Cisco unifies collaboration line under WebEx brand

Nirav Sheth, vice president of global sales in Cisco’s Global Partner Organization

Nirav Sheth, vice president of global sales in the Global Partner Organization at Cisco

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — For the last few years, the Cisco collaboration portfolio has gone to market under two brands — its venerable WebEx meetings brand, and its growing Spark team collaboration tools. But at Partner Connection Week here Wednesday morning, Nirav Sheth, vice president of sales in Cisco’s Global Partner Organization, previewed the big announcements of this week’s Cisco Collaboration Summit in Phoenix, where it will detail plans to unite the two under the WebEx name.

“WebEx has been the most trusted brand in the industry for meetings and collaboration with three billion meeting minutes a month,” Sheth said. “We’re going to unify the cloud experience and backbone, and starting today, all branding is Cisco WebEx going forward.”

The combination will go beyond branding, with Cisco bringing the portfolio together within its data centre and cloud partner as well, creating a single collaboration platform. In the past, Spark and WebEx had been connected, but maintained on separate backends. That all changes now, Sheth said.

He described the new WebEx platform as an example of Cisco as a customer to its own multicloud strategy, as the single platform will run on “multiple instances around the world, within our data centres and in the cloud, to deliver a single SaaS experience.”

“It makes it a seamless but infinitely scalable application,” Sheth said.

Although the Spark brand will go away, based on Sheth’s comments here, it appears that it’s mobile-first, video-centric model will remain the path for Cisco’s collaboration portfolio — hardly a surprise, given it’s both a forward-looking path, and one that happily drags more network capacity sales along with the services.

“This is a strategy for a unified experience for both live and asynchronous collaboration,” Sheth said. “We’re unifying our cloud collaboration strategy, with one cloud platform backed up by one core experience, and backed up by one brand for how you go to market and drive mindshare with customers.

The switchover from Spark will be seamless for customers, Sheth said. Thanks to “the beauty of SaaS,” apps will simply be updated with new capabilities and new names.

And it appears that at least in the short-term, the Spark name will live on, as Sheth said the company will continue to ask partners to drive its Spark Flex Plan collaboration subscription model. He also detailed enhancements to the Spark Flex offering, including options for more storage, larger meetings, beefed-up security, and access to meeting analytics. Flex, he said, remains key as many customer will still “want to have a hybrid strategy” with some capabilities in-house, some in the cloud.

“Nobody can marry on-prem with cloud and back it up with one seamless license strategy. That’s what you can offer with Cisco Spark Flex Plan,” Sheth said.