Cisco Systems' popular Webex collaboration platform would be bursting at the seams after taking on more than triple the amount of global volume over the past three months than it normally accommodates, but the tech giant has been diligently expanding its global capacity.
Virtual collaboration has become one of the top technology solutions that businesses have been clamoring for as the COVID-19 pandemic sent employees around the globe to working from home. The Cisco Webex platform, which now includes calling, video, and messaging all in one place, had more than 500 million meeting participants and logged more than 25 billion meeting minutes in April, Javed Khan, vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Collaboration Group, told CRN.
In addition to prioritizing scalability, Cisco has been focusing on new integrations with third-party content management providers and adding more intelligence to the Webex platform to help businesses that are now dealing with a remote workforce, Khan said.
"We frankly had to slow down some of our features because we wanted to make sure we had the right level of scale and dependability in all the right places," he said. "Ultimately, our enterprise customers come to us because we are stable, secure, and there when they need us."
This year during the first-ever virtual Cisco Live event, the company highlighted Cisco Webex Control Hub as the platform that's providing more visibility and giving IT one place to manage collaboration workloads, whether employees are working from home or in the office. Cisco has expanded analytics and security features inside Control Hub to help IT professionals handle the new, post-COVID-19 normal, Khan said.
In light of the pandemic, IT can use Webex Control Hub to view analytics around meeting room usage to determine work patterns of employees and necessary room cleaning schedules, or also reconfigure meeting spaces to give employees more space, if need be, Khan explained.
Force 3, a Cisco Gold Partner and solution provider focused on federal government customers, has many clients that will be headed back to their offices, but they'll need to do it safely while still maintaining distance between employees, said Jason Parry, vice president of client solutions for Crofton, Md.-based Force 3.
"You would think that customers that had to remote work would have been driving collaboration adoption. We're actually seeing as people come back to the office, adoption is increasing. That was unexpected," he said.
The new Control Hub features will help those customers prepare to come back to the office and hold meetings safely, Parry said. "Customers are looking at home to use collaboration technologies within their own four walls," he said. "[COVID-19] is bringing out new use cases because this isn't something that is going away anytime soon."
Via Control Hub, users can also deploy Webex Assistant, Cisco's voice assistant technology, to conference room devices. Cisco’s Webex meetings can then be recorded and transcribed by Webex Assistant, which is based on technology acquired from meeting and voice-focused AI startup Voicea, which Cisco acquired in 2019.
From a security standpoint, users have been able to apply their retention and compliance policies to messaging content and files within Webex. Now, the vendor is expanding that retention capability to apply policies to all meeting assets, such as recordings, transcripts and whiteboards, Cisco's Khan said.
The focus of Cisco's collaboration announcements last June at Cisco Live was breaking down the silos between its own products and playing well with third-party providers. Cisco this year is making good on that promise by adding new integrations between cloud-based content and file sharing providers, such as Box for remote workers and Epic Systems' electronic medical record platform, for telehealth use cases -- both of which are crucial right now in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Khan said. The integration with Epic will allow healthcare professionals and physicians to meet with patients securely over video.
During the first 11 business days of March alone, Cisco logged 5.5 billion meeting minutes on Webex. The tech giant in March expanded the capabilities on its free Webex offer in all countries where it is available, and offered unlimited usage or no time restrictions and support for up to 100 participants.