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Cisco axes Spark, elevates and enhances WebEx

Cisco has unified its two, largely separate, collaboration packages – Spark and WebEx – into a single platform that supports a single set of features.

The move makes sense because Cisco had been developing the somewhat similar packages separately, and there was some confusion about that in the market and sales channels. No more.

Webex Teams combines collaboration features in Cisco Spark and WebEx  such as whiteboarding, persistent messaging, roster, meeting controls, content sharing and so on. 

“Prior to this convergence, we had Cisco Spark with its own type of meeting – the Spark meeting, but we still had WebEx with its own WebEx meetings. Users could join Cisco Spark meetings only from the Cisco Spark app, and WebEx meetings from the WebEx app. Users could join WebEx meetings from Cisco Spark if they were clever, but they did not get any of the critical meetings features. With this convergence – it’s all simplified,” wrote Jonathan Rosenberg, CTO for Cisco's Collaboration Business in a blog post announcing the merger.

Before, the Cisco Spark management tool – Control Hub – provided some basic analytics for Cisco Spark. WebEx customers used a different tool – Site Admin – with a separate set of analytics capabilities. Now the Control Hub supports customers using both WebEx Meetings and WebEx Teams, and provides analytics functions for WebEx, he said.

Some other important facts about the merger:

-The WebEx backbone will now be used for all used for all meetings, regardless of whether they are joined from the WebEx Meetings app or the WebEx Teams app. Cisco has meeting servers in both public clouds and in Cisco’s data centers, and the WebEx backbone interconnects with both of them. The WebEx backbone IP network provides global transport between customer ISPs and Cisco meeting servers, optimizing for video quality. Cisco Spark meetings were powered by servers in public clouds and weren’t making use of the WebEx backbone.

-Prior to this convergence, the Cisco Spark management tool – Control Hub – provided some basic analytics for Cisco Spark. WebEx customers used a different tool – the Site Admin– and had a good set of analytics capabilities there. With this platform convergence, the Control Hub now supports customers using both WebEx Meetings and WebEx Teams.

-Cisco Spark’s hybrid media service, which let customers deploy servers on premises, could be used for the audio, video and content share streams for Cisco Spark meetings. But they worked only for Cisco Spark meetings. With the convergence, these hybrid media nodes can be used for any WebEx meeting type, including regular WebEx meetings and Team meetings, Rosenberg said.

Cisco introduced Spark in 2015 to “reinvent the collaboration experience.” The idea was to make collaboration tools such as messaging, meeting and calling easier to use.

Cisco bought WebEx in 2007 for about $3.2 billion with an eye toward competing more effectively with Microsoft and other collaboration software vendors.

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