endless treadmill that IP is putting us on - more info than ever before, more devices, more access, more security risks, more storage needs, more power/energy demands, fast time to market, etc. More, more, more.

If you can figure all this out, then Cisco has the answers. I can't sum this up with a simple explanation - that's why we're here for 3 days. So, conceptually, we all get it, and in Cisco's mind, the path is clear. With each passing session, it's getting clearer to the rest of us, so just bear with me another day or two.

Waiting to begin - setting the stage...

See that glow above his head? That's the JC halo - it follows him everywhere - he's so good getting his message across...

Nice demo here, with a video image on the right for Telepresence, and the same image on the left on Cisco's new IP phone.

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