Cisco chooses Melbourne for first data centres outside US for Spark messaging app

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Cisco chooses Melbourne for first data centres outside US for Spark messaging app

Cisco has launched primary and secondary data centres in Melbourne for its Spark messaging platform, the first country to get hosting outside the US.

Spark is Cisco's answer to the huge growth in messaging apps, which have now overtaken social networks in terms of monthly active users. Gartner predicts that within two years, 50 percent of team coordination and communication will occur via mobile group collaboration apps.

Vaughan Klein, Cisco's regional manager, collaboration, channels & commercial, said the decision to offer local data centres for Spark was driven by Cisco's heritage. "At our heart, we are a networking organisation and real-time communications and latency are important. We have 160 milliseconds to play with before things start to get a bit quirky in terms of the delivery of the technology."

He said that when users deploy collaboration suites on-premises, "we can easily deal with 160 milliseconds of latency. But in a cloud world that latency gets complex."

Klein pointed to bandwidth-hungry video data and the need to sync up moving images with audio as reasons to process data onshore in Australia.

The decision to launch the data centre in Australia three months ago made sense because of the "very high utilisation" of Cisco collaboration technology by Australian customers – "the highest per capita utilisation of collaboration technology anywhere in the world".

One of the first Australian companies to commercially deploy Spark is top Cisco partner Dimension Data, whose local Oakton subsidiary has been using Spark integrated with its ServiceNow IT service management system.

Michael Slip, general manager, CX and collaboration at Dimension Data, said the company used Spark to coordinate data from myriad communications platforms, including instant messaging and email, for incident response.

When a major incident strikes a customer, Dimension Data engineers might use myriad communications channels to resolve the issue, said Slip. Now much of this communication can be centralised on Spark.

"Once we have achieved the point of restoration, now we have all this information of what we did across multiple platforms of communications. How do we get that back into ServiceNow?"

By using the API capability to integrate ServiceNow with Cisco Spark, the service provider can extract content from Spark rooms into ServiceNow for long-term case storage.

Potential use cases could include public safety, where a major accident would necessitate collaboration between different authorities using different collaboration platform; at a hospital, all of a patient's records could be consolidated in a Spark room; likewise a nursing home could use Spark pull together support services for an aged care resident.

In a market led by consumer apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and where Slack has been the most successful at penetrating business users, Cisco's Klein claims Spark brings a number of advantages.

One is the partnership between Cisco and iPhone maker Apple, which was first announced in September 2015 and saw the first combined solutions come to fruition with iOS 10.

Spark is part of this. The collaboration app uses new iOS APIs to directly integrate with iPhone, to give the same user experience as native calling, allowing users to find a contact number, check favourites or recents or make a call without having to launch a third-party app. They can also answer calls directly from the lock screen.

Apple iPhones and iPads can now choose between Cisco wireless access points to get the best connections based on density of utilisation, rather than simply the strength of the wi-fi signal.

"It also allow you to do preferential grading of your applications. If you have a business-critical app you want to run on an iPhone and iPad, you can provision a quality of service through an easy user interface to prioritise critical apps," said Klein.

"If you are moving through an office with a number of access points, your iPad won't hang on the first one until the service is degraded. It easily moves through the access points." Klein added that this can also saves battery power by using a nearby access point rather than a distant AP.

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