Connecting collaboration and Internet of Things tools in the face of cloud threats.

Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

September 22, 2016

5 Min Read
Cisco, Salesforce Team Up on Workforce Productivity

Cisco and Salesforce on Thursday announced an alliance to boost business user productivity by jointly developing and marketing collaboration and Internet of Things tools. It's an alliance to strengthen both companies against competitors delivering enterprise applications in new ways.

The two companies will pair Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) IoT and contact center tools with Inc. Sales Cloud, IoT Cloud and Service Cloud.

On collaboration, Cisco and Salesforce will integrate Cisco Spark and WebEx into Salesforce's Sales Cloud and Service Cloud using the Salesforce Lightning Framework. Joint customers will be able to communicate in real-time using chat, video and voice without leaving Salesforce or having to install a plug-in, according to a statement from the two companies. The services will be available in the second half of 2017. (See Cisco & Salesforce Ally on Workforce Productivity.)

On IoT, the two companies will integrate Cisco Jasper, which is a cloud platform to manage IoT devices, and the Salesforce IoT cloud to provide visibility, control and recommended customer actions for connected devices. "For example, a fleet of connected trucks with IoT devices managed by Cisco Jasper can seamlessly pass data to the Salesforce IoT Cloud. In the Salesforce IoT Cloud, the truck management company can build business logic to provide customers with real-time delivery updates or flag truck maintenance issues that need to be addressed," the two companies say in a statement. IoT integrations will be available in the second half of 2017.

On customer service, Cisco and Salesforce will "deliver a complete customer service solution, from communications infrastructure to an integrated, intelligent agent desktop experience," the companies said. Cisco's Unified Contact Center Enterprise will combine with Salesforce Service Cloud customer service. These integrations are available now.

For Cisco, the alliance helps fend off competitive threats posed by the cloud -- Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) in particular. For while the cloud is an opportunity for Cisco, to sell more networking gear to both end users and service providers, it is also a threat. As enterprises replace their data centers with the public cloud, they don't need equipment from Cisco (or anyone else) to install in the data centers they no longer have.

The solution for Cisco and other enterprise vendors is to encourage a hybrid approach, where enterprises keep their own IT infrastructure and connect it to the public cloud.

That's what Microsoft is doing by marrying Azure and Office 365 with its server-based on-premises productivity software. And Cisco peddles a suite of collaboration tools for hybrid cloud. (See Cisco Developing 'Monica' Digital Assistant.)

And Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) is also following a hybrid cloud approach, providing its enterprise applications on-premises or in the cloud. This week, Oracle broadened its infrastructure push, announcing plans to challenge Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) ascendancy.

IoT is another opportunity for Cisco and other networking vendors. All those devices require a vast expansion of networking infrastructure to connect. Cisco acquired Jasper Technologies in February to provide IoT management in the cloud. (See Cisco Looks to Jasper Acquisition to Transform Enterprises – & Itself.)

For Salesforce, the partnership opportunity is mainly more straightforward -- broadening its product and technology portfolio. But beyond that, as a SaaS provider, Salesforce rides on top of other companies' networking connectivity, and the alliance with a powerful networking vendor helps keep the supply lines open between Salesforce and its customers.

In May, Salesforce named Amazon as its "preferred public cloud infrastructure provider" in a four-year deal believed to be valued at $400 million. (See Salesforce Inks Strategic Cloud Deal With Amazon.)

The alliance between Cisco and Salesforce could be a simple partnership between complementary technologies. But it could be more than that, says Sandra O'Boyle, senior analyst for Heavy Reading .

"Maybe it's simply they met over a beer in San Jose and said let's make our solutions stickier and decided to integrate their solutions," O'Boyle quipped. "They don't really step on each other's toes."

Want to know more about the cloud? Visit Light Reading Enterprise Cloud.

Cisco does cloud communications and conferencing very well, while Salesforce excels at cloud CRM, O'Boyle says. The two technologies are complementary. "Makes sense to embed comms, such as voice, IM, presence, video, etc., in Salesforce sales CRM and customer care tools. A customer has to have a license for both anyway, so they're saving some integration pain." That advantage benefits both enterprises and service providers.

The IoT alliance "could be the most interesting," O'Boyle said. Their combined technologies could be "critical in IoT services such as healthcare monitoring that need to happen in real time," O'Boyle said.

Similarly, customer care technology is complementary between the two companies, O'Boyle said. "Salesforce does the front-end very well and Cisco takes care of the back-end contact center, network call routing, telephony," she said. The two companies' customers could see improved customer experience, reduced call times and other benefits.

She noted that service providers are starting to use Salesforce CRM to manage their enterprise customer base, as well as implementing Salesforce Cloud to tie together legacy systems for consumers. (See Salesforce Targets CSPs With New Cloud Framework.)

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— Mitch Wagner, Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor, Light Reading Enterprise Cloud

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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