Brent Kelly
Brent Kelly is president and principal analyst at KelCor, Inc., where he provides strategy and counsel to key client types...
Read Full Bio >>

Brent Kelly | April 28, 2014 |


Cisco vs Microsoft: Strategic Communications and Collaboration Decisions

Cisco vs Microsoft: Strategic Communications and Collaboration Decisions Deciding between the two vendors for strategic communications and collaboration is not easy. Here are some actionable recommendations.

Deciding between the two vendors for strategic communications and collaboration is not easy. Here are some actionable recommendations.

One of the challenges many organizations face is the Cisco vs Microsoft dilemma as it relates to strategic communications and collaboration decisions. The challenge surfaces because 70%-75% of the market has Cisco networking equipment while 60% to 65% of the market has deployed Microsoft Lync for instant messaging (IM) and presence. In addition, Microsoft owns a huge share of the office productivity suite market (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.).

This means that a sizeable portion of the market has both Cisco switches and Microsoft software. Both companies are now competing for the enterprise voice market, and one of the difficult challenges organizations are facing is which to choose. Most market research has Cisco holding the number one market share in PBXs being sold in North America, followed by Avaya. But Microsoft is now showing up as the number three voice provider in many studies.

Microsoft does not sell a PBX, per se; rather, it sells a product called Lync Enterprise Voice, that allows organizations to augment or replace PBX functionality for some or all users by allowing calls to be made from the Lync software client or a Lync desk phone to the public switched telephone network. Lync does not have all of the features of a PBX, but it clearly has most of the functions that information and knowledge workers use on regular basis. And what it is designed to do works very well.

With the overlap between Cisco switches and Microsoft software in the enterprise, both companies are pushing hard for their voice solutions to be adopted as well. Cisco wants organizations to abandon Microsoft Lync in favor of Cisco's Unified Communication Manager (PBX) with its accompanying Jabber IM/presence/collaboration client and WebEx collaboration capabilities. Likewise, Microsoft wants organizations to end-of-life their Cisco PBX in favor of a unified communications solution based on Microsoft Lync IM/presence, conferencing, and Enterprise Voice.

Making the call can be very difficult. Part of this difficulty arises because the networking people are very passionate about Cisco while the enterprise software people are passionate about Microsoft. Thus, different camps of articulate, educated, well-meaning employees form who become quite entrenched in their opinions of which strategic decision an organization should make with respect to voice and collaboration solutions, and it regularly comes out as a Cisco-versus-Microsoft encounter.

Four Deployment Options
There are basically four different deployment choices an organization can make to resolve the Cisco vs Microsoft dilemma. Two of these are elimination strategies and two are coexistence strategies.

Figure 1. Four deployment choices for resolving the Cisco vs Microsoft dilemma.

1. An organization can choose to go with an all-Cisco voice and collaboration deployment. Cisco PBXs are used, Cisco Jabber is deployed, Cisco phones and video devices are used, and WebEx--whether on-premises or in the cloud--is part of the solution. Interoperability among devices and between users is guaranteed.

2. Some organizations choose to do an "elemental" deployment in which they deploy parts of each solution: Cisco for voice communications and Microsoft for IM/presence. For conferencing, they may choose either Lync or WebEx.

In this solution, there is little or no linkage between the Cisco and Microsoft elements. Even if a Lync client launches a telephone conversation, under the covers the Cisco infrastructure is used.

There is an integration Cisco has made for Lync called CUCILync, which is essentially a plug-in to Microsoft Lync that launches Cisco's own communications stack when a Lync user makes a phone or video call. The user experience is not as seamless as when Cisco PBXs are used with Jabber or when Microsoft Enterprise Voice is used with Lync.

Collaboration in such an "elemental" deployment suffers because it is not seamless when one needs to use multimodal conferencing, such as IM/presence, voice, and Web conferencing.

3. We are aware of some organizations that deploy both solutions in parallel. Those users who want Microsoft can use Lync with Lync Enterprise Voice and those that want Cisco can use the Cisco PBXs and Jabber. These can be connected with a SIP trunk (and possibly a gateway) between them to allow interoperable voice communications, but the collaboration capabilities suffer, as these systems do not federate together to have joint Web conferencing, audio conferencing and IM interoperability.

4. Finally, an organization may choose to go with a full Microsoft Lync deployment in which there is tight integration between the IM/presence capabilities, the conferencing functionality, and voice communications.

Why is Choosing Between Them So Hard?


Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
March 12-15 | Orlando, FL

Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem

Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

March 7, 2018

Video collaboration is experiencing significant change and innovation-how can your enterprise take advantage? In this webinar, leading industry analyst Ira Weinstein will present detailed analysis

February 21, 2018

Business agility has become the strongest driver for enterprises to begin migrating their communications to the cloud-and its a benefit that enterprises are already realizing. To gain this benefit

February 7, 2018

Enterprises are starting to grasp the critical importance of security and compliance in their team collaboration deployments. And once the risks are mitigated, your enterprise can integrate these n

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.