Brian Riggs
Brian is a member of Ovum's Enterprise team, tracking emerging trends, technologies, and market dynamics in the unified communications and...
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Brian Riggs | September 27, 2010 |


Commenting On The Commenters

Commenting On The Commenters Our intrepid blogger wades into the melee over Cisco vs. Microsoft.

Our intrepid blogger wades into the melee over Cisco vs. Microsoft.

Thunderbolts rained down on Zeus Kerravala last week, each of them aimed at toppling him from that Olympian height that is industry analysis. His crime? A blog where he dared express favorable views about Cisco's place in the UC market and (horrors!) critical ones about Microsoft's.

The Commentors on Zeus' blog raise, in my opinion, a number of very valid points regarding Microsoft's role in the UC market. But, truth be told, some of their remarks didn't sit well with my inner industry analyst, who strives to write criticisms that are at once constructive and accurate, fair and balanced. So at the risk of opening myself up to the same kind of analyst hating Zeus received, I've prepared some comments on the Commentors. I’m trusting that all concerned don't take this as a personal attack, but rather in the "I'd like to set the record straight" spirit in which it's intended.


sleylandfy5: It would be good to understand why you think Cisco are leading MS and MS have a weak offer, when they sell circa $5billion of UC software a year. A figure that dwarfs Cisco's UC sales.

sleylandfy5 sure, my definition of UC is split into 4 areas: Sharepoint $3billion; Quad probably close to 0. Exchange $1.5billion; Webex Connect probably not even 10% of MS share. OCS $0.4billion; Jabber/webex connect possibly closer perhaps 20% share of large enterprise? Voice $0.1billion and Cisco are running at about a $1billion.

Microsoft has a $5 billion UC business, $4.5 billion of which is made up of SharePoint and email sales.

Arguing for or against this point boils down to that eternal (and eternally tiresome) "how do you define UC" question. Does the definition of UC extend to Exchange messaging and SharePoint collaboration because that's what Microsoft happens to sell? Or does the definition extend to TelePresence and room-based video conferencing systems because that’s what Cisco happens to sell? It's become clear in the last five years that any communications vendor can take damn near any product they happen to sell and call it UC.

The problem with this approach is it's impossible to make apples-to-apples comparisons. It's also nigh on impossible to have a coherent conversation in a blog's comments field because everybody is talking about something somewhat different. That's where slick marketing has taken us, and I guess we've just got to live with it.

For clarity's sake, I take a minimalist's view of UC. A UC solution has got to have enterprise voice (or IP telephony or whatever you want to call it), it's got to have secure instant messaging and presence, and there needs to be some level of audio, desktop video and web conferencing. You can tack on loads of other stuff, whatever your technology developer of choice happens to have in its portfolio or happens to be particularly good at selling. And you can get all abstract about all the business benefits UC drives. But keeping to my minimalistic approach helps me compare what multiple vendors actually have and where they stand in the market.

So, assuming sleylandfy5's figures are accurate, Microsoft has a $500 million UC business. This, in my eyes, is damned impressive, given that in 2004 Microsoft had nothing. There's no need to inflate the figure with email and collaboration sales to make the software giant appear larger than it already is in the UC space.

DazMR2: No matter what Cisco calls their IP Telephony platform, it's IP Telephony not Unified Communications. IP Telephony is a change in underlying transport from digital or analog.

DazMR2: Cisco lead the IP Telephony market. They can call it UC but it's still IP Telephony. For the rest of the stack they are still playing catch up.

Sure, Cisco's IP telephony platform--Unified Communications Manager--is IP telephony, an IP PBX. It's not a unified communications platform per se. I razzed Cisco about the CallManager-to-UCM product name change years ago. They essentially laughed good-naturedly and told me (and the industry) to deal with it. So let's consider it dealt with and move on.

So while Unified Communications Manager may not be a full-blown UC solution in its own right, match it with Cisco Unified Presence and the solution delivers the same kind of telephony, corporate instant messaging and IM presence functionality as Microsoft delivers with the current version of OCS and the upcoming Lync software. We can argue endlessly over whether Microsoft or Cisco's solution is technically superior, more mature, more widely adopted, more fully featured, better integrated with other applications. But it's not realistic to simply dismiss Cisco as not having a UC solution. Cisco is a leader in the UC market. One more thing we all need to deal with and move on.

And I should point out that it's not just Cisco vs. Microsoft when it comes to a solution that combines enterprise voice, presence and enterprise instant messaging. Other developers that can deliver this include Aastra (with its Unified Communications Platform), Alcatel-Lucent (with OmniPCX Enterprise and the OmniTouch Suite), Avaya (with Avaya Aura Communications Manager and Avaya Aura Presence Server), IBM (with Lotus Sametime and PBX integration with or without Sametime Unified Telephony), ShoreTel (with its ShoreGear switches and the ShoreTel Communicator software), and Siemens (with OpenScape Voice and OpenScape UC). Can all of these companies bring powerful products like SharePoint and TelePresence to bear on their UC solutions? Some, maybe, but not all of them. But are their customers adopting their UC solutions that--without any help from Microsoft--deliver telephony, instant messaging, presence and other functionality? They sure are.


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