Through a "global strategic alliance" announced on Thursday, Cisco and Salesforce plan to integrate their collaboration, customer service and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms. Some of the integrated solutions are available immediately, while others won't arrive until the second half of 2017. (Cisco is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells CSCO? Learn more now.)
Perhaps the most important move: Cisco plans to integrate its Spark unified communications platform and its WebEx collaboration/conferencing software with Salesforce's Sales Cloud automation software and Service Cloud customer support software. The companies promise joint customers, of which there are many, will be able to "communicate in real time using chat, video and voice without leaving Salesforce or having to install a plug-in."
Along with Cisco's conferencing hardware, Spark and WebEx are key parts of a collaboration business that produced $1.1 billion in revenue during the company's July quarter. Salesforce's Sales Cloud revenue totaled $754.9 million during its July quarter, and its Service Cloud revenue $575.4 million.
Microsoft (MSFT) , through its Skype for Business platform (formerly known as Lync), has long been a major Cisco rival in the unified communications/collaboration space. The company has also been competing against Sales Cloud via its Dynamics CRM apps, and against Service Cloud through its Parature customer support software, which was acquired in 2014 and integrates with Dynamics.
On the IoT front, Cisco will integrate the offerings of its Jasper Technologies unit, which it bought earlier this year for $1.4 billion-plus, with Salesforce's IoT Cloud platform, so that the former feeds data to the latter. Jasper provides cloud-based tools for launching, managing and tracking the performance of IoT services. IoT Cloud helps businesses analyze and act on the data produced by web-connected embedded devices.
That could put IoT Cloud in better position to compete against Microsoft's Azure IoT Suite, which has been reeling in blue-chip clients and recently announced an integration deal for GE's Predix IoT developer platform (it competes against Jasper). Amazon (AMZN) , Google (GOOGL) , IBM (IBM) and Oracle are among the other tech giants to have launched cloud-based IoT services. A Cisco-IBM IoT deal was unveiled in June.
Lastly, Cisco and Salesforce plan to offer what they deem "a complete customer service solution" for call center workers. It'll pair Service Cloud, used by many of those workers to interact with customers, with Cisco's Unified Contact Center Enterprise contact-routing and call-management software. Microsoft and Oracle are once more being targeted, as are more specialized players such as Zendesk (ZEN) .
Though partnerships with other major tech companies are nothing new for Cisco, the pace of such deals has picked up since Chuck Robbins became CEO last year. In addition to Salesforce and IBM, high-profile alliances have been announced with Apple and Ericsson. Look for more deals to arrive in the coming months.