and Cisco announced a partnership today that brings together’s online customer service software with Cisco’s strengths in IP Telephony. The service, called “Customer Interaction Cloud,” is designed to provide a complete, cloud-based customer service offering for small to medium sized businesses.

The offering integrates Service Cloud 2 to Cisco’s Unified Contact Center, providing an extension for offerings. The partnership further demonstrates efforts to partner with third parties instead of developing their own technology.

The service has some real benefits as agents can take calls from directly within the application.

Perhaps even more compelling is the increased leverage of the social web. For example, the service allows users to pull Facebook comments into a knowledge base that can be used for future reference.The service also provides the ability to respond to customer concerns posted on Google, Facebook and Twitter. also announced a new service to go with Service Cloud 2 called the “Five Minute Upgrade,” a service that exemplifies how the traditional methods of software upgrades may be permanently transformed with the advent of cloud computing.

Traditional software upgrades can at times take hours, interrupting customers and their workflows. The new offering by and Cisco, allows users to continue running their applications with only a five-minute interruption. While upgrades happen in one data center, users may still access applications through other global, real-time, mirrored data centers.

Analysts have been pretty bullish about the partnership. For Cisco, it is an opportunity to leverage brand strength in the small and medium sized business markets. In combination with the Tandberg acquisition, Cisco finds itself at the gateway of a very lucrative market.

For, the deal provides it with Internet telephony, providing another important feature to strengthen its online software suite.

alex williams