MetriSight Ep.57 - UCaaS Trends with Cisco's Geoff Huang

February 23, 2024 00:24:19
MetriSight Ep.57 - UCaaS Trends with Cisco's Geoff Huang
Metrigy MetriSight
MetriSight Ep.57 - UCaaS Trends with Cisco's Geoff Huang

Feb 23 2024 | 00:24:19

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Show Notes

In this MetriSight we'll get Geoff's insights on how the UCaaS market is evolving and what customers can expect to see in 2024 and beyond.
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:21] Speaker A: Hi, everyone. [00:00:22] Speaker B: This is Erwin Lazar, president and principal analyst here at Metrogy. And welcome to our latest Metrosite episode. I'm very excited to be joined by Jeff Wong, who is vice president of outbound product management at Cisco. And today we're going to talk about the unified communication as a service, or UCAS landscape in 2024 and beyond. We'll get Jeff's thoughts on a variety of different topics, including how UCAs is evolving, how the buyer needs are changing, and we'll spend, of course, some time talking about the impact of AI, as well as the convergence of unified communications in the contact center. So, Jeff, welcome to the show. Happy to have you here. [00:00:59] Speaker A: Great to be here, Erwin. Thanks. [00:01:02] Speaker B: So I always like to start these with a bit of an introduction. So tell us a little bit about you and how you came to be involved in the unified communications collaboration space, for sure. [00:01:14] Speaker A: Yeah, I actually got my start a couple of years ago, and it was at one of the early, I'd say UCAs providers or I'd say pioneers, maybe the SaaS, when people were still moving from on prem to cloud, that first wave. And prior to that, my experience has been almost exclusively networking. So if you think about it like Cisco Webex, it's like the perfect combination of the two. So it makes me feel quite at home to be right here. [00:01:43] Speaker B: That's great. I came from a networking background as well. I was an aspiring Cisco CCIe at one point and then fell into this thing called voiceover IP and kind of went from there into the communication collaboration space. So we have that similar background. [00:01:58] Speaker A: Yeah, it sucks you in. [00:01:59] Speaker B: Yeah, exactly. So as you're thinking about, as we're recording this, we're still kind of in the early days of 2024. What are you seeing as the trends that are shaping your business that you're focusing on, say, over the next six months? Even longer? [00:02:15] Speaker A: Yeah, for sure. What occurs to me in a lot of the conversations that we've been having with customers, because AI has been so top of mind. It continues to be top of mind. Right. But I think the nature of the AI conversations are changing a little bit. If I had to think about 2023, the AI conversations were really like, wow, did you see that? It could do XYZ. But now I think as more people have started to get some hands on experience with different types of generative AI in particular, the conversation is much more, okay, that's great, but what could it actually do for me? And then on top of that, I think a lot of conversations that we're having still revolve around the brass tax of like, okay, collaboration, communications, customer experience. These are still real business challenges that we're trying to solve for. How do we get that right? So sort of like a bit of reality around AI and then back to the like, yep, we still have a business that we have to keep running. [00:03:15] Speaker B: Yeah, that makes sense. We see when we talk about AI that we're mostly looking at companies dealing with. They've gotten past the initial fear of, hey, this is going to take away all our jobs and wipe us out. To now, it's more a fear of data privacy, protection, accuracy and so on. Is that fair as what you've been seeing from your customers? [00:03:39] Speaker A: Yes. And to me, that's part of the broader umbrella of the reality of trying to deploy. I wouldn't just say trying to deploy, but actually making it part of their organization and how they can get some benefits out of this. So part of that means like, okay, we have to deploy, to your point, security and privacy. Where's my data going? And this is something that Cisco, we've always thought about, right. We're very well known for our trust center and our trust and privacy, and one of the things that we've really started to do recently is publish technical notes about AI transparency. So, yes. And in addition to that, if you think about the things that are required to deploy AI or any new technology and get productivity out of it, there are some real questions, like, what can this thing really do for me? How do I train people to use this? How do I integrate this into. I hesitate to use the word workflow, but just the day to day work that people are doing. And so I think a lot of the conversations or a lot of the questions that organizations are having revolve around that. [00:04:55] Speaker B: Yeah, that makes sense. And we are seeing that as well as kind of how do you measure the ROI, especially depending on what AI tools are going to cost and are you going to deploy those or what kinds of use cases, I would say. [00:05:10] Speaker A: Will you deploy those? For sure. [00:05:13] Speaker B: So going back a little bit, back in the late fall of last year at Cisco, live in California, there was a lot of announcements around AI and g two on stage. So we heard around things like how AI can go beyond call summarization, transcription, translation. How do you see that AI capabilities evolving around Cisco talked about something called RMM. I'll let you talk a little bit about that. But how are you seeing AI kind of moving beyond just, hey, we can summarize our calls and share a set. [00:05:50] Speaker A: Of action, you know, the call summarization or the meeting summarization, it sounds like when you first see it or when we all first saw it, I was like, wow, that's amazing. But back to my point about like, okay, let's get down to brass tax. What can this thing really do for me? I think that's the direction that you're going in. And you're right. Yes, obviously we're doing that. We'll be able to do that. But part of what we have been talking about is what else AI can do. And Cisco collaboration, Webex, we've actually been innovating for better part of a decade plus around AI. And I do want to just take a moment here to say that not all AI is Llms, not all AI or large language models, not all AI is generative AI. But we actually have a rich history in using AI to improve the quality of experience media. And so one of the things that we're really good at is things like being able to detect the presence of people, right? And this is one of the features that we've announced previously. This idea, I think we're calling it, be right back. Right. So if we step away for AI to automatically be able to check that you've walked away and to blur your screen and to mute your audio. Now, if you start to think about the capabilities that we have with that and with summarization, then we can start to stack on top of one another. And so it's not just summarization. Here's what was said, but a richer experience overall, which is like, okay, Jeff stepped out in the middle of this conversation, which was a very important conversation, and we needed Jeff. And when Jeff comes back, we'll be smart enough to automatically recognize and say, hey, would you like to be caught up only on the bits of the meeting that you missed and to augment the call summarization with that additional context. But to your point, it's not just summarization, right. So you mentioned rmms, real time media models, and this goes to some of our core capabilities and part of being attached to bigger Cisco. Well, this is a networking company. As we were talking about, we happen to be really good at moving data around. We happen to be really good at real time media processing. And I think you've used before, many people have experienced just the quality of our background noise removal and how amazing that is. Well, some of the AI that we're also creating around real time media processing, we are grouping under this umbrella that we're calling real time media models. These are AI models. And it includes things not just like background noise removal, but it'll include something else, wide band audio, right? So it's to take a very narrow bound audio and to expand it to make it sound richer and fuller. And one of the other things that we talked about was the AI audio codec. I think many people had just assumed opus. What else is there to do? Well, there's actually quite a bit to. [00:09:06] Speaker B: Do because excitement and discussion and audio codecs in a little while, right? [00:09:10] Speaker A: Yeah. Well, you know what? You can always get better. And even I think the assumption is, hey, everybody has infinite bandwidth, so what's the problem? Well, maybe that's the case in certain areas, but not everybody has lossless networks, right? Like everybody's WiFi network will sometimes periodically drop out. Or if you're on a cellular network, sometimes the connectivity will drop out. And one of the things that we're able to do with the AI audio codec is transmit the same level of speech quality, but at a fraction, I think in our labs, we're showing one 10th to one 16th of the packet of the bandwidth that's required. So what do we do with that extra space? Well, we can do things like we can replicate packets, audio frames to have additional redundancy. And when the packets are not available, when the additional frames are not available, we can use generative AI to actually fill in the missing pieces. And so we're really taking the expertise that we have in real time media processing and AI and then asking like, okay, let's focus on the quality of experience. What else can we do to really make sure that when we're talking over a webex, whether it's a meeting or a call or in the contact center or on one of our devices, it's absolutely the best experience that we can deliver. [00:10:38] Speaker B: And you're in a unique position to do that because like you said, you have the devices, you have the network, versus companies that only have software are only limited to, say, the capabilities that are available to them within a browser if they're browser based, right? [00:10:53] Speaker A: Yeah, it's a unique position, obviously. Maybe not obviously, but of course we spend a lot of time focusing on the quality of the experience within the application. But to your point, it's more than that. We have a webex calling or cloud calling, one of the most widely deployed cloud calling out there, calling solutions out there, because we're developing a lot of our capabilities, including AI in the platform, in the Webex platform. It's this idea of like, we innovate once and we're able to leverage in multiple places. So something like background noise removal started out in the application, it found its way over into our devices, then moved to cloud calling and then over to the contact center. It's really because of the breadth of our portfolio, from software to cloud to hardware. It really allows us to have benefits and take advantage of capabilities. I think it's pretty rare in the industry to see other vendors be able to do that. Yeah. [00:11:59] Speaker B: And to me, one of the most innovative announcements I saw was the Webex assistant for Control hub where I mentioned I started my life aspiring CCIE and spent a lot of time poring over hard paper manuals, documentation on CD, and trying to learn how to configure Cisco routers and to be able to go from that scenario of command line and maybe some kind of gui to one where I have a natural language bot that I can say, hey, what's going? Why are we seeing degraded voice quality, video quality? What can we do to fix it and have suggestions brought back to me was a really exciting development. So I'm curious what you're seeing and hearing so far as you begin to talk to your customers about the kind of gen AI capabilities now that you're bringing to operational management. [00:12:49] Speaker A: Yeah, for sure. And first, by the way, I started my career as a software developer at Cisco, so I was responsible for some of those Cisco command lines that you had to remember. Sorry about that. But know I think a lot of times, especially when it comes to collaboration, there's a lot of emphasis, rightly so, placed on the end user experience and contact centers. Similarly, it's the agent or it's the end customer, it's a supervisor. All of these are really important experiences, but the people who have to support this, who have to enable all this in an organization, the IT administrators I'm thinking about specifically, they're also like a critical key constituency and part of the overall delivering an awesome experience. And so some other work that we've been doing with also generative AI, to your point, the AI assistant is something that we announced at Webex one, and one of the things that we said is, hey, the AI assistant, this is the same AI assistant on Webex that is again across the platform, software, hardware, and also in control hub. And so it used to be the case because control hub is so rich in its functionality. This is like the place that many of our customers, their administrators, this is the place that they manage not just communications, not just collaboration, but basically all of hybrid work. One of the things that we've been hearing is like, hey, how do you help me with discoverability? How can you make it easier to work kind of more outcome oriented? And what you saw at Webex one was a demonstration of our ability to have a very natural query language, like why was Erwin's meeting bad? And the Webex AI assistant and control hub will let you know. And part of the reason why we're able to do that is because not only do we have hardware, software together, but we're also part of Cisco. So we have a very good integration with the infrastructure itself. So we can tie back into thousand eyes and ask thousand eyes and have thousand eyes come back and report to us. Hey, it looks know Erwin had some difficulty with his wifi as an example. Or maybe there was outage somewhere between wasn't a user error, right. Maybe there was something else in between and then not only doing the diagnostics, but then also have the EIA system come back and suggest solutions like, hey, would you like to monitor this connection in case future there's trouble in the future? So you can see this in real time. So the experience of administering this and supporting this is not just the fantastic integrations that we have with the infrastructure, but it becomes much more natural and much more usable all within control hub. [00:15:55] Speaker B: So I want to ask you about how you see these advancements that we've talked about impacting. You have a large, obviously installed base of on prem folks. We see in our research about a third of companies that are still on prem and expecting to stay that way. A percentage that use private hosted solutions as well. Are you seeing that some of these kind of advancements in AI might drive people to move more to the cloud, maybe more aggressively? Do you expect that your customers will focus on some of the hybrid capabilities of meeting Webex with, say, their on prem call control? [00:16:34] Speaker A: I'm going to give you the it depends answer. And it's because it, you know, one of the things that Cisco has always done well, Webex has always done well, is just meet our customers where they want to be. And for many customers move to the cloud. Fantastic. We've been supporting many of our customers moving to the cloud. Certain customers are like, yep, we want to move to the cloud, but we want to do so in a way that is a dedicated instance that's also fine. And sometimes it's going to be on Prem for the AI capabilities. One of the things that we want to be able to do is to support as many of our customers as possible. And I don't know exactly on the deployment what it means to be able to deploy AI in all of those different scenarios. But yeah, certainly I think moving as an impetus to move to the cloud. I agree with you. I think that is one thing that could push organizations to move there. But it would be also interesting for us to see how could we do that in dedicated instance scenario. What does it mean if somebody wants to run this on Prem? All of these are really good questions to bring up. [00:17:43] Speaker B: Awesome. So I want to shift gears a little bit. Cisco's made a big push in the last year around Microsoft interoperability, predominantly on the video devices, and being able to natively support Microsoft Teams calling or meeting experiences. As you're looking at over the next year, I would say, how do you see some of these innovations being able to support not only the Cisco Webex customers, but also those that might be using teams with Cisco devices? [00:18:10] Speaker A: Yeah, absolutely. And a lot of this again goes back to the idea that these innovations, especially the AI innovations that we've been talking about, it happens in the platform. So we're able to innovate once and leverage that capability across the board. That is also true of our devices. Right. So a lot of the reasons that customers come, and even if they're on Microsoft Teams and they want to run Microsoft Teams on top of our devices, it's because of the quality of experience and a lot of the capabilities that we have. Like people focus, right. So our ability to make sure that people in a meeting, everybody who's in the meeting is accurately framed and is seen or background noise removal, the AI capabilities that we have also there in Microsoft Teams mode. And so this is one of the great things about the way that we've implemented the Microsoft Teams room experience on top of our collaboration devices. And it's one of the main drivers. People see or experience our collaboration devices and they're just blown away. They're like, wow, cannot go back to just a camera and a display in my conference room anymore. It has to be a Cisco collaboration device. And regardless of whether they want the Webex experience or if they want the MTR experience, those capabilities are there. [00:19:37] Speaker B: Excellent. So we've got a couple more minutes. As we talked about before we started recording, I've got a lot of questions that want to go over with you. [00:19:44] Speaker A: So we'll. [00:19:46] Speaker B: So let me bring up the idea of mobile. UC Cisco announced Webex Go had a major announcement last year in partnership with at and t here in the US. We see this as a really strong area of growth in our research. We published some data in second quarter of 23 that showed about 35% of our research pool were looking at these solutions predominantly for field workers or even for smaller organizations where the mobile device might become your only phone. What are you seeing in terms of uptake? And where do you see this evolving over the rest of 24? [00:20:24] Speaker A: Yeah. So in terms of uptake, just fantastic response from customers and prospective customers alike. So Webex go for the audience who may not know. Right. It's this capability to have Webex calling. Right. Integrated in your native dialer and your phone. Webex go. As you mentioned, we announced a partnership with at t. Similar functionality, but that's for a corporate sponsored plan. Right. So in both of those scenarios, a lot of interest because they're different use cases. I use Webex go, I pay for my own device, and my Webex number follows me everywhere. And it's great. And you get presence information that's reflected in WebEx. Many of my colleagues who just have a corporate sponsored plan, they use the Webex go with at t. So I see a lot more interest. I see a lot more uptake. I agree with you, right, that this is a key part of the overall UC unified communications portfolio, just another tool for organizations to have, and I expect to see a lot more continued interest in this. [00:21:32] Speaker B: Yeah, and I agree. I mean, it just makes such perfect sense for people who are mobile first, as many are these days. [00:21:38] Speaker A: Right? Yeah, absolutely. [00:21:40] Speaker B: All right, so let me close off with one final question. AR VR has gotten a lot of attention. We've seen the Apple Vision Pro recently released. I know Cisco's had a hologram offering for a while now in conjunction with partner headsets. Are we heading to a point where we're going to do these kind of sessions and meetings in an AR VR type environment, or how do you see augmented virtual reality impacting the market going forward? [00:22:07] Speaker A: We might be a year from now. As you mentioned, we had hologram, right? And the use case there was to drive collaboration, especially for organizations that needed to visualize things in, be able to interact them in an augmented reality perspective. But Apple Vision Pro, we had an announcement that Webex is available on the Apple Vision Pro. And I really think that to the extent that it really depends on the adoption of that platform. Right. And I would love to see it. I'm kind of a nerd myself, so I've experienced the Webex in Apple Vision Pro. It's pretty neat. And I would love to see you also next time. Maybe in an Apple Vision Pro, we can do this in augmented reality. [00:22:58] Speaker B: That would be awesome. I did have a chance to demo hologram when it was first announced, and it was really impressive. So, yeah, I'm still not convinced we're going to give up the traditional meeting experiences, but there are so many good use cases for augmented virtual reality training education. Show me what you see type scenarios for sure. Awesome. So how can folks get in touch with you if they have additional questions or where are you going to be in the next few months in the trade show and travel world? [00:23:26] Speaker A: Yeah, absolutely. I think definitely I'm going to be at Enterprise Connect, and I will be around there. So if anyone in the audience is going to be there, I would love to have a chat with you one on one. Just come by and find me there. [00:23:40] Speaker B: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being here, and again, appreciate your time. I appreciate everybody taking the time to watch or listen to us. If you enjoyed this episode of the Metrocast or Metro site, please go ahead and share it with your friends and colleagues. Please check out Cisco at ww, cisco.com or webex.com. And please feel free to check in. We do release our metro sites on a bi weekly basis, so lots of new content coming throughout the rest of the year. Thank you so much, Jeff. Have a wonderful afternoon. [00:24:09] Speaker A: Thank you.

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