Zeus Kerravala
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his...
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Zeus Kerravala | February 19, 2013 |


Fueling the Cisco versus Microsoft Fire

Fueling the Cisco versus Microsoft Fire Breaking down the different areas of communications--voice, video, conferencing, mobile and more--and seeing how the 2 vendors stack up.

Breaking down the different areas of communications--voice, video, conferencing, mobile and more--and seeing how the 2 vendors stack up.

All eyes are on San Diego this week as the Microsoft Lync conference kicks off. And regarding the Cisco versus Microsoft debate that has risen over the past few years--this has become the tech industry's version of Red Sox–Yankees.

Every survey I have seen over the past couple of years, including a Tech Target one I ran towards the end of 2012, points to Cisco being the most preferred UC solution provider, with Microsoft hot on their heels at #2. Avaya holds down with a strong #3 and then everyone else is fighting for table scraps. Understand, the surveys I have run look more at current preference than market share, as Lync is a still a minority share holder when it comes to UC.

Anyway, the point is that the debate is well worth the time because of the dominant position these two vendors find themselves in. So let's spend a bit of time looking at the relative strengths and weaknesses of each vendor.

Enterprise voice: Advantage Cisco
Despite all the changes this industry has gone through, voice is still the big application. In that Tech Target survey I referred to, VoIP was the top anchor application when it came to UC deployments, and this was an area where Cisco dominated Microsoft.

The majority of respondents, 62.3%, felt that Cisco was the leader in enterprise voice. Avaya was second with 17.3%, "others" made up 10.6% and only 9% of the audience cited Microsoft. I know that Microsoft has done a significant amount of marketing around Lync voice, but let's be realistic here--they have a long way to go to catch all of the vendors, not just Cisco. It takes a long time to do voice well, and Microsoft has an immature product here.

Audio and Web conferencing: Advantage Cisco
This is another application that may seem boring, but conferencing (audio/web) was the second most important UC application in the survey I ran. I wasn't really surprised by the strength of conferencing, considering how much it's used in any business person's life. This is another area that Cisco dominated in the survey, with 50% responding Cisco was the leader, compared to 20% for Microsoft. Cisco's WebEx audio conferencing platform has become the de facto standard for document sharing, so it's hard to argue with Cisco's leadership here.

Desktop Chat and Presence: Advantage Microsoft
The results of this response surprised me, as Cisco and Microsoft were virtually neck and neck in the survey. Contrary to what you might think, Cisco held a slight edge here with 35% of the respondents thinking that Cisco is the leader, with 34% for Microsoft. The reason I gave the advantage to Microsoft is that their go-to-market is tied up in the integration of their presence engine into other Microsoft applications, and considering the popularity of the Microsoft apps, the advantage should go to Microsoft.

Frankly though, doing chat and presence well isn't nearly as complex as what it is for voice or video. Whether a customer chooses to use Cisco's Jabber, Microsoft Lync, Avaya, ShoreTel, whatever, the experience will be roughly the same.

Enterprise video: Advantage Cisco
This is another area of UC where Cisco dominates Microsoft. The survey showed that 54% of the respondents felt Cisco was the leader. If you compare Cisco's video capabilities to that of Lync, it's not even worth comparing. Cisco's video solutions are just flat out better and broader than anything you can do with Lync natively. If you compare Cisco to Microsoft+Polycom, then the solutions are comparable, but the customer must choose to do this and manage multiple vendors. If the customer goes with Vidyo, Lifesize or another vendor, some sort of gateway is needed. The integration of Cisco video into its own UC solution gives Cisco a big edge here.

Next page: Cloud, mobile, applications


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