Phil Edholm & Brent Kelly

Phil Edholm & Brent Kelly | March 10, 2015 |


Cisco vs. Microsoft: Integrate or Choose One?

Cisco vs. Microsoft: Integrate or Choose One? A lot of organizations feel the need to decide between Cisco and Microsoft for UC&C, but perhaps they don't really need to make that choice.

A lot of organizations feel the need to decide between Cisco and Microsoft for UC&C, but perhaps they don't really need to make that choice.

Many organizations continue to face the Cisco vs. Microsoft decision dilemma as they strategize on communications and collaboration. At issue is whether to extend the relationship they have with Cisco in networking or Microsoft on the software side, or mix and match UC&C products from the two.

Considering that Cisco holds 70% to 75% of the enterprise network market while Microsoft Lync accounts for 60% to 65% of the instant messaging (IM) and presence market plus a dominant share of the office productivity suite business, the challenge is widespread. Clearly many organizations have both Cisco switches and Microsoft software.

Aggressive adjacency marketing campaigns exacerbate the challenge, as each company aims to sell its entire UC stack by displacing the competitor. Cisco has used its data networking position to gain No. 1 share in VoIP, while Microsoft is using its enterprise software foothold to seed the market with Lync (Skype for Business) licenses.

Choosing between them can be very difficult, in part because the networking people are so passionate about Cisco and likewise for the enterprise software team and Microsoft. Each camp comprises articulate, educated, well-meaning employees whose vendor preferences often lead to a showdown on voice and collaboration.

In this post, we take opposing views on how to solve the problem -- but we're not arguing Cisco over Microsoft or vice versa. Rather, we're debating whether or not you even need to make a choice between the two. In "You Really Need to Decide... Now," on Page 2, read Phil's take on why choosing one or the other is the best option. On page 3, read "Have Your Cake & Eat It Too... Integrate," for Brent's positioning on why coexistence is a viable option. Then, join us at Enterprise Connect 2015 next week in Orlando, where we'll be going head to head live and in person during the session, "Microsoft vs. Cisco: Compare, Contrast - or Coexist?" The session will take place on Tuesday, March 17, at 2:45 p.m.

But first, to better understand the options of this complex choice, take a look at the four deployment options below. Two of these are elimination strategies, and two are coexistence strategies.


Four deployment choices for resolving the Cisco vs. Microsoft dilemma

In more detail, they are:

  1. An organization that chooses to go with an all-Cisco voice and collaboration deployment will use Cisco PBXs, Cisco Jabber, Cisco phones and video devices, and WebEx either on-premises or in the cloud. The all-from-one approach guarantees interoperability among devices and between internal users.
  2. Some organizations choose to use an "elemental" approach, deploying some capabilities from one vendor and other capabilities from the other vendor -- Cisco for voice communications and Microsoft for IM/presence. For conferencing, they may choose either Lync or WebEx. In this approach, 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 call takes place via the Cisco infrastructure. While Cisco does offer Cisco UC Integration for Microsoft Lync (CUCILync for short), which is essentially a Lync plug-in that launches Cisco's communications stack when a Lync user makes a phone or video call, it's not a smooth integration. The user experience is not as seamless as it is with Jabber, which integrates with Cisco PBXes, or when placing Microsoft Enterprise Voice calls through Lync.

    Collaboration in an elemental deployment suffers from a lack of seamlessness for multimodal conferencing such as when participants use IM/presence, voice, and Web conferencing at once.

  3. Some organizations run Lync and Jabber in parallel, giving users the choice of Lync with Lync Enterprise Voice and Jabber with Cisco PBXes. A SIP trunk (and possibly a gateway) can provide connectivity between the two environments, allowing interoperable voice communications. However, the collaboration capabilities suffer as these systems are not federated and so cannot support joint Web conferencing, audio conferencing, and IM interoperability.
  4. Finally, an organization that chooses to go with a full Microsoft Lync deployment realizes tight integration among the IM/presence capabilities, the conferencing functionality, and voice communications.

Click to the next page to read Phil's take, "You Really Need to Decide... Now"


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