The 2012 Cisco Collaboration Summit in Los Angeles, CA delivered an action packed agenda focused on empowering, engaging and innovating with collaboration solutions. I have been attending Cisco partner events for the past 6-7 years and this one will go down as one of my favorites! It was incredibly awesome to see Cisco’s new laser focus on growth and innovation while simplifying their collaboration solution portfolio. Here are my top 7 highlights from the event:

1. Total Collaboration: The 1:1 meetings with the Cisco Collaboration leadership team are always my favorite part of the annual summit. The most interesting highlight from meeting with Cisco’s leadership team was the new total collaboration solution strategy, which was consistently driving business transformation focus across the entire collaboration business unit. In the executive panel discussion, OJ Winge (SVP for Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group) drove this new strategy home by stating “it’s not just selling voice or video; we need to make all work together.”

2. The Cloud is Stronger: From a cloud collaboration strategy perspective, Cisco announced two key new additions to their Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) by adding Contact Center and Video support to the cloud based solution stack in the upcoming 9.0 release. The CDW Collaboration practice is excited to leverage these new enhancements to expand and drive even greater business value for customers moving to our Cisco HCS based CDW Cloud Collaboration solution offering.

3. WebEx Just Got Better: Cisco’s announcement of the new on-premise WebEx Meeting Server hit the mark to the great delight of partners and many customers.  This will fill the gap of those who have been seeking to deliver the highly robust and rich WebEx Meetings user experience in customer data centers, where they will now have full control following Cisco’s WebEx acquisition a few years back. The CDW Collaboration practice has been working closely with Cisco by participating in the partner beta trial of this exciting new solution to help ensure the final product will be rock solid for our mutual customers!

4. More for Mobile: During the summit keynote, Cisco demonstrated how they plan to bring together Enterprise Social and contextual big data with their collaboration clients to deliver a much enhanced mobile user experience powered by Cisco’s flagship Jabber collaboration clients. In recent months, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has been one of the hottest discussions from customers across all of CDW’s Strategic Solution practices. The cross-practice CDW Converged Infrastructure Virtual Team has been discussing and exploring how we can leverage big data and contextual information to enhance BYOD solution offerings; which has been a hot topic with CDW customers during several of my recent “Future of UC” red carpet discussions. I was absolutely thrilled to see Cisco making huge progress in this emerging intersection of “the internet of things” crossing paths with BYOD and collaboration solutions.

5. Beautiful Video: The announcement and demonstration of major advancement in video performance with a newly developed H.265 video codec underscored Cisco’s new commitment and focus on driving innovation within their collaboration endpoint portfolio. The side by side comparison of H.265 vs H.264 resulted in the most stunning demo of the summit. The H.265 codec consumed half the bandwidth, yet delivered a brilliantly crisp and clear quality video that was essentially equal to the older H.264 codec. This will enable customers to scale HD video across their networks while preserving a very high quality user experience.

6. All-in-One Service: Cisco’s mid-market collaboration strategy took center stage at the summit with key enhancements to the Cisco Business Edition 6000 solution delivering a new turn-key UCS server based appliance preloaded with VMware and Cisco’s core Unified Communication applications. The new appliance enables customers and partners to quickly deploy voice, video, mobility, messaging, conferencing, instant messaging and presence, and contact center capabilities integrated in a single-server solution. Cisco Unified Provisioning Manager 9.0 is at the heart of this midsize business targeted solution with key features such as ease of phone deployment, end user self-care and simplified initial setup.

7. The Power of Social: Enterprise Social was a huge topic this year with lots of discussions regarding Cisco’s WebEx Social solution. Over the past year, CDW has been participating in Cisco’s WebEx Social lighthouse partner program. It has been very interesting to watch the emerging enterprise social market evolve and change over the past year. WebEx Social is setting itself apart with seamless integrations into Cisco’s UC and Collaboration portfolio. This is made possible because the UC integrations are in the native DNA of WebEx Social instead of an after thought “string and can” approach. This “native” integration provides a powerful UC and Collaboration solution to enhance knowledge sharing and communication capabilities for organizations as they seek to grow and innovate within their own business.

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