Cisco DNA Series: DNA Goes Virtual

DNA Goes Virtual

A huge update to the Cisco DNA Strategy has been released, and it comes with some pretty big news.   I am going to distill it down into the “need to know” and give you the low down.

We have all seen SDN – Software Defined Networking take off, commodity hardware becoming more and more popular – like the Trident 2 powered Nexus 3K models.     With a move to the software driven infrastructure, Cisco is virtualizing it all.   ISR, ASA, WLC, WAAS, – and even 3rd party applications.

In addition – they have a new platform to host it all – and this is all going to be automated.

dnavirte

What are we virtualizing?

Well, just about everything.   The idea here is to run an entire branch office in a box – yes you have heard this before – but – this is different, this is not an ISR with a UCS-E blade (although you could do that).  This is about choice.

dnasoftware

ISR:  You can run most ISR features virtualized, if you are using the new platform (later in this doc) you can even use NIM modules.   Voice modules are exempt.

WLC:  Totally virtualized WLC

ASA: Virtualized security with virtual ASA and threat defense

WAAS: Nuff Said

3Rd Party:   I don’t do alot of rumors, but through DEVNET you will be able to deploy certified 3rd party application services,  and even Windows, Linux and other OS VM’s within the Virtualized DNA Platform

Cisco Launches ENCS

For a new DNA design, we need new DNA Hardware.   Cisco is announcing the first “DNA” specific hardware platform design specifically for the DNA architecture.  The ENCS 5400 Series.

Think of this as the combination of an ISR and a UCS server in one.

ENCS5400.png

CPU:  6, 8 or 12 core XEON-D options today

Memory: 16-64GB

Storage:  M2 and dual hard drive with hardware raid as an option

Hardware Acceleration for VM Traffic, Switching and Crypto

The best part is – you can run your own VM’s on this platform as well as all of the virtualized Cisco kit – all of this managed by APIC-EM

What are we running this on?

Almost anything.    ISR with UCS-E,  UCS Servers or in public clouds, or the new ENCS 5400 platform.     Run it in the cloud, run int on your premise in all sorts of “NFV” gear or on a traditional routing platform.    Control it all with APIC-EM.

PlatformChoice.png

Cisco One Licensing – Future Proof Licensing

Many of my clients have said “Tell me why Cisco One is a good value” and the argument has been difficult if you are not on a 2-3 year refresh cycle, but with virtualized platforms the Cisco One story just became compelling.    If today you have an ISR 4K physical router with Cisco One, you can migrate to an NFV platform like the ENCS and not repurchase your licensing.

Not only does Cisco One protect you with licensing, it now allows you to migrate to a new platform – and while not everyone is ready for NFV today, it does mean moving to NFV later doesn’t involve purchasing all new licensing.  It also means moving to cloud services with NFV in the cloud could be at very limited cost.

 

 

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Cisco Live! on a Budget – 2017

Last year I wrote a great article on “Making your Case for Cisco Live” – Click Here – that article was all about how to get your boss to pay for Cisco Live, and why Cisco Live is a great value.    If you have not read that – go back and read that.   I even provide some tips on how to get free passes if you are a Cisco customer, or how to show your boss that Cisco Live! is cheaper than traditional training.

Why Cisco Live?

First, I want to talk about WHY you need to get to Cisco Live US – #CLUS.   For your career, for your job, for YOU.

Cisco Live! has some great tips on “Why” attend, I will not list them all – CLICK HERE – and I will show you all the right reasons.

There’s Never Been a Better Time – to go to Cisco Live and find out what you have been missing.

  • Breakout Sessions, Content, Content, Content…
  • DevNet
  • Seminars
  • Walk In Labs
  • World of Solutions

The bottom line is – there is more to do at Cisco Live, than you have time for, and you really do need to think about, and plan how to get the most out of your week.

I am budget constrained!

No problem, if getting your boss to pay is a problem, or you need to go on a budget (still, get the boss to pay, you need to really make your case!) this will give you tips on how to get the most – for the least at Cisco Live!

A full trip to Cisco Live! for the full conference experience is going to cost you close to $5000 USD – if you get the full conference pass.   That is the bottom line,  between airline tickets, the $2300+ full conference pass and hotel – you are approaching some big bucks.   Don’t let this get you down – you are still going – and for much less.

The Explorer + Social Pass – The Hidden Gem

I am sure the event does not want everyone figuring this out – The Explorer Pass is the best value – and I will show you how to save yourself $1900 right now – and still experience it all.     Yes, all of it.

$249 – Miss (Almost) Nothing.

For the price of “Explorer + Social Pass” which is only $249,  the only things that you are missing at Cisco Live! is the following….

  • Cisco Live T-Shirt (Trust me, you will go home with enough T-Shirts!)
  • Cisco Live Bag (If you ask around, tons of people give their away you could get one)
  • Breakfast and Lunch (Read my blog HERE about breakfast – not a big deal IMO)
  • Breakout Sessions (I will address this)
  • Your attendance does not count towards NetVet status
  • No Free Certification Exam

If you want to save an extra $150, you could get only the “Explorer” pass, but then you miss out on the “Social” part of Cisco Live, and I DO NOT recommend this,  there have been enough BLOGS out there about why Cisco Live! is all about SOCIAL.

What do you get?

DevNet Zone

Are you a developer?  Do you want to be?  Are you getting interested in the new SDN, SDWAN, XML, REST-API – are you trying to catch up in this new software defined programmatic world we are in?   Then DevNet zone is for you – you could literally hang here all week, there are tons of activities and learning opportunities.      This area should be called “Industry Shift Zone”  because this is where you will see what really is up and coming, and new ways of thinking.    Not to be missed

World of Solutions

This is where everyone goes for free stuff – but – this is where you go to learn from everyone who sells complimentary products – and they don’t tend to only send marketing people but real engineering types.     Here is the secret – Cisco has over 30% of the floor space in World of Solutions.   Lots of the content you see in breakouts is also duplicated here, and you can go one-on-one with a lot of the product teams.     I try and track down those hard to find Cisco engineering types on specific technologies, get some answers and learn about things.     Another cool trick, is if you want to integration product A + B – perhaps you want to link ACI with ASA Firewall – goto the ACI booth, and then drag that person over to the ASA booth (or vice versa) and then have a conversation – ok be nice about it, but you get the idea.   WORLD OF SOLUTIONS IS WORTH THE PRICE OF ADMISSION ALONE.   You could spend all week in here.

Customer Appreciation Event (CAE)

It is a concert, it is a great time, and you get to see/hang/learn and collaborate with like minded people – the nerd knobs never stop, and the CAE is a great place to go to network.

KeyNotes

You still get access to keynotes, and there is nothing more inspiring than listening to some of these amazing speakers – live – in person.  If you don’t make it into the hall, don’t worry it is simulcasted all over the event.

Breakouts via Cisco Live! 365 Access

Didn’t I just say you don’t get breakouts?  That’s right – live – you don’t – but who says that you need to see them LIVE.   With access to Cisco Live 365 online – you can see almost every single breakout – online.     “But what if I have questions”  well, there is a good chance someone will ask it.

Here is another tip – go ahead and watch the breakouts you WOULD have seen – at Cisco Live Europe on Cisco Live 365 – before the event,  now you are ahead of the game.   Once you reach the event, you can use access to World of Solutions or DevNet to go ask questions.

Lodging

No question, this can get expensive, if you stay at the Mandalay (Assuming you get a room) you are $490/Night+ – CRAZY.      If you stay just 2 doors down at the Excalibur, rooms as I write this are $69, and it is walking distance, or take the tram.    There are rooms for as low as $49 a night – and if you read my blog from last year, you won’t be in your room much anyway.

Travel

This is where it becomes difficult, because travel is always a challenge – and I don’t know where you are coming from, but you need to get “fancy”

Drive

If you are in the western half the USA – you have Friday night till Sunday night to get there, so you don’t lose much of your work day, so driving might be an option for you.    Don’t worry about parking, if you are a member of any M-Life hotel program (free sign up) parking is free, or maxes out at $30 (if you “lose” your ticket) and there are many other free parking offers.

If you drove from Chicago and back, it would cost you about $270 in fuel in an average car, leave the F-150 at home, and grab that Toyota Echo.

Even if you are coming from as far as Florida or Chicago – this drive is doable and can anyone say ROAD TRIP!?

Fly

I am not an “American Flight Expert” as I am Canadian but Google Flights, Travelocity, tons of other sites give you the ability to find reasonable flight options.   As I look right now you can get flights that run from $300-600 – and if you play with your dates you can reduce it a bit, remember to consider it might be worth staying an extra night on either end to bring the flight cost down.

The Sub – $1500 Live Trip

You can do it,  $249 for your ticket, $276 for your room, $600 for your flight – a little spending money for food – YOU CAN DO THIS – for less than $1500.

So what are you waiting for – CLICK HERE NOW – see what you would miss out on, and sign up now.

 

Cisco has chosen ThinkTel for Spark Calling in Canada

While no real announcement has been made yet, we knew that Cisco Spark voice in Canada was coming soon.

ThinkTel – a company previously known to many as Distributel has announced they are the provider for Cisco Spark Voice offerings in Canada.

http://www.thinktel.ca/services/thinktel-voice-services-cisco-spark/

It would appear that they plan to be fully integrated with the Cisco Cloud Collaboration Management Portal (CCMP).

ThinkTel has been in the VoIP and SIP space for a long time, as one of the largest Lync / Skype4Business service providers in Canada, and one of the first certified Lync SIP providers – as many know, Lync required TCP based SIP service and had some specialized requirements.  They also provide ExpressRoute services for Office 365 SIP connectivity.

In the coming days I would expect an annoucement soon from both Cisco and ThinkTel about costs and services – but it appears that ThinkTel at least has let the cat out of the bag.

thinktelspark

ClockGate 2017 – The Intel Atom C2000

The pieces are coming together in “ClockGate” and it would appear that Intel the worlds largest CPU manufacturer is in the centre of the mess.   According to TheRegister – and while not confirmed, Intel’s C2000 processor has a fault that will cause device bricking, but nobody is talking.   A cross section of equipment from various manufacturers, and confirmed with my investigation – they all have this same Intel C2000 processor.   After Intel’s comments to the register, I think the culprit has been found.

Who is affected

The first to open up about was Cisco – admitting to problems with everything from ISR 4K’s, NCS Optical Gear, some ASA 5500 series firewalls, a few Nexus 9K Fabric modules and both the MS350 switch and MX84 firewall from Meraki.   I was going to write about it – but wanted to figure out what is actually going down here.

Cisco is not alone – Dell is also affected, users of Synology storage devices have been talking about it.  HP, NEC, NetGear, SuperMicro, and the list goes on and on.

HP MoonShot M300/M350,   Dell FX,  Segate home NAS products,  PFSense NetGate

I applaud Cisco for being first out of the gate to say “We have a problem, and we are fixing it”,  many vendors would sit around and figure out how they can sweep this under the rug, but Cisco is getting out in front of it.

The list of who is affected is growing – hourly.

The Cone of Silence

Nobody is talking,  Cisco is refusing to name the vendor, and Intel is refusing to name the product manufacturers but the writing is clearly on the wall.  Dell also isn’t talking, and when we reached out to some of our contacts – we received no responses from a few vendors (including Cisco).

The silence is not that much of a surprise, Intel is a huge partner with everyone involved and without Intel, these companies have no products, and without products, Intel isn’t selling silicon – so everyone is protecting everyone.

Cisco is at at the table with how to replace the affected devices – others are still quiet.

What caused this?

This little guy – the Intel Atom C2000.   Designed to provide power and scale into smaller footprints for intelligent system applications, systems on a chip and as a processor in the DPDK – the Data Plane Development Kit with the ability to improve packet processing speeds.

intel-atom-c2000-1000x562

Image result for Atom C2000

This little guy did.  The Intel C2000 series.  Intel issues an errata note AVR.54 that basically states that “System May Experience Inability to Boot or May Cease Operation,” because the clock outputs on the chip simply stop functioning.  Apparently this is occurring because Intel didn’t think people would use this SOC – constantly, and as a result the clock output is failing.

If you want all the nerdy specs on the C2000 – Click Here.. 

You need a clock – without it, CPU’s lose touch with the rest of the system – including things like BIOS and bus connected devices.   So once this clock signal fails – your system will not even boot up.

The statement is not really acceptable, you sold it for DPDK, and as a scaleable IoT processor, but yet in your own words (via TheRegister) ” degradation of a circuit element under high use conditions at a rate higher than Intel’s quality goals after multiple years of service”

How do we fix this?

Intel is issuing a new stepping for the Atom C2000 and has to fix this in silicon – that is a pretty expensive fix.     Some kind of board level repair might be possible, but we cannot find details right now.

If you have Cisco SmartNet with On Site support they will send someone to replace it, but that is not the magic bullet, because someone has to arrange and co-ordinate that all.  Partners will have to be involved – who will pay for all these services.

In a discussion with CRN Magazine – Jennifer Ho – Manager of Cisco’s Business Critical Communications has said “Unfortunately, because our funding is focused on providing the products, we are unable to reimburse for on-site services to replace the affected devices. Customers may have field engineering service as an option for their services contract, in which case the field engineering support would be included with the replacement.”

Cisco is clear – they are only paying for product.

There is also a delay – with so many people asking for replacements – rationing of replacement hardware is already occurring.

Justin’s Thoughts….

This is one of the largest fiasco’s since CapacitorGate, when one guy stole a faulty capacity formula and gave it to another company, who sold it to tons of manufactures of motherboards – and then I was replacing cap’s on motherboads in my house along with millions of others.

I’m pretty happy with Cisco on this one (Yeah bring on the “your a Cisco fan boy” comments) but the evidence is clear, they were first in front of it, and didn’t try to blame someone else they are just out there to fix it.

The big problem is who is going to pay for all this work – Cisco has said, they will not.

This is a pretty big hit – and these types of things need to stop – IoT devices with faulty ANYTHING can spell disaster and be potentially dangerous.   Just think if an electric car was powered by this chip, and one day the computer didn’t start up, or failed while driving.  Think of the oil rig which had a drill being controlled by a chip like this.

Right now nobody is really being hurt with this one – but it makes me worry about things to come in the IoT market with failures like this.

 

 

 

ATTENTION Rally Teams – Stop Using Tow Straps!

Tow Straps are deadly.

This is a tow strap.    It isn’t designed to stretch, or be yanked on, it is designed for static loads – “TOWING” is exactly what it is designed for – however most rally recovery teams will not even use them for towing.  These straps have no “give”.   Even the yank as the tow strap gets loose during towing and then the quick re-tightening action will cause them to break.

When these straps break, the stored energy in the strap can cause either the hook, or the tow point to fly off at a high rate of speed, if it hits another person – they could be killed or severely injured.

Ever notice how the sweep team always says “We will use our own strap” ?

NEVER USE THESE STRAPS

If it has metal hooks on the end – it’s not a recovery strap.

How Deadly Are they?

This deadly.

Image result for tow strap injury

Watch as this passenger is almost decapitated.

 

Tow Straps Damage Both Cars

The tow strap has no give – when you “snap” a tow strap (that is leave it loose and then drive away letting it tighten up to break them free)  there is no give in the strap, if it doesn’t break, it will bend either the hooks on the strap, the tow point on the vehicles, or even bend the frame on the vehicles.  100% force is applied immediately and totally to the other vehicle.  It is very hard on the vehicle.

How does this work?

What should I use?

This is called a RECOVERY STRAP.  It is made with nylon webbing so it has “give” or stretch. Use a recovery strap to “snatch” or pull out a stuck vehicle. Nylon webbing absorbs the shock of heavy pulls, while the elastic rebound energy aids in quick recovery. Constructed of tough, high quality nylon web. End loops are reinforced with abrasion resistant wear pads.

When you pull with a recovery strap, you can leave the strap on the ground, and then gain momentum to create a “Spring” or “Slingshot” type action to pull the car out.    You have a better chance of getting yourself out with one of these, you can pull much harder

You can also – and show tow with a recovery strap,  this will prevent

A) hooks coming off when the line is loose

B) if the vehicles get close together, and the line re-tightens, it will very gently re-tighten and reduce the jerk on the tow points, and the people in the cars.

Image result for recovery strap

This will slow me down!

No, it won’t.    If a sweep team arrives – they might actually be willing to use your recovery strap, saving time.   If someone else arrives, all you do is put the pin through – and then pull it out.  No tools.     Plus you can pull much harder, meaning if another team or car 99 helps you, you have a better chance of actually getting out.   Plus nobody is killed.

Leave both shackles on the end of the strap, jump out, put the pin through your tow point.   When the other vehicle arrives, have it ready to insert.   You don’t need to tighten the pin – just close it 95% of the way

This will be expensive!

No – it won’t be.   Go to Princess Auto, and buy these items, and you will be good to go.  Click on each item to view.

1 x 2 Inch x 20FT 18K Recovery Strap  – $36.99

2 in. x 20 ft 18,000 lb Recovery Strap

2 of these..  1/2 Inch High Tensile Shackle  $6.99

1/2 in. High Tensile Galvanized Shackle

So the total cost – $50.97

Other options?

You can use this as well, the high quality “BubbaRope” 

Ideal for Jeeps, Light Trucks & Side-by-Sides - Renegade Recovery Rope

instead of shackles, if you want something quicker you can use a Bubba “Gator-Jaw”

Synthetic Shackle 32,000 lb Breaking Strength, Stronger than Steel!

 

Cisco Champion – 2017

ciscochampionlogo01-150x150

I am pleased to announce that I have been invited to continue my work with the Cisco Champion program for 2017.

The Cisco Champion program provides early access to product development, and direct access to technology business units.    Some of the benefits of being a part of this program are

  • Building relationships around the world with global, like-minded technology enthusiasts
  • Participate in exclusive Cisco activities, tech briefings, and pre-launch announcements
  • Leverage the Cisco network of Blogs, Social Media, and Ambassadors to publish and share content across Cisco

Wait isn’t this a blogger for hire program?

No.  It isn’t – go ahead and read my disclaimer – I’m not for sale, and Cisco receives no promise from me that I will publish something about their stuff.   As always, if I find it interesting – I will write about it.  Let me be PERFECTLY clear – I receive no renumeration for being in this program.   Obviously if they didn’t like my work, or my contribution, I wouldn’t be invited back – but – I have been.

Doesn’t this mean you have to say nice things?

I’m sure they would like me to – but go and look at last years blogs – it was not all positive, and I was quite critical of many things – but I feel my writing is fair, un-biased and honest.   So no, I am not required to be nice.

Why do you want to be in this program?

When cool new stuff comes out,  I like to talk to the designers, ask them the hard questions, this program provides me access to people INSIDE Cisco.    Part of why my perspective is the way it is, and the reason I get the detail that I get – is that I am given access, and time with the people that can answer the questions.   As a blogger/writer, this is invaluable to providing quality content.   A good example is my recent Spark Board coverage, the Cisco Champion program was instrumental in that early product access so that I could provide that content.

 

Cisco Spark Board – Innovation in Collaboration

This is an “iPhone” moment

If you look back at some of the big changes in our industry – the big challengers and innovators have continually challenged the status quo in how we use technology.

A perfect example of this is the iPhone.  Until then we all thought keyboards, roller balls and scroll wheels were the answer.   Smart PDA devices counted on using a pen to be accurate, and you needed an owners guide the side of war and peace to understand how to get things done.

steve-jobs-first-iphone-launch-625x300

Then comes this guy – Steve Jobs, who intuitively understood user interfaces.  The guy just knew it.   The interface was so clean, so natural and so easy – 2 year olds were picking up iPhones and using them like a part of their natural life.   Scrolling feels very natural, and button presses are so precise even with big fingers.    This crazy attention to user interface detail is what pushed our industry to the next step of mobile computing with the iPhone.   Android existed – for some time but until Apple pushed the industry, the Android platform lacked continuous innovation, it was just another mobile OS.

Actually Collaborate

If you go back and read my previous blog about video phones, I talk about how video phones are on the way out – but telepresence is here to stay and without question this is one of the proof positive moments of that.

We need to get past the disgusting world of “conferencing” and actually collaborate.   Getting past the microphones sound horrible,  echo, robotic voice, poor quality video, difficult to share documents, poor white boarding and high cost of simply collaborating in a basic manner.

In 2012 an international conferencing study found that on a typical conference call – 10 minutes is taken up by distractions.  If you have 6 conference calls a day that is an hour wasted just trying to get work done.

oldboardroom

Typical meeting room of today – we have a projector connecting to someone’s laptop, maybe a video endpoint, a white board that nobody on the conference can see and some kind of flip chart because we want to keep some of that stuff for later.   Nothing talks to each other, and everything is disjointed.   The costs of all of this technology isn’t cheap either and most rooms they sit dormant because they are too complicated.

Video systems are impossible to use.  You literally need a techo-nerd in every meeting – many companies actually place an IT resource INSIDE the video room for executive calls to monitor the health of the system – that is CRAZY!    Many IT departments send IT people to the room 15 minutes before the meeting to check on the equipment, and then setup the call for the participants.      WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE THIS HARD!?

Cisco Launches Spark Board

sparkboard

This is where difficult to use – is – OVER.       Introducing the “Spark Board” a 55″ or 70″ device that you mount to the wall and do everything with – I mean everything.   No more extra stuff, and everything works in a clean manner.     This is a “huge iPad” type device for meeting rooms – and it is as intuitive to use – as a typical mobile tablet.    No – it is easier than that.    White boarding, video conferencing, screen sharing, calling, collaborating, it is all here.  One device, simple design and dead simple interface.

 

High End Hardware Specifications

sphardware

Cisco has spent time to make this product of the utmost quality.   If you look at the MX series of end points, and the IX5000, Cisco was fanatic about design, everything was metal and glass and this is no different.

A 4K panel with 5.5ms response time and a VERY bright 300+ nits provides a bright picture even in well lit conference rooms.   4K video means quality presentations, video output and split screen capabilities.  An amazing MIC array that allows beam forming and software audio normalization and optimization – with the possibility for speaker tracking.

The microphone system is so good, you don’t need table microphones or ceiling microphone arrays.

tx1

According to FCC Filings the unit is powered by a NVIDIA Jetson TX1 – this means it has an NVIDIA Maxwell architecture with 256 cuda cores, and over 1 teraflop of performance.  64-Bit CPU’s, 4K Video encoders and a camera interface.    If this is a standard Jetson, that would be 4GB of LPDDR4 Memory, and 16GB of onboard flash (but they could have added more somewhere).  They are using the display and camera headers off the TX1 from what I can see.

The audio system is a 12-element microphone array with intelligent beam forming.   The audio is 20Khz wide and includes acoustic echo cancellation, auto gain control, automatic noise reduction and “active lip synchronization”

The panel has a HDMI input, a Home Button, a Whiteboading Pen (Passive) and a 3.5mm mini jack audio out, and 2 USB 3.0 ports.    The input resolution is 1920×1080 maximum.

The unit is capacitive touch using an optically bonded glass front, this means that touching the screen feels very natural, and the included white board pen simply sticks to the front of the unit using a magnet, and because of this optically bonded capacitive design, the pen is passive but maintains very high accuracy.

Network connectivity is an RJ-45 Gig Ethernet port,  Wifi 802.11 ABGN + AC (2.4 and 5ghz), it is “Bluetooth Ready”, but not sure what the means.

The 55″ Board is 50 x 32 x 1.9 in dimension, and weighs 87.7lbs.   Shipped it is 101lbs.

The Camera is 4K 60FPS – not because they want to send 4K video, but because this allows all sorts of future software processing, cropping, tracking.   If you look at the IX5000 series, they use 4K cameras and then software process the 1080P frame they want.  Same idea here.      The Camera Specs for those interested.

  •  Fixed Lens with Infinite Focus
  •  4K P60
  •  Horizontal Field of View: 86 Degrees
  •  Vertical Field of View: 55 Degrees
  •  Camera is mounted tilted at 25 degrees.

The video resolutions are everything from 352×288 CIF,all the way to 1920×1080 30 frames (HD1080P) and anything in between

You literally mount this on the wall like a TV – and start using it in minutes.   No need for external microphones or connections.

sparkstand

On the wall, on a stand, against the wall, many options exist for this platform to be placed anywhere.   No additional crazy wires, ethernet and power.  I can see organizations putting these on rolling carts in hospitals and educational facilities.

Good hardware has been around for awhile – but where this shines is in the software.

Changing The Way People Collaborate

board-innovations

Spark is now adding whiteboards – and what is cool is that after you leave a Spark room, just like today, all the content continues to be available within that Spark room including documents that have been shared, and whiteboard content.

This is a pretty big moment for collaboration rooms, everything has been simplified.

Stay Secure

Cisco says “Trust us, but you don’t have to” – everything in Cisco Spark is encrypted, TLS and uses high end encryption – but – at your option you can even deploy your own key management server on your own site, and in that situation, Cisco doesn’t even hold the keys to your data.    Nobody, not even Cisco has the keys to your kingdom.

Simple Calling

How difficult does it need to be to simply make a call?  With Spark Board – you simply walk into the room, and control the device from your mobile phone, or walk up and press the call button and you are talking in second.

If you are running the Cisco Spark App on your laptop or mobile device, the app will use Proximity to recognize you are in the room and you can simply place a call using the app instructing it to use the board.

Simple Content Sharing

With Cisco Spark Board – you can use the power of proximity – using a very tiny application on your laptop the board recognizes when people are present in the room and allows you to cast your screen to the board, and the meeting participants.

The Cisco Spark App automatically connects with room devices, if you are already running the Spark application, your device recognizes your proximity to the board and controls appear on screen – nothing to connect, it all works over WiFi.     You can place calls directly from your laptop using the board or cast your screen.

No More Table Mess

tablemess

What table mess? Nothing goes on the table.   These days are over.

Powered In The Cloud

sparkcloud

No more rack full of servers sitting there, waiting for you to use them, no more 100K projects to deploy video services systems.   The Cisco Spark platform lives in the cloud, everything is there in redundant high availability data centers with high performance connections.   Unpack – and go.    This also means that organizations with 20 employees could use Spark and the Spark Board affordably.  No more extensive expensive back end infrastructure.

Extreme Affordability

This board is ridiculous value the 55″ at $4990 USD MSRP and $9990 USD for 70″ (Expect discounts) for the board, and $169 USD / month for the service the board is crazy accessible to almost every organization out there.   Previously solutions like this would cost $40K in hardware, $40K in back end systems, and then another $30-50K in professional services.    How Cisco has managed to reach this price point is beyond me.   Even if you consider 3 years of Spark service at $169/month the board still barely tips the scales at $10K all in.  (Spark user services are required)

Cisco Spark Interface Enhancements

The new interface launch is totally over shadowed by this new Spark Board launch – but the secret is in the software.  To power this amazing new hardware platform, Cisco is overhauling the interface and adding new client enhancements and features.    Go ahead and update your Spark app, and notice the changes.

spark-2-0

The new layout provides instant access to the things that you need and want.   Simple interfaces, with no user training necessary to get basic things done.

sparkmeeting

A new meeting layout that lets you focus on the meeting at hand and collaborate with those in the meeting.   Even if you are on a mobile device the experience is optimized.

multitask

Even while sharing content – video continues, but the meeting content is visible – on the Spark Board, on your laptop or on a mobile device – the experience is platform optimized.

Justin’s Take

If this really is an “iPhone” moment for Cisco Spark, this could trigger a huge change in the “Video Conferencing” industry.  I say that in quotes because nobody wants to “Video Conference” they want to work, they want to collaborate and they just want to get things done.    This thing is so easy to use, the entire platform is super intuitive – something these systems have never been.

I remain puzzled why this thing is so inexpensive – they could have launched the board for twice the price – and nobody would have batted an eye.    This is setting a new bar.   Perhaps the intent here is to flood the market and gain significant market share for Cisco Spark.     Cisco must be selling the board at close to or less than the cost to manufacture it.

Spark is sized for 20-2000+,  this makes this kind of technology accessible to every organization of every size and at an affordable cost, this will reduce barrier to entry for many organizations.

When you look at the MX/SX platform as well, this means you can have rooms with Spark Board, and rooms with MX/SX all collaborating together.    I question how many customers who have purchased SX10N or MX systems might have a little bit of buyers remorse.        I could see some cool possibilities in the future for Spark Board – Cisco tells me “It isn’t over yet” and there are some ideas on the roadmap that sound pretty cool.

The future is looking up for Spark and Cisco.   This will be one to watch.