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Cisco versus Microsoft: The Battle Intensifies

As I write this, the Welcome Reception at the first ever Microsoft Lync Conference in San Diego is taking place. Given the sold out attendance, all indications are that this first Lync conference will not be the last.

For many Lync supporters, Monday was a travel day; however, instead of traveling, Cisco was up bright and early launching a new "Why Cisco for Collaboration" microsite along with supporting blog posts from Cisco executives Rowan Trollope and Carl Wiese.

Referencing a survey of 3,320 global IT leaders in nine countries that was commissioned by Cisco and conducted by Redshift Research, Cisco wants to focus attention on the broad areas of mobility, quality, and cloud. Based on the survey results, not surprisingly, Cisco concludes that its tools are better suited to Enterprise Collaboration than is Microsoft's Lync.

I explore the survey results in more detail in my UC Strategies article "What People Want in Collaboration" but here I wanted to explore the motivation behind this attack, Cisco's most direct to date, on the Microsoft Lync solution. Some have suggested that Cisco is "afraid" of the increased success Microsoft Lync is having. The Cisco survey results suggest less than half of the Lync deployments are currently using Lync for external communications; this is either very good or very bad news for Cisco. One Microsoft partner recently tweeted that previously only 10% of Lync deployments were using Enterprise Voice (the ability to place and receive calls externally) but now it was 50% of deployments.

Perhaps Cisco is simply engaged in good marketing, ensuring that customers and technology professionals are aware of their options, balancing the press the Lync Conference is likely to garner.

If you are looking for only a voice solution, it seems to me that Cisco beats out Microsoft. Cisco's history is voice and Cisco voice is reliable, proven, cost effective and well supported. The current Gartner Magic Quadrant on Corporate Telephony seems to support my view.

If you are looking to avoid the more complex UC and collaboration decision and simply continue with voice today, I would suggest you consider that "Voice is Not the Path to UC". Whether you like it or not, building on your current voice platform constrains and sometimes curtails your future UC and collaboration efforts--both from a technological and also from an organizational perspective (who will lead your UC project--Telecom or IT?)

If you are hoping to combine an existing Cisco voice platform with a Microsoft Lync platform, Marty Parker provides some thoughts related to "Interoperation" in his insightful article. Cisco has previously brought to market CuciMoc and CuciLync integration offerings with limited customer acceptance. And on a cautionary note, I still contend that most vendors are pursuing the "Market Dominance as a Path to Interoperability" approach. Choosing the fewest number of vendors to meet your business requirements, or the "near best of breed" methodology is the path to success.

And if you are looking to implement a true UC and collaboration system, perhaps the Cisco survey causes you to pause, or perhaps it reinforces your views that Lync is too complex, or perhaps it angers you and solidifies your excitement related to the new 2013 version of Lync. Gartner rates Cisco and Microsoft UC as too close to call, a virtual Magic Quadrant photo finish.

Given the strong influences of mobility and cloud that are driving and fueling changing requirements, and given the increased focus on quality and support, it is not surprising that Cisco wants to ensure a large, and hopefully increasing, portion of future UC and Collaboration deployments.

The battle lines may be drawn; however I see the increased competition bringing more innovation and information to customers. For customers this is a war they cannot lose.

Do you share allegiance to one side of this battle? Please comment below or spar with me on twitter >@kkieller

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