Part of the first crop of serious Enterprise 2.0 products, Cisco Quad is the networking powerhouse's ambitious attempt to surge to the head of the pack. (My more holistic market take is that Quad is yet another piece of the pie -- alongside Flip and Borderless Networks -- through which Cisco is expanding itself to ultimately become the world's most important technology company; an Intel of the 2010's if you will.) I sat down recently with Murali Sitaram, the Cisco vice president in charge of
Clearly, Cisco is making a big bet on Quad. "If we succeed, this platform will become the glue for social behavior in the enterprise," says Sitaram. "We think the confluence of real-time communications, asynchronous communications and an open architecture approach -- driven by Web apps and a multiplicity of end-point mobile devices -- gives us a very strong chance."
Cisco realizes that it has to work and play well with the folks in Redmond, given their hefty installed base. "We want to integrate with Microsoft's offerings -- our customers demand that," says Sitaram, referring to Exchange, Open Communications Server (for IM), Sharepoint, Microsoft Fast (for search), and Active Directory.
One big Quad differentiator is Cisco's intense focus on video. Cisco has expended a huge amount of effort branding itself as a video provider -- I should more properly write that they're positioning themselves a videoconferencing enabler. That's been hung off of the public-facing "Welcome to the Human Network" branding effort, with the Ellen Page television commercials. (It's interesting that the actress will soon be more famous for her Cisco ads than for her role in "Juno.")
I see "The Human Network" branding as somewhat chameleon-like. I initially thought it referred only to Cisco's huge -- and hugely expensive -- telepresence systems. Actually, it also encompasses the lighter weight WebEx videoconferencing. WebEx is supported in Quad, as is IM, as well as voice and video calling.
The cynic in me -- see again Top 5 Enterprise 2.0 Roadblocks -- says that Quad's video-connectivity push is of a piece with Cisco's imperative to drive up customer bandwidth usage, the better to sell more networking gear. Realistically, though, video is something that's bubbling up everywhere as a solution in search of a serious enterprise usage rationale. As in, if people are going to collaborate, they have to see each other, right?
Eventually, this stuff is going to catch fire, even if, right now, I can't fathom exactly why. As Sitaram puts it, "Video is the river that runs through it."
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