Five things partners should know about Cisco’s WebEx transition

Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager for applications at Cisco

Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager for applications at Cisco

One of the big announcements for partners from Cisco Partner Connection Week last week in the Bahamas took place some 2,500 miles away at the company’s other big event (along with RSA, but that’s another story), the Collaboration Summit in Phoenix, Arizona.

While Nirav Sheth did a good job of summarizing the git of the change and the strategy, there’s a lot more to the re-alignment around the WebEx brand than meets the eye. To help fill in the blanks, we connected with Cisco collaboration and apps boss Rowan Trollope (by WebEx from Arizona, of course) to get the rundown on what partners need to know.

Here’s the rundown, in no particular order.

1) If you’ve a customer in Cisco Spark, she’ll be waiting in WebEx Teams

With apologies to They Might Be Giants (or The Four Lads, depending on your generation), the re-brand pretty much is as simple as it being Istanbul and not Constantinople. Customers of the usual WebEx meetings software will not see much change. The software will be updated, and one click later, they’ll have access to the software capabilities formerly known as Spark for inter-team communications. 

Spark customers will see a software update in the next “two or three months,” according to Trollope, that will roll them into the family, as Spark is supplanted by WebEx Teams. 

The rest of the portfolio is similarly updated by finding and replacing “Spark” with “WebEx.” Remember Sparkboard? Yep… now WebExboard. You get the idea. 

2) Freemium on-road remains

Until now, both Spark and WebEx have offered a freemium model at the low end — basic capabilities on each side were free for gatherings of up to three people. So it’s no surprise that Trollope said that will continue in the new WebEx World, just that the two freemium models will be aligned. Freemium and “try and buy” options, including for the company’s hardware options, will be available on the all-new

3) Bucking the Cisco EA trend

A major part of the Thursday-morning presentation here at Cisco Partner Connection Week was about the growing importance of Enterprise Agreements for the company’s ever-growing software portfolio. But Trollope said his division is going the other way. 

Trollope said collaboration has historically “led the drive” towards EAs, but has pumped the brakes on that. The reason? While EAs make a lot of sense for software sold on a perpetual license, collaboration has made a hard turn towards consumption, which has been brought together with a unified Collaboration Flex Plan model that puts all the collaboration team’s software goodies together under a per month per user payment. 

By the way — Trollope said that one very positive change for partners from this unification has been that pricing and licensing guides go from “about this thick” (with Trollope holding his thumb and forefinger about as far apart as possible) to a much simpler 20-page document.

“It’s been hard for partners to place orders and understand our licensing terms,” he said.

4) Flex beefed up

At the same time as it’s been simplified, Cisco has put more muscle into Flex, with support for up to 1,000 users per meeting, audio calling, and more storage for meeting recording. Flex has already become the dominant way for partners to sell Cisco’s collaboration suite, and Trollope seems confident it will be even stronger in the future.

5) WebEx Share – an easy button for competitive upgrades?

Perhaps somewhere lost in the shuffle of brand names and new models was the introduction of the WebEx Share hardware device, which Trollope describes as kind of a Chromecast for WebEx. It’s a simple USB dongle that connects to any TV, and introduces screen sharing and meeting management on any screen. 

While the idea is to connect boardrooms with a simple flat panel TV to the same user experience as software-only or any Cisco meeting hardware system, Trollope said enterprising partners are already viewing a competitive displacement opportunity, taking advantage of orphaned or under-used room-based collaboration systems (from competitive or formerly competitive vendors, naturally) with HDMI inputs to bring them into the WebEx fold.

While street pricing for the Share has not been formally announced, Trollope said the intent is for it to hold a sub-$500 street price, making it what he described as a “no-brainer” upgrade or introductory device for partners to build upon.