Cisco drives collaboration solutions further down market

LOS ANGELESCisco Systems continues to grow its presence and share of the midmarket with the launch of the Business Edition 6000S, driving its collaboration solutions even further down market.

Cisco took the wraps off the BE6000S at its Collaboration Summit event on Tuesday. Pat Romzek, vice-president of collaboration sales with Cisco, said it’s the latest step in Cisco’s move to build on its leadership in the enterprise space by building purpose-built solutions for the midmarket, which it defines as organizations with 20-1000 seats.

“Smaller business employ lots of people. Much of the job growth is coming from smaller businesses, and collaboration is a top priority for them,” said Romzek. “There’s a high demand for capability, but they have limited resources for deployment.”

Cisco sees a $5.3 billion opportunity for collaboration solutions worldwide in the midmarket in 2015, growing at three-to-four-times the enterprise market. And it sees an underserved gap in the midmarket, with customers forced to choose between one-dimensional solutions that can’t integrate and enterprise solutions retrofitted for the midmarket. Cisco’s approach is to design from the ground-up for the midmarket.

The solutions also had to be partner-led.

“At the end of the day if we couldn’t build a solution that partners could make strong margins on, partners wouldn’t sell it. So that’s what we did,” said Romzek.

Cisco launched its first solution into the midmarket three years ago, and the BE6000S will help it reach even smaller businesses. The BE6000S is a collaboration platform built into an integrated Cisco router that delivers voice, video, instant messaging, presence and paging capabilities to businesses as small as 25 users and up to 100 users.

“We’re really excited about this, and we think it’s going to help us continue our growth in the midmarket by bringing rich capabilities down to even smaller businesses,” said Romzek.

The BE6000S is designed to be easy to install and support, with new tools such as simple management wizards designed to make the solution supportable by a smaller IT staff. There’s also an easier migration path to higher capacity BE6000 platforms as companies grow.

With its focus on the lower end of the midmarket, the BE6000S should be an ideal fit for the Canadian market said Ian Gallagher, general manager for collaboration with Cisco Canada.

“The market segment we have in Canada is largely dominated by small and medium-sized companies, so I think this platform, which goes down to 25 users, addresses a huge part of our opportunity,” said Gallagher. “It needs to be full-featured in this segment, and simple. Simplified ordering and instillation is key for us to lower complexity for both partners and customers. We’re quite excited about it.”

The primary route to market for the BE6000S is the channel, and Cisco has launched a number of initiatives designed to make the solution easier, and more profitable, for partners to bring to market. This includes the option to order all BE6000 models with preconfigured settings, meaning less time spent by partner technical staff configuring the product before customers are up and running.

“Cookie-cutter installs with preconfigured images mean Cisco can ship the preconfigured product and reduce partner deployment time by 30 per cent,” said Romzek.

Also available now in Canada is the Cisco Config to Order Portal, for orders that can’t use the preconfigured images because they require a specific custom configuration.

“A configure to order portal allows partners to pre-establish certain parameters that distributors will build into the product,” said Romzek. “This is a partner-led strategy.”

The strategy is getting support from CompletelyManaged, a Cisco Premier partner and managed services provider based in Newmarket, Ont. Mike Borer, vice-president of business development with CompletelyManaged, said they’ve been bundling their own services with the Cisco solutions and selling them on a services basis.

Borer said the pre-configuration tools, which were pioneered in Canada and are now being taken global by Cisco, save CompletelyManaged two to three days in the deployment process.

“It allows our tech guys to focus on new business instead of old business, and we can redirect resources to new business opportunities,” said Borer.

Donna Cooney, director of partner development for collaboration at Cisco Canada, added there are lots of opportunities for partners to expand their business beyond what they were doing with the BE6000 and address an even greater market opportunity.

“The opportunity to bring something to the smaller market is something they’ve been looking for,” said Cooney. “Canada has driven the productivity ratio amongst organizations looking to do more with less. Technology is a true asset to those businesses, and partners are helping them realize more opportunities with technology.”

Global availability is expected in early 2015.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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