How open is Cisco’s mobility services engine API?

Back on May 28th, Cisco announced its new Cisco Motion Vision to move enterprises into the next generation of enterprise mobility. Cisco's innovative new approach provides enterprise IT managers with practical tools to integrate mobile devices, applications and disparate networks into a unified business mobility system. Supporting this vision, the Cisco Mobility Services Engine (MSE) is an appliance-based platform with an open API that centralizes and scales a broad set of mobility services.

Pejman Roshan
Agito Networks is integrating its RoamAnywhere Mobility Router with one of these services, Cisco’s Mobile Intelligent Roaming Solution. Agito Co-Founder and VP of Marketing Pejman Roshan (also a veteran of Cisco), provided Network World with his thoughts on the openness of the Cisco API:

How did you learn about Motion and the Mobility Services Engine API? Coming from Cisco and co-founding Agito Networks in 2006, we have kept in touch with Cisco since Day 1. We have been speaking regularly since our successful launch in October of last year, and have been working with Cisco as they developed this program.

How long have you been working with Cisco on this particular effort? We began working with Cisco back in October of 2007. We have been working closely with this program for the last six months.

What is the process of licensing the API? For Agito, it has been a very straightforward process. We were already engaged with Cisco’s engineering, product management, and sales teams. They had been exposed to the Agito product directly and at our mutual customers. As Cisco developed the program, they kept us abreast of the progress and timelines for formalization. Because we have been working so closely together, Cisco knew and understood Agito’s product and technology, streamlining the investigation “phase” of the process. Once the program was formalized, we were invited to participate. After signing some legal documents, we became licensees.

The industry has questioned if this is really an open API, is it? As far as our experience, the Motion API was open to Agito. Our experience has been that this API is readily available to potential Cisco partners, especially those that bring distinct value to the relationship and to Cisco customers. Of course, Cisco is an extremely smart company, and is not going to hand over its technology to just any company. Our experience in this process shows us that partner candidates should meet certain criteria, which ensures that the joint solution is robust.

As a licensee, what criteria do you see Cisco requiring to partner with them and license the API? Cisco is looking for innovative companies to partner with, and integration technologies that bring a distinct competitive advantage to Cisco. That may mean working with companies that either provide specific applications for a particular customer segment or vertical market, or that augment Cisco’s overall product offerings. Obviously, Cisco is going to look for solutions that meet the high expectations of their customers. Partner solutions should be simple to deploy and manage, able to scale to handle hundreds to thousands of users, have significant deployment flexibility and breadth, and most importantly complement – not duplicate – Cisco’s wireless and unified communications products.

Did the heritage of Agito’s founders help you in this process? Well, I don’t think it hurt. Certainly we know the process there, and know the contacts to go to when questions come up. But, I don’t see this as a prerequisite for Cisco or any other company. We are also working with many other industry players out there, and not having deep roots at these other organizations has not caused us any issues. Related story: Q & A with the ex-Cisco stars who launched the hot enterprise mobility start-up, Agito Networks

Why do you think Cisco was interested in making Agito an initial Motion partner? We are delivering to Cisco the industry’s only enterprise-grade, multivendor eFMC solution. We enable Cisco to provide customers with a robust solution that closely integrates with Cisco’s Unified Wireless Solution today. We have demonstrated, in customer after customer deployment, that we have built a solution that delivers high performance, highly available mobile voice. We take advantage of 802.11-based enterprise WiFi infrastructure to deliver <100 ms seamless handover between WiFi and cellular. This is possible due to Agito’s integration and innovation with WiFi, and is complementary to Cisco’s efforts in dual-mode voice. Agito extends key deskphone and PBX functionality to mobile phones, and we do so across the widest variety of handsets and PBX vendors. This enables a joint Agito/Cisco solution to address the majority of our mutual customers’ infrastructure requirements. In short we have a symbiotic relationship with Cisco.

How does this integration benefit Cisco customers? With this integration, Cisco can deliver a fully functional eFMC and mobile UC joint product to customers. While Cisco provides Agito with deep Cisco WLAN intelligence as a handover metric to consider, it’s Agito that makes the ultimate intelligent decision to perform a seamless handover on the mobile device to the best network available. Agito does this by evaluating the enterprise and carrier network status, along with device and administration policies such as cost, location and handheld battery life. Agito also connects Cisco customers’ mobile users’ handsets to their enterprise’s PBX to deliver all the functionality of their deskphones to their mobile devices. Agito’s granular tracking of calls delivers deep visibility into mobile usage, and our patent-pending location technology enables administrators to enforce mobile user and system policies. Since the existing Agito RoamAnywhere product already interoperates with the Cisco Unified WLAN and Cisco UCM, customers can deploy the Agito solution today in their Cisco network and have a path to enable them to further enhance roaming with the addition of the Cisco MSE to their deployment for greater visibility into the enterprise wireless network.

What lessons learned/advice can you give to other vendors interested in joining the program? In the end, a partnership is about solving customer challenges quickly. As we have done at Agito, my advice is to identify real challenges that Cisco customers face, and demonstrably solve that problem.

In your opinion, how open is Cisco’s mobility services engine API?

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