LAS VEGAS -- Cisco's latest Webex update uses the company's ThousandEyes internet intelligence platform to provide more reliable video conferencing and differentiate the collaboration platform from Microsoft Teams and Zoom.
At the Cisco Live conference on Tuesday, the company introduced integration between the Webex Control Hub and ThousandEyes. The connection lets IT administrators spot internet problems that could affect the quality of video meetings powered by the Webex Cloud.
Cisco acquired the company ThousandEyes in 2020. Since then, Cisco has integrated the platform with multiple products, including its software-defined WAN, the Catalyst 9000 series of access switches and the AppDynamics application performance monitor.
The latest product integration extends Control Hub capabilities as a troubleshooting tool. The console lets IT admins see all the routes data travels during a Webex session and provides diagnostic information for correcting problems.
Webex meetings typically span multiple networks, so pinpointing trouble is complicated and sometimes impossible, explained Zeus Kerravala, founder of ZK Research. "ThousandEyes brings an end-to-end visibility to IT admins, enabling them to see things they could not before."
Control Hub templates
Cisco also introduced Control Hub templates that let IT staff assign collaboration policies to user groups. For example, templates might prevent some people from sharing files while messaging or meeting with people outside an organization. IT could restrict others to screen-sharing with only people inside the company.
IT managers can have the template settings applied to new employees when joining a group, reducing the time to onboard workers.
Another Control Hub advancement is a streamlined process for provisioning individuals, groups and domains into Webex from Azure Active Directory (AD). IT administrators could provision from Azure AD before, but the process required a dozen steps to complete the configuration. Also, they had to manually verify domains in Webex, even if they were already in Azure AD.
Other new features let administrators map people's profiles and avatars in Azure AD to Webex user profiles, eliminating the need to update profiles manually. As a result, profiles in Azure AD and Webex are always in sync.
For regulated industries, such as banking and law firms, Cisco has added Control Hub features that establish communication barriers between some groups. For example, administrators could prevent legal teams representing a firm's competing clients from communicating.
Overall, the latest announcements focus on improving the Webex platform for IT professionals. "A business can't deliver an outstanding user experience if the IT pro is fighting fires," Kerravala said.
A pain point Cisco doesn't address is the lack of support for other unified communication and collaboration products, IDC analyst Richard Costello said. Companies typically use multiple products, each with separate management tools.
"In that regard, third-party UC&C management tools and solutions may offer better and more robust options," he said.
The quality of management tools is a critical component when comparing Teams, Zoom and Webex, analysts said. Another factor is how well the unified-communications-as-a-service products let corporate workers collaborate, whether in the office or at home.