Cisco, Apple partnership 'comes to fruition' with iOS 10

Cisco and Apple on Tuesday are unveiling a series of network and collaboration enhancements for iOS 10.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

A year after announcing their partnership in the enterprise space, Cisco and Apple on Tuesday are unveiling a series of network and collaboration enhancements for iOS 10 that will give iPhone and iPad users a more seamless, efficient experience on Cisco applications.

"With the release of iOS 10, the partnership between Cisco and Apple comes to fruition," wrote Jonathan Rosenberg, vice president and CTO for Cisco Collaboration, in a blog post.

On the collaboration front, Cisco announced it's using the new iOS API CallKit to embed Cisco Spark into the native phone experience on the iPhone. In effect, a user will get all the collaborative and VoIP performance benefits of Cisco Spark, as well as the convenience that comes with a native phone experience.

For instance, when an iPhone user gets an incoming cellular call when the phone is locked, a swipe-to-answer screen allows the user to easily answer the call. With CallKit, that same swipe-to-answer screen will apply to Cisco Spark calls. To give another example, with the API, Cisco Spark calls will appear in an iPhone user's "recent calls" list along with all cellular calls (that way, the user doesn't have to open a specific app to find their call logs).

"We've had VoIP applications for a while, but people don't often use them," Rosenberg told ZDNet. Yet when mobile phone calls are placed on the iPhone, "they're completely disconnected from corporate infrastructure".

As one of the first applications built with the CallKit capability, Cisco Spark users can now get the higher fidelity audio and video features of VoIP, as well as benefits like added security features. With this integration, calls on Cisco Spark are sent through corporate telephony infrastructure, giving companies the ability to meet audit requirements.

Cisco also worked with Apple to improve network capabilities for their enterprise customers in two key ways: optimizing Wi-Fi connectivity and giving customers the ability to prioritize apps.

"What we're trying to is radically simplify the network," said Jeff Reed, vice president of Cisco's Enterprise Infrastructure and Solutions, to ZDNet, "so the IT team doesn't have to do a lot of work to see the benefits of the combination" of Apple devices with the Cisco network.

To achieve that, Cisco wireless access points (APs) and iOS 10 devices will perform a "handshake" that allows iPhones and iPads to intelligently decide which AP to connect to, based on variables like network traffic.

Without that capability, a device will join the AP that's closest to it, Reed explained, which may not be the best one available given congestion levels.

With this new optimized connectivity, the Cisco network finds the most efficient AP. It will also let the device know about neighboring APs as a person moves around, allowing for roaming capabilities up to eight times faster.

Cisco is also giving its iOS 10 customers the ability to "fast lane" certain applications, granting prioritized network bandwidth to apps with an iOS 10-embedded quality of service (QoS) tag. The new capability offers end-to-end improvement in performance across iOS applications.

"The beauty of this is it's particularly valuable in terms of collaboration-type applications," Reed said. "If a user is on a Spark call, we can protect that Spark app even if there's another user slamming the network with BitTorrent or whatever."

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