Cisco WebEx Teams: Cloud-Based Collaboration


April 19, 2016

In the fourth quarter of 2014, Cisco unveiled their new cloud-based collaboration application, Project Squared. At that time, Project Squared was a simple messaging and meeting coordination application. Users could create and enter virtual rooms, post photographs, message other attendees, and do so from their mobile devices. If that sounds familiar, it is because within a year’s time, the application has been rebranded as Cisco Spark.

Since earning its new name, Cisco Spark has undergone consistent development and expansion of its feature set, and another big change occurred recently. Cisco has taken Spark, a simple and effective collaboration application, and turned it into a full cloud-based collaboration and communication platform.


Big Changes for Cisco Spark


Spark the Service

While many of the new Spark features increase the value of the product, Spark the Service opens entirely new doors for the Spark Platform. Now, Spark can function as its own independent, cloud-based public branch exchange (PBX) system. Users can connect to the cloud platform and use Spark to make internal voice and video calls as well as calls out to the lager public switched telephone network (PSTN).

Spark the Service transforms an application into a hosted voice solution, and it does so without cutting corners. Ross Daniels, Cisco senior director, made sure to specify that Spark the Service is an entirely new software instead of a port of existing products.

“The calling service is new code. This is not a port of Unified Communications Manager to the cloud. This is built from the start as a cloud PBX. The same way that we built Spark as a messaging service, we built the calling service as a cloud PBX,”
—     Ross Daniels
Cisco Senior Director


Spark Room OS and Spark Phone OS

The development team at Cisco recognized an important element to the collaboration market. While mobile phones, laptops, tablets, and other endpoints are all capable of making calls through Spark, Jabber, Facebook, or other functionality, there is still a healthy market for traditional desktop IP phones. Companies still enjoy the clear sound quality and advanced call features, such as call waiting, transferring, and extensions.

Therefore, Spark must be inclusive of those Cisco endpoints in order to avoid stepping on their own business interests. That’s where Spark Room OS and Spark Phone OS come in.

Cisco video endpoints and IP phones are able to connect to Spark and make use of the hosted voice capabilities enabled by Spark the Service.


Spark for Developers

To further extend the Spark experience, Cisco has also created an open API for the application in the Spark for Developers Platform. Third party developers are welcome to create add-ons or supplemental additions to Spark to drive the application forward and increase its value for every use case.


Spark Hybrid Services

Much like Spark the Room, Spark Hybrid Services is a compatibility feature. There are plenty of organizations out there who utilize robust collaboration deployments with hundreds of endpoints, dozens of applications, and multiple server clusters supporting the entire endeavor. These systems were a hefty investment and function well for the needs of the organization.

In that environment, completely ripping and replacing the solution with Cisco Spark may not be an ideal scenario. Spark Hybrid services enables organizations with CUCM deployments to integrate with the new Spark platform.


What Does Cloud-Based Collabortion Mean For Spark In SMB Market

Taking a God’s eye view of the new Spark features and improvements, it’s easy to see where this application is headed. If they haven’t already, small-to-medium sized businesses should take a second look at Cisco Spark.

Spark the Service, Spark Room OS, and other features position this collaboration platform as a one-stop solution for all voice and collaboration needs. Instead of installing Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) and an assortment of other collaboration add-ons for voicemail, advanced call routing, and video conferencing, SMBs can simply access Spark and achieve many of the same features without the costs of deploying or supporting the hardware infrastructure to power the solution.

It’s been called unified communications as a service (UCaaS), and that can be a powerful tool for SMBs. Looking forward, the open API and community of third party developers with access to the code will only serve to improve upon an already impressive tool.

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For Further Reading:

The Definitive Cisco WebEx Teams Adoption Strategy

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