Published: June 2019
Real-time collaboration through video conferencing is an integral part of the everyday work experience for many Cisco employees around the globe. However, managing the Cisco® Collaboration Meeting Rooms (CMR) Hybrid solution with Webex-enabled Telepresence and on-premise resources was becoming increasingly challenging and costly to manage as more users accessed the service more often. The user experience also needed improvement. Joining conferences required cumbersome codes, and video and audio quality often varied, depending on the endpoint a participant used for access.To address these challenges, Cisco embarked on a journey in mid-2016 to move all employees to the new, scalable and more cost-effective Cisco® Collaboration Meeting Rooms (CMR) Cloud solution. After conducting a two-phase pilot program over five months with select user groups within Cisco (about 2600 employees in total), Cisco IT was ready to move approximately 130,000 users from the Cisco CMR Hybrid service to the Cisco CMR Cloud solution. Cisco IT completed that final phase of migration, which involved six waves of enablement, in just three months, from October 2016 to January 2017. (See Figure 1.)
“It was an aggressive timeline, There was a lot of teamwork and collaboration required to make the whole effort successful.”Mwiza Munyandamutsa, service owner, Webex Teams
Cisco CMR Cloud is a simple-to-use video conferencing service that couples personal rooms with the cloud-based Webex® Video Bridge into one, always-available meeting experience. The solution, which is delivered on the Cisco Webex® Cloud, provides a video bridging service that connects all types of endpoints into one meeting, ensuring each participant has the same video and audio experience. CMR Cloud also turns Webex Personal Rooms into personalized video conferencing spaces — called Personal Meeting Rooms (PMRs) — that invited users can access quickly and easily. Migrating all employees to the Cisco CMR Cloud service meant that Cisco would no longer need to manage, deploy and maintain expensive on-premise hardware to support video conferencing. That would allow the company to move from a capital expenditures (CapEx) model to an operating expenses (OpEx) financial model for this service.
The migration to the Cisco CMR Cloud video conferencing service is the latest step in the Cisco IT collaboration journey. Figure 2 shows an overview of that journey, which began in 2004 with the introduction of Cisco Unified MeetingPlace, an on-premise audio and web conferencing solution.(Cisco no longer sells or supports that solution.)
Cisco’s Business Collaboration and Software Platforms (BCSP) organization was the first group to move to the Cisco CMR Cloud service, in June 2016. Later that month, those 900 users were joined by 1200 users from the Cisco IT Global Infrastructure Services (GIS) organization. The pilot was paused briefly in the first month to resolve potential security exposures with the PMRs and address other operational issues. Additionally, Cisco IT fixed video quality issues in October 2016, a month before the full rollout. User feedback gathered during the pilot phase helped to inform the communication materials and training sessions used to guide more than 130,000 Cisco employees through the transition from the Cisco CMR Hybrid service to Cisco CMR Cloud. Those users started receiving alerts about five months prior to the migration. Communication efforts included a series of targeted emails with details about the migration; digital signage; video-on-demand (VOD) assets; and recordings and training decks. Users were also notified by email that they would be required to set a 6-digit Personal Room Host PIN to activate their new PMR. The requirement for the PIN was to remove any security concerns and protect the PMR from fraud and misuse. Failure to set the PIN would result in the account being in a suspended state until the user set the PIN.
All of these efforts in the runup to the broader migration appeared to pay off in terms of creating a more seamless transition for the 130,000 users. Once Cisco IT worked through the initial enablement phase, from November 2016 to December 2017, the number of Cisco CMR Cloud meetings steadily increased—while use of the Cisco CMR Hybrid solution quickly flatlined. (See Figure 3.) Cisco employees now host more video meetings with Cisco CMR Cloud than they did with the hybrid service.
Also, despite some initial concern, the migration did not adversely impact Cisco’s infrastructure. Robert Birdsall, IT analyst at Cisco, says, "Our initial calculation was accurate, both for the capacity with Webex interconnects and our infrastructure."
While the migration to Cisco CMR Cloud was completed successfully on a very short timeline, communication and training for users could have been more effective. For example, the 58 global trainings held attracted only 743 employees. Use of executive-sponsored messages, instead of generic emails, likely could have helped to increase user interest in those trainings.Cisco IT also encountered an unexpected security issue during the final migration phase. The team needed to ensure that meetings held by certain users within Cisco would be conducted securely on the Cisco CMR Cloud. These meetings were paused briefly while Cisco IT coordinated a solution with Cisco’s online catalog for ordering IT services. Users must now sign a waiver, which is available through the online catalog, stating that they will follow best practices for using PMRs; Cisco keeps the waivers on file.
All Cisco employees now use the Cisco CMR Cloud service and are enabled with PMRs. Cisco IT is continually looking to optimize and improve the deployed solution as new technologies and features are made available. The next steps for the deployment are network optimization using the Webex Video Mesh technology and direct network peering using key Carrier Neutral Facilities (CNF) locations around the globe. Looking further into the future, this would also include distributed video meetings.
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