Cisco is to sell its IP voice technology as a service as part of a continuing set of improvements to its cloud computing strategy, according to the company's CTO. The company has also announced enhancements to its web conferencing products.

Cisco will be "virtualising voice products [to] sell voice as a service," said CTO Padmasree Warrior. "Certain aspects of voice will be virtualised."

The move was somewhat expected as Cisco begins to offer more cloud computing technologies as it faces an array of competitors in both the cloud computing and unified computing areas.

Warrior and Doug Dennerline, senior vice president of Cisco's collaboration software group, talked about strategy and direction for collaboration and cloud technologies as part of the networking company's biggest annual user conference, Cisco Live! in San Franciso.

Warrior didn't give details about virtualising voice, but analysts said they assume it will be offered mainly in private clouds used in major corporations that already have Cisco networks. Conceivably, that could include clouds run by voice carriers that serve both businesses and consumers.

Warrior and Dennerline also said that Cisco will differentiate itself from other cloud computing vendors by allowing customers to use their own networking gear together with the services in the cloud.

In one example, Dennerline said the company's ASR 1000 router now includes Cisco's Webex web conferencing capabilities, which means 300 workers in a corporate headquarters can join a Webex session on the corporate LAN, instead of each of the 300 being required to reach out to a networking cloud to be part of a global Webex session.

Cisco's Webex group operates 220,000 web conference meetings per day using nine network operations centers globally, Dennerline said. While Webex has had great success, it can be improved, he noted. In one small example, he said that today Webex allows six windows with six people of videoconferencing per desktop at 15 frames per second, "which is not very good." But the video could be high definition, and Cisco is working on doing that, he added.

Webex Connect, its Web conferencing tool, will be upgraded to a new version by the end of the summer, Dennerline said, giving it presence technology and IM capability from the cloud, combined with on-premise IP video capabilities.

Regarding service providers, such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications, and their role in offering their own version of cloud computing, Dennerline said that Cisco already offers many managed services through the service providers, but will begin to offer more that are software-oriented. "Service providers will play a large role and some will have part of the business ... They won't want to miss out on this market."