Sanjeev Aggarwal's Blog

January 10, 2012

Cisco OnPlus: IT Infrastructure Advisory and Management Services Solution For Small Businesses

Last month, Cisco introduced a new IT Infrastructure advisory and management service solution designed for VARs  to provide to small businesses with less than 100 employees. Delivered via Cisco’s value-added reseller (VAR) channel, Cisco OnPlus enables VARs to offload the mundane, time consuming tasks of managing a network environment from small businesses, and provide them with higher value advisory services.  In addition to monitoring and managing network infrastructure devices, such as switches, wireless access points and routers, OnPlus also monitors devices that are connected to the network (including smartphones and tablets).  VARs can deploy a small OnPlus Network Agent appliance at the customer site, and remotely monitor and manage it through the cloud via a secure web portal or mobile application..

Perspective

 Cisco’s OnPlus IT infrastructure advisory and management service solution is designed to meet the needs of small businesses. SMB Group’s 2011 SMB Routes to Market study indicates that small businesses’ top technology related challenges include: Gaining ‘peace of mind’ that IT is under control (40%), Containing IT costs (38%), Finding/hiring qualified IT staff(35%), Upgrading IT infrastructure(34%), Protecting business from IT related failures(32%), Getting more done with fewer/flat IT resources (26%). As illustrated in Figure 1, Cisco’s OnPlus with Assess, Manage, Advise, Maintain features helps directly address several of these technology challenges.

Several IT infrastructure monitoring and management solutions are available for small and medium businesses (SMBs) ,  but they are often cost-prohibitive for many small businesses. Cisco’s hybrid solution, consisting of an agent embedded in a small network appliance and a secure cloud service, is aimed squarely at VARs that provide managed services to small businesses. These companies often lack dedicated IT staff and tend to depend on part-time IT people or external contractors to manage IT. With scarce resources typically stretched thin, small businesses are often unable to keep up with the demands of routine technology management–let alone support growth goals with new technology solutions.

At the same time, many VARs are looking for ways to quickly and efficiently offer remote management services to their small business customers, and the ability to provide more proactive guidance and management advice.

Figure 1: Cisco OnPlus – Comprehensive IT Infrastructure Management for Small Businesses

Source: SMB Group, January 2012

 Cisco OnPlus gives VARs an efficient way to expand their managed service offerings through remote management and visibility into the customer  network and the devices attached to the network. VARs simply plug the OnPlus Network Agent appliance into a switch or router on the customer’s network, and the OnPlus Agent then transmits information about the customer’s network and all connected devices to a secure data center for access by the VAR (see figure 2). Native apps for Apple and Android mobile devices are available for free from those companies’ app stores. The VARs have the flexibility to define their own business model for using OnPlus.  Some  will add additional fees based on their coverage and response times. Others will use OnPlus to enhance their service capabilities without additional charges to their customers.  In addition, VARs can use OnPlus as a tool to accelerate pre-sale assessments with prospective customers.

Figure 2: Cisco OnPlus Solution Service Data and Communications Flow

Source: Cisco, 2011

Cisco OnPlus appliance discovers Cisco and third-party devices with an IP address connected to the network and displays them in topology and inventory views. Partners can access a real-time view of customer networks from anywhere, through a highly secure portal using a PC, tablet, or mobile device. VARs work with small businesses to define and customize alert thresholds. Through OnPlus, VARs can also provide small businesses with automated reports of all the activity and tasks performed on the network.

Pricing is $250 (approx.  $7 per month, after typical discounts), which includes a three-year OnPlus subscription and the network agent appliance that is installed at the customer site. The OnPlus service from Cisco is available now in U.S. and Canada, with a rollout in Europe and Asia planned for 2012.

Quick Take

Cisco OnPlus delivers cost-efficient scalable IT management and peace of mind that small businesses need without sacrificing the local VAR that many SMBs want to do business with. On the VAR side, it provides a fast, efficient way to onboard customers into a managed service practice, provide more proactive services, and provide more efficient service to more small businesses customers.  With the advantages, Cisco OnPlus should be very attractive to Cisco VARs and enable Cisco to make significant inroads in the small business segment.

That said, Cisco OnPlus can significantly strengthen its story by:

  • Offering additional functionality in the areas of IT asset utilization and management (both hardware and software) to support compliance
  • Providing additional performance management solutions
  • Making it an extensible solution so that VARs can easily add additional value-added solutions like remote backup, Infrastructure on-demand, and business continuity services
  • Help VARs position and demonstrate the value of OnPlus as a comprehensive IT infrastructure management solutions vs. a network management solution
  • Demand generation marketing to educate small businesses about the benefits of managed services

However, Cisco continues to invest in and develop solutions for small business, and OnPlus provides strong evidence that Cisco understands both small business pain points and how to create solutions that provide clear benefits to its partners. Cisco’s OnPlus should be a big step forward in helping Cisco VARs to move beyond the role of network product suppliers to become more strategic managed service providers.

October 4, 2009

Could Video Conferencing become the SMB segment ‘Killer App’ ? At least Cisco thinks so with the Tandberg acquisition!

Good move by Cisco. The key beneficiary of Cisco’s acquisition of Tandberg will be the SMB and mid-market. Cisco already has video Telepresence solutions. However, these Telepresence solutions are primarily enterprise solutions – way beyond the affordability of the SMB (1-499 employees) or the mid-market enterprises (500-1000 employees). Both segments together are referred to as SMB in this blog.

The SMBs and vendors (that service this segment) are rapidly comprehending the business value and short-term ROI that Video Conferencing solutions offer. The global SMB video conferencing solutions and services market opportunity is around $150M in 2010 and forecasted to grow at an annual rate of around 9%. The SMB segment purpose built, cost effective, standards based solutions (from vendors like Tandberg and Polycom) coupled with rapidly declining prices of high throughput network bandwidth are now making the SMB video conferencing market very interesting.

In my 2 previous blogs, I have addresses the market opportunity for these solutions and vendors that provide solutions: Video Conferencing Solution – Now Affordable by the SMBs, SMB’s turning to Conferencing Solutions in tough economic times

Tandberg has an extensive video conferencing solutions family purpose built for the SMB market. With the introduction of the Quick Set C20 solutions, they have priced these solutions more in-line with what the SMB market can afford. What Tandberg lacked was a channel that could sell and service the SMB market – hence, not much of a installed base.

What does Tandberg bring to the Cisco-Tandberg party?

  • A complete set of video conferencing solutions for the SMB market that are standards based
    • Personal, desktop to conference room based video conferencing solutions
    • Desktop video conferencing phone with E20 and the MPX desktop solutions
    • PC based video conferencing with Movi
    • Conference room based solutions from standard def. to HD with the Quick Set C20
  • Almost no product overlap between Cisco and Tandberg in the SMB segment
  • The recent acquisition of Nortel Enterprise Div. by Avaya makes them the market leader in the SMB IP Communications segment. Cisco’s differentiation for these products was diminishing. Adding video conferencing to the Cisco product portfolio will provide the required differentiation.

What does Cisco bring to the Cisco-Tandberg party?

The Cisco/Tandberg pairing will open-up opportunities for Polycom to work with vendors such as Avaya, Nortel, HP (a Tandberg partners) – as they compete with Cisco in the SMB segment.

Cisco’s strength in integrating some of the SMB segment based acquisitions has been less than stellar, especially in the collaboration area. Acquisition such as WebEx, Jabber, PostPath have lost the momentum they once possessed before the Cisco acquisition. Hopefully Cisco will do a better job integrating Tandberg.

One private company (which is a partner of Tandberg) that will make a good acquisition target for Cisco is Broadsoft. They could provide Cisco the push and presence with the global service providers for hosted VoIP and Unified Communications solutions that Cisco currently lacks or are not much of a competitor.

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July 22, 2009

Avaya-Nortel will prove to be a formidable competitor for Cisco in the SMB Voice & Unified Communications Market

Filed under: avaya, Blogs - Sanjeev Aggarwal, Channels, Cisco, IP Communications, mid-market, nortel, SMB, SMB strategy, UC, unified communications, Voice Communications, VoIP — Tags: , , , , , , , , — sanjeevaggarwal @ 10:56 pm

Avaya will be runaway market share leader in the SMB and Mid-Market Voice Communications Segment with the purchase of Nortel Enterpriser Solution business

Avaya has been in heavy competition with Cisco for the SMB and Mid-Market Unified Communications market, with Cisco steadily gaining market share in the SMB IP-communication segment. However, the combined Avaya-Nortel will position them with roughly twice the market share in the worldwide SMB market – close to 30%, almost 2X of Cisco.

Sure there is product overlap between Avaya and Nortel SMB and mid-market products on the TDM and IP telephony side. However, the Nortel BCM product line is very strong and appealing to the SMB sector. Avaya has no products on the data networking side.

Avaya has been facing problems competing with Cisco on the IP-Telephony side, as Cisco can address both the IP-telephony side and the data networking product requirements of this market segment. Now that Nortel enterprise solutions include a strong data network portfolio – WLAN, secure routers, wireless access points, firewalls, etc.; Avaya will be able to offer a much more complete and competitive solution to the SMB market.

In addition to the products, Nortel will bring Avaya:

The current tough economic conditions have prompted SMB to somewhat slow-down the rate of migration from TDM to IP based voice communications and unified communication solutions. As the economy improves in 2010 and SMB’s again start to review their migration to IP-based solutions – the Avaya-Nortel combination will present a much stronger competitive front to Cisco.

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June 3, 2009

The next generation Contact Center – Social Networking + Traditional Contact Center

Filed under: Collaboration, community knowledge, Contact Center, mid-market, SaaS, salesforce.com, SMB strategy, social networking, twitter — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — sanjeevaggarwal @ 11:41 pm

The traditional contact centers now support more real-time communications technologies – VoIP, IVR, e-mail, IM. However, the intelligence and information repositories that are leveraged by these contact centers is very much static and internally focused.

With the growing popularity of social networking and community knowledge, where contact center agents can take advantage of consumers/customers helping each other with issues and queries – reducing the number of inquiry interactions the contact center service reps have to make, delivery real cost savings and improving the contact center ROI. The issue is – the lack of a comprehensive easy-to-use solution that integrates blogs, social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, etc.) and search to easily aggregate the desired knowledge and mesh it with the internal knowledge repository, including the customer information stored in the enterprises CRM systems.

I was at the Salesforce.com CloudForce.com seminar some time ago, where they showcased their service cloud strategy. This Service Cloud showed an elegant and easy-to-use dashboard to present and search the popular social networking sites to the contact center agents – this will help them take advantage of all the community knowledge without spending a lot of time and effort following individual solutions like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress,

Traditional contact center solutions when integrated with an easy-to-use comprehensive community knowledge solution – presents a market disruption elevating this new contact center solution to one that provides significantly higher ROI and customer satisfaction. The Salesforce.com ServiceCloud can be integrated with the traditional contact centers solutions that have primarily relied on static internal information to service the customers, and have been separated from the community knowledge in the cloud from social networking conversations, blogs and Google. The Service Cloud presents an excellent dashboard to bring these two disparate clouds to establish a cloud-based customer service platform and knowledge for contact/call centers – for customer service agents, customer self-service portals and partners. SIP and presence enable this cloud service platform, and it is ready for some very significant communication and collaboration – via VoIP phones (click to call), e-mail, or IM based conversations.

Why is this of value to Customer Contact Center solutions companies? The current leading Contact Center solutions from the leading telecom equipment vendors like Avaya, Cisco, and Nortel are more along the lines of the traditional on-premise solutions and do not present an easy solution to integrate the cloud-based community knowledge, except in some cases they have integrated search solutions by integration with Google. The Salesforce.com Service Cloud platform can be used to provide an integrated internal knowledge base and the community knowledge/social network (enterprises can define the scope, and members of their communities) from Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Google search, etc. In addition, one can include CRM to monitor customer satisfaction, address any questions/concerns, resolve problems quickly, provide product tips and tricks, and send out information in the customers’ preferred way of communication – without long waiting times or endless forwards and escalations. This could present a disruptive service solution which has the capability to significantly improve customer satisfaction and at the same time reduce the cost to provide this service.

This presents a good partnership opportunity for the traditional contact center application vendors to integrate with the social networking/community knowledge cloud-based service platform without the long internal development cycle. Adopting the Salesforce.com Service Cloud platform will provide a 1-2 years time-to-market advantage vs. the vendors that choose to do it themselves.

 


 

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February 4, 2009

SMB’s turning to Conferencing Solutions in tough economic times

Filed under: Collaboration, Conferencing — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — sanjeevaggarwal @ 7:19 pm

In today’s tough economic times, driven by higher travel costs, staff reduction, and tight credit – SMB are turning to solutions that will reduce costs and provide clearly identifiable short-term ROI. In the past year, conferencing solutions service providers that provide hosted audio and integrated web/video conferencing services are experiencing dramatic increases in adoption of these services among SMBs and mid-market enterprises. Not only are more SMBs adopting these solutions, the existing users of these solutions are also using these solutions more often.


This bodes well for the vendors, VAR’s and service providers involved with selling these conferencing solutions. However, businesses need to be careful when selecting a vendor. Stability and financial viability of vendors/service providers becomes more important in the current economic climate, as startups feel the squeeze.


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