Tag Archives: Cisco

GPU-buffed servers advance Cisco’s AI agenda

Cisco Systems is the latest hardware vendor to offer gear tuned for AI and machine learning-based workloads.

Competition to support AI and machine workloads continues to heat up. Earlier this year archrivals Dell Technologies Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise and IBM rolled out servers designed to optimize performance of AI and machine learning workloads. Many smaller vendors are chasing this market as well.

“This is going to be a highly competitive field going forward with everyone having their own solution,” said Jean Bozman, vice president and principal analyst at Hurwitz & Associates. “IT organizations will have to figure out, with the help of third-party organizations, how to best take advantage of these new technologies.”

Cisco AI plan taps Nvidia GPUs

The Cisco UCS C480 ML M5 rack server, the company’s first tuned to run AI workloads, contains Nvidia Tesla V100 Tensor Core GPUs and NVLink to boost performance, and works with neural networks and large data sets to train computers to carry out complex tasks, according to the company. It works with Cisco Intersight, introduced last year, which allows IT professionals to automate policies and operations across their infrastructure from the cloud.

This Cisco AI server will ship sometime during this year’s fourth quarter. Cisco Services will offer technical support for a range of AI and machine learning capabilities.

Cisco intends to target several different industries with the new system. Financial services companies can use it to detect fraud and algorithmic trading, while healthcare companies can enlist it to deliver insights and diagnostics, improve medical image classification and speed drug discovery and research.

Server hardware makers place bets on AI

The market for AI and machine learning, particularly the former, represents a rich opportunity for systems vendors over the next year or two. Only 4% of CIOs said they have implemented AI projects, according to a Gartner study earlier this year. However, some 46% have blueprints in place to implement such projects, and many of them have kicked off pilot programs.

[AI and machine learning-based servers are] going to be a highly competitive field going forward with everyone having their own solution.
Jean Bozmanvice president and principal analyst, Hurwitz & Associates

AI and machine learning offers IT shops more efficient ways to address complex issues, but will significantly affect their underlying infrastructure and processes. Larger IT shops must heavily invest in training and the education of existing employees in how to use the technologies, the Gartner report stated. They also must upgrade existing infrastructure before they deploy production-ready AI and machine learning workloads. Enterprises will need to retool infrastructure to find ways to more efficiently handle data.

“All vendors will have the same story about data being your most valuable asset and how they can handle it efficiently,” Bozman said. “But to get at [the data] you first have to break down the data silos, label the data to get at it efficiently, and add data protection.”

Only after this prep work can IT shops take full advantage of AI-powered hardware-software tools.

“No matter how easy some of these vendors say it is to implement their integrated solutions, IT [shops] have more than a little homework to do to make it all work,” one industry analyst said. “Then you are ready to get the best results from any AI-based data analytics.”

Cisco ASR 9000 router gets usage-based pricing

Cisco has introduced pay-as-you-go pricing for the latest line card of the ASR 9000 router, offering service providers a more flexible licensing model as they evaluate 5G infrastructure suppliers.

Cisco’s new licensing model, unveiled this week, applies to the new line card and subsequent generations. The latest hardware has a maximum throughput of 3.2 Tbps, uses a half watt of power per gigabit and is available with 32, 16 or 8 ports of 100 GbE. The cards fit into existing ASR 9000 chassis.

The pricing change lets service providers buy a license for ASR 9000 capacity across sites, but only pay for what they use. The cost would increase as ports are activated, said Sumeet Arora, the head of engineering for service provider network systems at Cisco.

Previously, service providers had to buy an ASR 9000 license for each site based on expected demand. As a result, the customers would pay for capacity they weren’t using, Arora said.

The ASR 9000 router in 5G

Cisco is making its pricing more customer-friendly as service providers consider technology like the ASR 9000 to support future 5G business and consumer services. The fifth-generation cellular technology delivers speed, capacity and latency improvements that will enable new products for healthcare, manufacturing, entertainment and the auto industry, proponents have said.

However, analysts do not expect the 5G services market to take off for several years. Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins recently told financial analysts that he didn’t expect significant 5G sales until 2020.

ASR 9000
ASR 9000 router with 32 100 GbE ports

Until the 5G market opens, Cisco is aiming the new ASR 9000 line cards at the network edge where service providers deliver virtual private networks and other business services. Other “big use cases” include internet peering, data center interconnects and the IP infrastructure for mobile services, Arora said.

The ASR 9000 router competes with products from Juniper Networks, Huawei and Nokia. The latter two vendors, along with Ericsson, comprise the top three suppliers to service providers.

Last week, Juniper Networks announced a partnership with Ericsson to sell a collection of products for moving 5G traffic. Cisco announced a wide-ranging partnership with Ericsson in 2015, but that deal has stalled, and many analysts believe it is nearly dead.

“The Ericsson-Cisco partnership was a nonstarter, and both parties did not follow up on the promise that they had articulated during the announcement,” said Rajesh Ghai, an analyst at IDC.

Cisco adds LTE modem to Meraki MX security appliance

Cisco has introduced Meraki MX security appliances with a built-in 4G wireless broadband modem. The company also added the Long Term Evolution, or LTE, modem to a new Z-series teleworker gateway.

This week, Cisco launched the Meraki MX67C and MX68CW with an integrated CAT 6 LTE cellular modem. Also, Cisco unveiled four MX models – the MX67, MX68, MX67W and MX68W — without LTE but with more throughput than older models. All the new MX hardware, which are the first in the Meraki line to support the 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi standard, can deliver up to 450 Mbps of firewall throughput.

Network admins manage Cisco Meraki switches, appliances and access points through a web-based console called the Meraki Dashboard, which also provides automation and analytics. Cisco has aimed the product line at small branch offices and retailers that need a no-frills wireless LAN. For an access layer that meets the need of larger enterprises, Cisco offers the Aironet APs and Catalyst switches.

MX appliances are unified threat management devices with software-defined WAN functionality. A UTM system combines and integrates multiple security services and features, including a firewall.

Uses for LTE in the Meraki MX

The higher throughput in the latest MX appliances is aimed at companies accessing SaaS applications, such as Microsoft Office 365, said Imran Idrees, a marketing manager in Cisco’s Meraki unit. Remote branch offices can use the LTE modem as a substitute for broadband when it isn’t available.

Companies could also use the LTE connection as a failover link, Idrees said. If the Ethernet connection goes down, then the MX would switch to LTE.

“Given the ubiquity and increasing performance of LTE, this is a relatively inexpensive way for a branch office to increase its network availability,” said Mark Hung, an analyst at Gartner.

The cellular MX models have one Nano SIM card slot for connecting to a carrier’s LTE network. The built-in modem makes it possible track usage and performance of the MX from the Meraki Dashboard.

Getting LTE on older Meraki MX models required companies to plug a carrier-provided USB stick that contained the 4G modem. Because the modem wasn’t integrated with the MX, no data was captured for tracking performance.

With the latest models, data captured from the LTE connection includes signal strength, the provider’s name and how much data is traveling over the link. All the information is displayed on the Meraki Dashboard.

LTE in Meraki Dashboard

The Z3C gateway

The Z3C teleworker gateway is for workers who need a secure connection to the corporate network while they are on the road. “It’s a very compact device that a business person would take around with them,” Idrees said.

The previous version of the gateway, Z3, required a traveler to plug a hotel room’s Ethernet cable into the device to gain access to the corporate network. The Z3C has the option of connecting over LTE.

Companies that want to use a Meraki WLAN have to purchase the product line’s devices and a cloud subscription license. Once the license is registered, network managers can configure and manage the hardware through the Meraki Dashboard.

Cisco refused to participate in NSS Labs report on SD-WAN

Cisco refused to activate the Viptela software-defined WAN product NSS Labs bought for testing, leaving the research firm with a noticeable hole in its recent comparative report on SD-WAN vendors.

Cisco did not provide a reason for refusing to activate the product NSS Labs had purchased for between $30,000 and $40,000, NSS Labs CEO Vikram Phatak said this week. “There was no reason given other than, effectively, they didn’t want to be tested (for the NSS Labs report).”

Cisco’s action marked the first time a vendor had refused to turn on a product NSS Labs had bought for evaluation, Phatak said. Cisco’s Viptela team had initially told NSS Labs it would support the test, which led the firm to buy the product.

“That’s a first for us, candidly,” Phatak said. “And given Cisco’s ethical rules and so on — rules of conduct — I’m in shock because normally, they’re pretty straightforward to work with.”

Cisco refused to discuss the matter, saying in a statement “We believe our customer traction, standing in the market and the continued productive innovation we’re driving speak for themselves.”

NSS Labs wants a refund

NSS Labs wants Cisco to refund the money spent on Viptela. It is hoping it can get the money back without going to court.

“I hope it doesn’t come to that,” Phatak said. “We haven’t talked to any lawyers. I’m assuming that we’ll be able to have the conversation and get our money back.”

Typically, NSS Labs buys products, and the vendors turn them on like they would for any other customer.

“If someone says they don’t want to be tested, we say, ‘That’s great, but if a product is good enough to be sold to the public, it’s good enough to be tested,'” Phatak said. “We’re going to buy it, and we’ll report to the public.”

That’s a first for us, candidly. And given Cisco’s ethical rules and so on — rules of conduct — I’m in shock.
Vikram PhatakCEO, NSS Labs

NSS Labs noted Cisco’s refusal to activate the Viptela purchase in its SD-WAN Comparative Report, which was the company’s first SD-WAN test. Not having Cisco in the evaluation left out one of the largest SD-WAN vendors and a major tech company.

In the first quarter, London-based IHS Markit listed Cisco as No. 4 in the SD-WAN market, just behind Silver Peak. VMware was first with a 19% share, followed by Aryaka with 18%.

The NSS Labs report, released this month, compared the products of nine vendors, including VMware’s NSX SD-WAN, formerly VeloCloud. VMware is Cisco’s largest competitor.

NSS Labs had also planned to include Silver Peak in the comparison but noted it was unable to obtain the product in time for testing.

Tech companies often cite recommended ratings in NSS Labs reports in marketing materials. In April, Cisco highlighted in a blog post the organization’s “recommended” rating for the Cisco Advanced Malware Protection for Endpoints product.

Based on its recent SD-WAN tests, NSS Labs recommended products from VMware, Talari Networks and Fortinet and listed products from Citrix Systems, FatPipe Networks, Forcepoint and Versa Networks as “verified.” Tech buyers should consider recommended and verified products as candidates for purchase, according to NSS Labs.

The company issued “caution” ratings for Barracuda Networks and Cradlepoint, which means companies should not deploy their products without a comprehensive evaluation, NSS Labs said.

Cisco wants to help developers build Webex integrations

Cisco is encouraging developers to innovate on the web conferencing platform Webex Meetings as third-party integrations become an increasingly crucial differentiator in the market for collaboration software.

The vendor has added a new Webex Meetings page to its website for developers. The page includes tutorials, sample source codes and a full catalog of API reference documents. Those resources will help developers customize how their organization manages users and data through Webex.

Cisco also hosts a cloud-based “sandbox” where developers can design and test Webex integrations and offers one-on-one support to members of its developer program, Cisco DevNet. More than 500,000 developers have registered for the program, but many are focused on networking rather than collaboration.

Cisco is in the midst of an overhaul of its collaboration portfolio that includes the merging of its team collaboration app, formerly known as Cisco Spark, with the online meetings platform Cisco Webex, which has more than 135 million users.

Beyond rebranding the two platforms — as Webex Teams and Webex Meetings — Cisco also refreshed their user interfaces and combined them onto the same back-end infrastructure.

In addition to the revamped DevNet page, Cisco is also highlighting its Android SDK for Webex Teams, the product of a new partnership with Google. The tool will help developers add the messaging and meetings features of Webex Teams to Android devices.

Webex integrations increase business value of the platform

Vendors rely on an ecosystem of partners to improve their platforms by developing value-added integrations with other apps. For example, Google recently added several Webex integrations to Google Calendar, making it easier for G Suite users to schedule and join Webex meetings.

Integrations expand the possible use cases of a platform, making it more valuable to businesses, said Alan Lepofsky, a principal analyst at Constellation Research Inc., based in Cupertino, Calif.

“In the highly competitive collaboration market, vendors such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Cisco, Salesforce and Slack are all competing for developer mindshare,” Lepofsky said. “They try and entice partners to develop new features and third-party integrations by offering both financial and marketing incentives.”

In the team collaboration market, Slack has been particularly successful at curating an ecosystem of developers. Open APIs helped the startup challenge established vendors like Cisco and Microsoft and inspired many vendors to embrace a similar approach. (This week, Slack said it was valued at $7.1 billion, up from $5.1 billion less than one year ago.)

Even Microsoft has taken steps to open its historically closed system as it attempts to boost adoption of Microsoft Teams, the cloud-based successor to Skype for Business. This spring, for example, the vendor released a new line-of-business app store for Teams, where organizations can upload custom integrations.

Cisco has also given customers tools to customize their use of Webex Teams. But the app stores of both Microsoft and Cisco still trail Slack’s directory, which contains more than 1,500 prebuilt integrations with third-party business apps.

Cisco revenues up, customers warming to new products

Cisco has reported a 6% revenue increase in the quarter ended July 28, as the strong economy contributed to a boost in product sales and customer adoption of new software-driven technology.

Cisco reported on Wednesday its “highest quarterly revenue” of $12.8 billion and predicted a 5% to 7% increase in Cisco revenues year over year in the current quarter, which sent its stock up more than 6% in after-hours trading.

Cisco predicted adjusted net income for the quarter ending in October would range from 70 to 72 cents a share, beating analysts’ projection of 69 cents. Earnings of 70 cents per share for the July quarter beat analysts’ expectations by a penny a share.

The company reported “solid demand” for its products as it continued its transformation into a provider of network software and services from a company dependent on selling high-priced switching and routing hardware. Application sales rose 10% and recurring revenue, a reflection of sales in software subscriptions and services, accounted for 32% of total revenue, up a point from the same period last year.

During a conference call with analysts, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins attributed the company’s strong quarter to a combination of customers buying more during a strong economy and execution by the Cisco’s sales and product development teams.

“I’m pragmatic to know it’s a combination of both,” Robbins said. “Clearly, the economy has been pretty consistent, and the markets have been positive, so that has certainly helped.”

Cisco revenues show new product sales

Nevertheless, Robbins was pleased with customer reaction to Cisco’s new products, notably the Catalyst 9000 campus switch and the Viptela software-defined WAN, which Cisco acquired last year for $610 million.

Clearly, the economy has been pretty consistent, and the markets have been positive, so that has certainly helped.
Chuck RobbinsCEO, Cisco

Introduced in June 2017, the Catalyst 9000 is the first switch Cisco has sold that requires the customer to buy a subscription to the software running on the hardware.

“I’m very pleased with how the adoption has been from our customers,” Robbins said. As of the end of the July quarter, Cisco had sold the Catalyst 9000 to more than 9,650 organizations.

“You’ll see us over the next coming quarters when we bring new products to market — particularly in the enterprise networking space, but across the portfolio — we will apply that same [software subscription] strategy,” Robbins said.

Viptela is vital in maintaining Cisco’s leading position as a campus networking supplier. The SD-WAN product routes traffic via software to and from campus networks and remote offices. Cisco has integrated the subscription-based Viptela with its Integrated Services Router (ISR) and plans to combine the software with other hardware.

“We’ve begun to see customers actually move forward with deployments,” Robbins said. “It’s early, but we like where we are, and we like what we see.”

Cisco revenues helped by service providers

Cisco also managed to increase sales by 6% to services providers, a customer segment that was down 4% in the previous quarter. Robbins attributed the growth to increased spending by some large customers rather than to purchases of new technology, such as products related to 5G, the next generation of wireless technology.

Robbins said carriers started discussing the infrastructure needs for 5G “in earnest” at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February. Nevertheless, he did not expect 5G-related sales to begin for at least a year, picking up in 2020.

Cisco Viptela integrated with IOS XE on ISR, ASR

Cisco has integrated its Viptela software-defined WAN with the company’s IOS XE network operating system, effectively making the cloud-controlled SD-WAN product an option for distributing network traffic from Cisco ISR and ASR routers.

Announced this week, the integration means companies using Cisco’s legacy SD-WAN product, Intelligent WAN — often used with the Integrated Services Router (ISR) — can switch to a much simpler system. IWAN’s complexity precluded broad market adoption, so when Cisco acquired Viptela last year for $610 million, many analysts predicted the company would eventually migrate customers to Viptela.

Connecting Cisco Viptela to IOS XE adds a cloud-controlled element to IOS XE hardware through the SD-WAN product’s vManage console. The cloud-based software is the centralized component for configuration management and monitoring network traffic going to and from the ISR and Aggregation Services Router (ASR) hardware.

As a router network operating system, IOS XE includes dozens of services beyond routing and switching, such as encryption, authentication, firewall capabilities and policy enforcement.

Next for Cisco Viptela

In March, Cisco launched cloud-based predictive analytics for Viptela, called vAnalytics. The software, which companies access through vManage, provides network managers with answers to what-if scenarios.

Over the next 18 months, Cisco plans to merge vManage into DNA Center, a centralized software console for managing campus networks built on top of Cisco’s Catalyst 9000 campus switches. The integration would provide network managers with a single view of their LAN, WAN and campus networks.

Companies use SD-WAN for traffic distribution across broadband, Long Term Evolution and MPLS links connecting campuses and remote offices to the internet and the corporate data center. In the first quarter, companies refreshing their campus and branch networks contributed to a more than 5% increase year to year in 1 Gb Ethernet revenue and a nearly 16% rise in port shipments, according to IDC.

Cisco claimed organizations use more than 1 million ISR and ASR routers globally. ASR routers are designed for high-bandwidth applications, such as video streaming, while ISR systems are for small or midsize networks found in small businesses and branch offices.

Cisco bolsters cloud security with Duo acquisition

Cisco has announced the $2.35 billion acquisition of Duo Security, adding two-step authentication services to the networking company’s cloud-based security portfolio.

Cisco said this week it expects to close the cash deal by the end of October. Following the Duo acquisition, Cisco will make Duo part of its security business under its general manager and executive vice president, David Goeckeler. Duo, which has 700 employees, will remain at its Ann Arbor, Mich., headquarters, and CEO Dug Song will continue to lead the company.

Under Cisco, Duo could grow much faster than it could on its own by gaining access to Cisco’s 800,000 customers. Duo, which was founded in 2009, has 12,000 customers.

Cisco wants to buy Duo to strengthen its cloud-based security services. Duo offers two-factor authentication that companies can integrate into websites, VPNs and cloud services. Duo services can also determine whether the user device trying to access the corporate asset poses a security risk.

The Duo acquistion adds another set of capabilities to those provided by Cisco’s other cloud-based security products, including OpenDNS and Stealthwatch Cloud. OpenDNS blocks malware, phishing attacks and botnets at the domain name system layer. Stealthwatch Cloud searches for threats by aggregating and analyzing telemetry drawn from public cloud infrastructures, such as AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

Cisco’s plans following Duo acquisition

During a conference call with reporters and analysts, Goeckeler said Cisco will sell Duo as a stand-alone product, while also integrating its services into some of Cisco’s other cloud-based services. He did not provide details or a timeline, but noted other cloud-based products that Cisco has combined with each other include OpenDNS, the Viptela SD-WAN and the cloud-managed Meraki wireless LAN.

“We think we can drive [more] integrations here,” Goeckeler said of Duo. He later added Duo could bring more value to Cisco Umbrella, a cloud-based service that searches for threats in internet activity.

“Duo is another asset we can combine together with Umbrella to just increase the value of that solution to our customers,” Goeckeler said.

Cisco has been growing its security business through acquisition since at least 2013, when it bought firewall provider Sourcefire for $2.7 billion. In 2015, Cisco acquired OpenDNS for $635 million, and it bought CloudLock a year later for $293 million. CloudLock provides secure access to cloud applications, including those running on platform-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service providers.

“All of these pieces are part of the larger strategy to build that integrated networking, security and identity cloud-delivered platform,” Goeckeler said.

Cisco’s acquisitions have fueled much of the growth in its security business. In the quarter ended in April, Cisco reported an 11% increase in security revenue to $583 million.

Cisco and Google deepen collaboration partnership

Developers from Cisco and Google have been working together to build native integrations between the Cisco Webex web conferencing and team collaboration platform and the productivity apps in G Suite. The partnership should help both vendors compete against rival Microsoft.

G Suite users will soon be able to schedule and join Webex meetings from Google Calendar with one click. The integration works on Cisco video conferencing hardware and within Google Chrome, without requiring downloads or guest accounts.

Cisco Webex Teams, which competes with Slack and Microsoft Teams, lets users collaborate in real time using Google Docs, Sheets and Slides — the G Suite equivalents of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. That eliminates the need for users to upload a revised version of a file to Webex Teams after every edit.

Developers, meanwhile, can add Cisco calling and meeting capabilities to Android apps using the Webex Teams Android software development kit. For example, a pair of augmented reality smart glasses could be connected to Webex, so the wearer can stream a video feed from the device into a web conference.

“While Google and Microsoft compete with full portfolios of personal productivity and team collaboration, Cisco only has the team collaboration elements,” said Alan Lepofsky, principal analyst at Constellation Research, based in Cupertino, Calif. “So, deeper integration between Webex and Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive makes a lot of sense.”

Cisco and Google plan future integrations  

While Cisco’s collaboration portfolio also integrates with the productivity tools of Microsoft Office 365, those links are based on Microsoft’s public APIs. In contrast, Cisco and Google have been working directly together to create seamless connections between their portfolios.

Public APIs “tend to be semi-limiting at times,” said Sri Srinivasan, vice president and general manager of Cisco’s team collaboration group. “With Google, it looks like one between Google and Webex.”

Cisco and Google are currently exploring ways to use Google’s AI technology within Webex for tasks such as transcription, translation, meeting notes and project management. Cisco was also one of several vendors to adopt Google’s new AI platform for contact centers last month.

Amy Chang, who replaced Rowan Trollope as head of Cisco’s $5 billion collaboration technology group in May, worked at Google for seven years before founding relationship intelligence firm Accompany.

“For Cisco, it certainly makes a great deal of sense to expand these partnerships to improve their ability to compete with Microsoft,” said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. “Same for Google, who lacks the broad UC [unified communications] suite, video conferencing and contact center offerings that Cisco provides.”

Google expands presence in enterprise market

Google is working on additional Google Calendar integrations with the web conferencing vendors Arkadin, GoToMeeting, LogMeIn, Dialpad, RingCentral, Vidyo and Vonage. Google also recently made its online meetings platform, Hangouts Meet, interoperable with Microsoft Skype for Business and hardware from Cisco and Polycom.

At the same time that Google is tightening partnerships with Cisco and other vendors, the consumer tech giant has been building out its collaboration portfolio with products such as Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat, a team collaboration app.

Last month, Google announced a beta program for a new enterprise telephony product based on WebRTC, called Google Voice for G Suite. If that platform proves successful, Google will be in a position to provide all of the core unified communications technologies that businesses require: voice, messaging and web conferencing.

It was surprising to see Google launch a stand-alone voice product, rather than position Google Voice as a virtual service within G Suite that could tie into existing enterprise telephony systems, Lazar said. The move could bring them into closer competition with Cisco, a leading provider of business telephony. 

Cisco lays groundwork for augmented reality in Cisco Webex app

An overhaul of the back-end infrastructure and user interface of the Cisco Webex app, rolling out this month, lays the groundwork for the vendor to expand support for augmented reality, virtual reality and other advanced video-centric technologies.

The redesign, which will be released throughout August, prioritizes video and simplifies scheduling, calendar management and in-meeting controls. Beyond that, the vendor has enhanced the cloud infrastructure that powers the video conferencing platform.

The announcement is the result of years of platform work that will allow the Cisco Webex app to better use the public cloud in conjunction with its private cloud video infrastructure, said Sri Srinivasan, vice president and general manager of the vendor’s team collaboration group.

“We’re putting the plumbing together for intelligent experiences across the board,” Srinivasan said. “I don’t think we’re ready to talk about everything AR/VR [augmented reality and virtual reality] on Webex yet, but think of it as the base plumbing.”

In April, Cisco announced that Apple iOS users would be able to share augmented reality files during meetings within the Cisco Webex app. A team of architects could use the feature to view — and edit in real time — a three-dimensional blueprint of a building they were designing, for example.

Cisco also recently began a beta partnership with startup Atheer Inc. to let Webex customers use that vendor’s AR platform, which is compatible with AR smart glasses from vendors such as Microsoft and Toshiba.

A field worker wearing smart glasses could use Atheer’s software to share a video feed of his or her current view to a meeting within the Cisco Webex app. Team members could then upload documents or drawings to the worker’s smart glasses to help solve a problem.

Cisco has been at the vanguard of combining immersive technologies with collaboration apps, analysts said. Microsoft has also taken steps to add AR to its collaboration portfolio. This spring, Microsoft released previews of two new AR apps for Microsoft HoloLens that integrate with Microsoft Teams.

“Microsoft, with HoloLens, is quite prominent these days, and they have a set of specialized applications,” said Adam Preset, analyst at Gartner. “Cisco will have opened up options to do the same with the Atheer partnership, but they’ll also have brought AR into a common application people use every day in Webex.”

Augmented reality use cases limited, but expanding

So far, augmented reality has seen the most adoption in the fields of healthcare, oil and gas production, and manufacturing, said J.P. Gownder, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. But the technology would be useful in any vertical with a high proportion of field workers and significant visualization needs, he said.

By 2019, 20% of large enterprises are expected to have evaluated and adopted augmented reality, virtual reality or mixed reality technology, according to projections by Gartner. Field services, logistics, training and analytics are the most common uses cases in the enterprise market at this point, according to the firm.

Immersive commerce could soon become a typical use case of augmented reality, said Marty Resnick, analyst at Gartner. Customer service agents could use AR tools to help customers fix a problem they are having at home with a product.

IDC predicted global spending on augmented and virtual reality technologies will grow at a compound annual rate of 71.6% between 2017 and 2022. Consumers will drive most of that growth, but the verticals of retail, transportation and manufacturing are also expected to ramp up investments in such products.

“Expect more consumer and business applications to leverage AR. And within seven years, it will just be another part of the conference, marketing and business collaboration stack,” said Wayne Kurtzman, analyst at IDC.