Cisco declares war on Microsoft unified communications system

Cisco has launched what it calls a frank and direct conversation and a weeks-long debate

Cisco chose the eve of Microsoft's first Lync conference to attack the Microsoft unified communications platform as incomplete when compared to Cisco's enterprise UC offerings.

Cisco has launched what it calls a frank and direct conversation and a weeks-long debate about what's important when IT executives decide which platforms to choose, and in its initial salvo finds Microsoft lacking in three areas:

  • Microsoft doesn't provide phones, video endpoints, voice and video gateways, networking and cloud PSTN connections -- leaving customers to find them elsewhere, increasing cost and complexity.
  • It has no clear path for cloud deployments that support the same functionality as on-site Lync deployments.
  • Microsoft's Surface tablets and laptops compete against other hardware vendors, which poses a conflict of interest when it comes to supporting bring-your-own-device programs.

[ BACKGROUND: Lync moves closer to proverbial PBX replacement

CUSTOMER STORY: Microsoft delivers missing Lync for telemed project ]

In addition, Cisco says that the way Lync evolved leads to design shortcomings compared with Cisco's UC products. "We believe that a solution that's primarily been developed for a desktop PC user experience is less able to meet these wider post-PC requirements than one that has been designed and optimized for them from the outset," says Rowan Trollope, Cisco's SVP and GM of collaboration, in a blog post.

Cisco claims it has deployed its UC and collaboration gear for mobile workers, international calling, confidential voice and video, and contact centers that blend voice, video, chat and social media. "By comparison, a solution optimized for only the desktop office worker may not be able to serve other users' specific needs adequately, and thus may provide less value to the business," Trollope writes.

Cisco faults Microsoft for not supplying all infrastructure elements needed to support unified communications and collaboration. "An enterprise deployment of Microsoft Lync for collaboration requires technology partners for network switching and routing, wireless networking, voice gateways, branch-office survivability, contact center applications, video endpoints,and telephones," the company says in a whitepaper on the topic.

The whitepaper criticizes Lync license structure, choice of video codecs, and lack of full Lync support in Microsoft's cloud service Office 365.

Cisco attacks what it interprets as Microsoft's strategy for Skype. It says in the whitepaper that Skype will evolve to run better on Microsoft's own software platforms than on others, at least according to this statement from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer: "We always want Skype to be first and best on Windows."

A survey Cisco commissioned from Redshift Research finds 72% of respondents say such a policy would have at least some negative impact on their businesses. The same survey says 46% of respondents who have deployed Lync don't use it for external business communications. 77% have a separate communication system.

Cisco promises to keep up its drumbeat against Microsoft's UC and collaboration because it has so much to say against Microsoft. "That's why we're making this the first of a series of posts where Cisco leaders will examine questions like these, comparing Cisco's approach to enterprise collaboration with Microsoft's, highlighting a different topic in every post," Trollope says.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene.

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Tags unified communicationsMicrosoft Cisco collaborationMicrosoft Cisco unified communicationsMicrosoftNetworkingMicrosoft LyncCisco attacks Lyncciscosoftware

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