Cisco introduces a new way to buy collaboration products

SAN FRANCISCO – Cisco Spark, a communications and collaboration service for messaging, meetings and calls, is now going to be part of a subscription offering called Spark Flex.

Spark Flex was announced at the Cisco Partner Summit and is a single option per user, per month subscription all in the cloud service for the entry-level price of $21 license. This license gets a user Meetings, Calls, Messaging, Jabber, WebEx, Premises Meetings. All of these services are including in the US$21 per user, per month license fee.

There is a free Spark service but it just offers messaging, screen sharing for video calls for up to three people. There are many more tools available such as Room Moderation, Single Sign On, Admin Portal, Metrics and Analytics with live support and hybrid service apps for Microsoft Exchange, Outlook and Directory.

Canadian executive Rowan Trollope, the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Cisco’s Internet of Things (IoT) and Applications, said Spark Flex will be channel partner driven.

“Ipod was a revolutionary product but it was not the first music player in the world. Paired with ITunes it changed the music industry and we want to introduce a new way to buy products for collaboration with Spark Flex,” Trollope said.

According to him, the Spark platform needs a way to integrate into a SaaS offering. Cisco has created a portal at in the form of a marketplace for companies to post apps created by channel partners and vendor alliance partners on the Spark platform. There are 60 solutions in the portal at launch include some high provide tools such as One Drive, DocuSign, Stripe, Salesforce, and Office 365.

“We have integrated everything that counts into Spark and plugged it into the existing business process,” Trollope said.

Cisco worldwide channel chief Wendy Bahr, told CDN that they are anticipating partners implementing a land, expand and renew strategy with Spark Flex. “As we move to more SaaS models it is critically important that we jointly work with the channel in helping them land new customers, help them adopt SaaS offerings such as Spark Flex then have them expand that and renew later on,” she said.

Bahr added that the SaaS model is going to be used more often at Cisco and this type of enablement with channel partners will make them more profitable long term and with top line growth.

Rommell Mendoza, corporate director at Ignite CSG, a solution provider based in Calgary that specializes in collaboration solutions, said Spark Flex simplifies and shortens the sales cycle for his customers as well as taking away the complexity in explaining all of the licensing options.

“Adoption is immediately limited when not everyone in the enterprise has access to all of the applications. The barrier to access is complexity in acquiring and costs. This new model should address both,” Mendoza said.

The $21 per seat, per month subscription model price can work for channel partners, he added. “I believe simplified pricing will work for the end client. Furthermore, understanding how and what is being delivered needs to be very clear,” Mendoza said.

Cisco Canada does plan on addressing the Spark Flex subscription price for the region.

The hardware aspect of Spark Flex is not part of the offering. According to Bahr, Spark Flex is a pathway for those customers who are in an on-premises environment to go to the cloud with the Spark suite under the new Flex license model.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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