Cisco Extends Jabber With VDI

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Cisco is extending its Jabber enterprise unified communications suite with virtual desktop infrastructure, a move that makes good on some of its video and UC ambitions, while giving partners greater reach into financial, government and other privacy-wary enterprise verticals.

Cisco Systems Inc. is making good on some of its ambitions in video, virtualization and unified communication. In fact, its latest release combines all three by extending its Unified Collaboration Suite Jabber to a virtual desktop environment.

And its entry is via new software, dubbed Virtualization Experience Media Engine (VXME), globally available during the first half of this year. The software is slated for availability on Cisco thin clients, followed by support for third party devices such as Dell Wyse and Windows based thin clients and Windows PCs.

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VXME essentially brings a virtual desktop experience to Jabber’s collaboration capabilities such as voice, high-definition video and instant messaging. And it’s all bundled under what is known as Cisco Virtualization Experience Infrastructure Smart Solution. Altogether, Cisco VXI is comprised of a desktop virtualization, applications and collaboration services centrally hosted on the Cisco Unified Data Center.

The launch also incorporates support for an array of new desktop accessories, supported by partners Logitech and Jabra, which attempt to replicate a familiar and tactile communication experience. Those desktop toys run the gamut of features from keyboards with caller-ID displays, to standalone speakers, phone handsets and Web cams that enable users to collaborate from virtual desktops using HD video.

Not surprisingly the VXME solution touts greater flexibility, a wider variety of choice for users and overall improved user communication as well as an easier management experience for IT personnel. By default, the VXME software on thin clients makes the network aware of voice and video traffic. That enables the network to automatically prioritize collaboration functions, which in turn reduce jitter and delays.

That bodes well for managing channel partners, who can make new inroads in enterprise markets by touting greater integrations and reduced latency that add to ROI and pad customers' bottom lines.

On the channel front, solution providers can weave a spate of monitoring and maintenance services around the solution once implemented. While first customers could potentially include Jabber customers, Ken Snyder, emerging technology solutions manager for CDW, says that those first to be targeted will likely be industry specific verticals, such as financial and government sectors, with a compelling need for secure communications and much of the necessary virtual infrastructure already in place.

That enterprise vertical focus will also give solution providers the ability to push harder on the security front. As an enterprise collaboration tool, Jabber is less of a target for cybercriminals than a consumer-grade product. But the virtual desktop function provides another layer of visibility and secure access to documents, applications and data above and beyond the desktop Jabber solution. And it’s an angle that partners can leverage when going after compliance and data-privacy wary enterprise customers leery of massive data breaches on Skype, Dropbox and other consumer tools.

Cisco’s launch attempts to align with current VDI trends. A Gartner study projected that 77 million users would be hosted on VDI environments by 2016. Meanwhile, according to a 2012 Cisco IBSG Horizons study, 68 percent of respondents maintained that most knowledge worker roles are suitable for desktop virtualization, while more than half of those have already implemented or are in the process of implementing a VDI strategy.

And in light of the escalating trend, the marriage of Unified Communications and VDI is a logical market evolution. The effort is part of a long-term software strategy for Cisco aimed at taking its collaboration and video prowess up a few notches. It’s also an area in which Cisco hopes to make significant market dents.

In August, the San Jose,Calif.-based company adopted a software centric approach that removed hardware from UC licenses.

In its last quarter earnings call, Cisco executives underscored a rejuvenated focus on video, noting last quarter a 30 percent rise in service provider video services, with 20 percent of that growth attributed to the acquisition of NDS Group Ltd., which officially closed in November.

It’s latest release appears to put the company a few steps ahead in that area and give it a leg up on other stated paths.

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