Michelle Burbick
Michelle Burbick is the Associate Editor and a blogger for No Jitter, UBM Tech's online community for news and analysis...
Read Full Bio >>

Michelle Burbick | March 28, 2017 |


Cisco Beefs Up Spark Ecosystem

Cisco Beefs Up Spark Ecosystem With four product announcements yesterday, Cisco focuses on helping organizations keep up with the tides of change in enterprise collaboration experiences.

With four product announcements yesterday, Cisco focuses on helping organizations keep up with the tides of change in enterprise collaboration experiences.

Cisco yesterday announced a series of enhancements around Spark, its ever-growing collaboration platform/ecosystem. When we last heard from Cisco, in late January, it had just launched its new interactive whiteboard, Spark Board, along with Spark Meetings, the company doesn't appear to be slowing down any time soon.

Yesterday's announcements cover quite a bit of ground -- ranging from video hardware to security, meetings services, and customer care. Here's a look at the news.

Video Hardware
To start, Cisco revealed the Cisco Spark Room Kit Series, comprising Cisco Spark Room Kit and Room Kit Plus. This new video collaboration hardware was designed to work with Cisco Spark, and gives integrators the tools to extend conference rooms of all sizes by attaching to standard HD screens and converting them into video collaboration systems.

Room Kit is aimed at small- and medium-sized rooms and up to seven people, and the Room Kit Plus is for larger rooms and up to 14 people. As Jens Meggers, SVP and GM of Cisco's Cloud Collaboration Technology Group, described in a pre-briefing the other day, Room Kit is an all-in-one device with camera, speaker, and built-in microphones. Room Kit Plus adds a separate quad camera bar that has four cameras to provide better views of larger rooms. While these two devices are designed to connect natively with Cisco Spark, they also are for on premises. Both systems are "fully cloud managed," enabling fast and simple set-up.

Room Kit will be available this month for $3,990 plus an additional $99 per-month subscription fee. Room Kit Plus will be available in May, for $7,990 plus that same $99 per-month subscription fee. Later this year, Cisco will release Companion Mode for these systems, which will let users combine the Spark Room Kit and a Cisco Spark Board to cater to larger conference rooms.

Cisco has long made security a priority with its devices and services. As a refresher, it built Cisco Spark with end-to-end encryption for data in transit, at rest, and in use. It handles encryption and decryption of content via dynamic keys from a Cisco Spark Key Management Server (KMS), which creates, stores, authorizes, and provides access to the encryption keys that all Spark applications use.

Cisco yesterday announced that it is opening up those encryption keys to its customers so they can own and manage their keys and do things like search encrypted data; this will be available in early June. Spark customers who have particular security requirements, such as businesses in regulated industries, will be able to install KMS on premises.

Opening Up Cisco Spark Meetings to All
The third bit of news is the addition of a persistent SIP URI to all Cisco Spark spaces, enabling people to join Cisco Spark Meetings from any standards-based SIP hardware or software client. This means that people using a third-party softphone solution, legacy Cisco video conferencing products, and even competitive video conferencing endpoints will be able to participate in Spark meetings.

This capability is also available for Cisco Spark Hybrid Media Services. As shown in the below graphic, this is accomplished by customers placing a Hybrid Media Node on their networks for local media processing for on-premises attendees of a Cisco Spark meeting.


It's aimed at eliminating the risk for businesses to try out Spark meetings, as they can retain existing video infrastructure and conferencing solutions. No additional licensing is needed for Cisco Spark Hybrid Media Service, and the capability will be included in M3/C3 Spark meeting and WebEx licenses.

Customer Care
The final piece of news from Cisco is Spark Care, a digital customer support solution for help desks and small teams to interface with external and internal customers through Web chat and callback. It's aimed at helping organizations provide better customer service by leveraging historical context from previous interactions.

For greater detail on Spark Care, see contact center analyst Sheila McGee-Smith's post, "Cisco Spark Meets Customer Care."

The Bigger Picture
That idea that the Spark ecosystem is constantly expanding, growing, and improving was echoed by Meggers both in my briefing with him and in sessions on stage at Enterprise Connect.

With Cisco Spark, "our goal is to create powerful, well-designed end-to-end experiences -- for the user, IT and the enterprise."

"We want our products to go beyond being business tools to becoming a natural part of how you interact and collaborate," he wrote in a blog post. "To help you work faster, smarter, more productively."

We're at a turning point with enterprise collaboration experiences, Meggers wrote. "And it's all powered by amazing technology: cloud platforms and deeper integrations between hardware, software, and networks."

Follow Michelle Burbick and No Jitter on Twitter!


October 24, 2018

With disparate workplaces and ever-expanding volumes of information to manage, the challenges for collaborating effectively are only intensifying. Many critical applications are not integrated, and

October 10, 2018

Businesses are growing across international borders quicker than ever, but scaling operations to follow suit can be a harder, longer process.

This webinar focuses on scaling your next-generat

September 26, 2018

Join Kevin Kieller, Microsoft UC&C expert, along with Ribbon Communications and Polycom, for an update on Microsoft Ignite, and a focus on critical things you need to know about your voice deployme

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.