IBM and Cisco Systems today advanced a strategic partnership that dates to 1999. This time, the software giants combined Cisco's workspace platforms with IBM's cloud collaboration solutions and cognitive computing. The move comes the same month the two hooked up for an Internet of Things (IoT)-analytics marriage.

The result of today's partnership is a suite of cloud-based workplace tools and applications infused with IBM Watson, the cognitive computing engine of the Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM.

Cognitive Analytics

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco brings its Cisco Spark and WebEx collaborative workspace platforms to integrate with IBM’s cloud collaboration solutions, including Verse and Connections, underpinned by the company’s cognitive computing capabilities. IBM's advanced analytics, Watson and email and social offerings will combine with Cisco’s collaboration solutions, including business messaging, meeting and calling offerings. 

To illustrate the capabilities, company officials said a financial advisor could meet with an investor over Cisco video with a Watson service offering real-time advice and handling tasks. At the same time, files would be securely stored and available in IBM Connections, shared through WebEx. 

“The irony of many workforce tools available today is with because there are so many to choose from, they can reduce employee effectiveness,” Inhi Cho, general manager of IBM Collaboration Solutions, said in a statement. 

“With our combined technology strengths and understanding of how teams get work done, IBM and Cisco can deliver the next generation of collaboration tools needed to cultivate innovation and drive productivity. By incorporating analytics and cognitive technologies into these solutions, we expect them to be able to learn what is important, in context, and take the right actions on behalf of the user.”

The new solutions will incorporate structured and unstructured data in on-premises, desktop or the cloud. Users will be able to analyze all types of data, uncover meaningful workflow patterns and provide actionable insights through the course of daily activities and interactions.

Doubling-Down on Collaboration

IBM isn't sitting idle in the collaboration space. In February, it rolled out new features to its Connections software — changes designed to keep pace with Slack and other competitors.

The latest edition, announced at IBM’s Connect 2016 Conference, brought a number of innovations, such as the ability for users to more easily share business insights and customize who is assigned to different teams. 

CMSWire contributor Tom Petrocelli wrote that IBM demonstrated at the conference a new, unified home page for IBM Verse, IBM’s new email and calendaring software, and IBM Connections, its enterprise social network. 

"The new landing page places related tasks, content, meetings and messages in stacks of cards so that an end-user can access all the information they need on a subject from one interface," Petrocelli wrote.

However, he cautioned, many admit that IBM Verse, built using the new IBM design thinking methodology, is superior to IBM Notes but just aren’t ready to move forward with migrating to the new software when the old software works fine. 

"Few customers even spoke about thinking of moving to IBM Verse in the future," Petrocelli said.

Cisco Spending Spree

Cisco, meanwhile, has had no problem investing lately — in anything. Cisco Systems paid $293 million this week to acquire a cloud security provider that provides visibility and analytics around user behavior and sensitive data in cloud services. The company, Waltham, Mass.-based CloudLock Inc., specializes in cloud access security broker (CASB) technology. 

It marked Cisco's fourth acquisition this year and third related to cloud-based applications. It February, it acquired IoT platform Jasper for $1.4 billion and then immediately went to work building on the acquisition.