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Salesforce and Cisco announce partnership on cloud communication

Cisco Systems has spent the last several years trying to convince investors that it's truly embracing the cloud. Now it's got the seal of approval from a rather credible source: Salesforce.com.

The two Bay Area companies announced plans on Thursday to develop products that combine Cisco's web-based video and audio technology with Salesforce's cloud software to make it easier for businesses to quickly fire up conversations with their customers.

Rather than having to hop over to an e-mail or look up the phone number and make a call, a salesperson will be able to click a button within a client's profile and launch a text chat, video or voice conversation, powered by Cisco.

"Every company that's come before and tried to do this has created a new island," said Rowan Trollope, Cisco's senior vice president who runs collaboration. By rebuilding its technology on the web, "Cisco can embed one-to-one and multiparty communications right into the workflow," he said.

The partnership comes at a fortuitous time for Cisco, because it puts the networking giant on the agenda for next month's Dreamforce, Salesforce's mammoth annual customer conference in San Francisco.

While Salesforce was born in the cloud and has been able to take advantage of the advancements in mobile and data analytics, Cisco's glory days were back when businesses bought their own infrastructure — in Cisco's case networking gear like big switches and routers.

Cisco also develops web-based phones and owns WebEx, which specializes in online meetings. It's been Trollope's job, since joining Cisco in 2012, to tie the company's disparate communications technologies together and create products that are useful for the modern-day worker.

"We've been for three years reinventing our technology base in the cloud," he said.

Salesforce and Cisco have plenty of customer overlap and have long had partnerships unifying various technologies. Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins even joined Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff on stage at last year's Dreamforce.

They're now focused not just on bringing together their products but making them easier to use. In addition to communications and collaboration, Cisco and Salesforce said they're working together on connected devices, or what's colloquially known as the internet of things (IoT).

In February, Cisco shelled out $1.4 billion for Jasper Technologies, whose software helps companies manage web-connected cars, refrigerators and watering systems. By linking Jasper into Salesforce's data systems, customers can make sense of all the information flowing from those gadgets and take the necessary action.

In Thursday's press release, the companies gave the example of a fleet of connected trucks tied to Jasper's software passing data back to Salesforce's cloud, enabling a management company to alert customers with real-time delivery updates or take note of maintenance issues.

They're also collaborating on customer service technology for more efficient call centers, and additional products are expected down the line.

"We view this as an opportunity to grow our relationship with Cisco," said Ryan Aytay, Salesforce's executive vice president of strategic alliances. "We're starting with collaboration, IoT and customer experience, but we see many opportunities as we move forward."