Does Cisco Spark Change the Federation Landscape?
Recent announcements from Microsoft and Cisco bring their collaboration market battle into the clouds.
For the last five or more years, federation between companies has been a major Microsoft advantage. As both presence and media federation has been built into Lync and now Skype for Business, Microsoft has been in the unique position of using the federation card as a selling point. While XMPP federation and companies like NextPlane have offered more open federation, the reality is that the majority of federation has been within the Lync/Skype4B community.
With Spark, Cisco may be changing the game. As part of the Spark roll-out, Cisco is enabling both a Web guest and free Spark account. The Web guest takes advantage of the WebRTC underpinnings of Spark for anyone on a compatible browser. For interoperation with the legacy video world, this requires a 264 codec, Mozilla, now Chrome and eventually Edge and Safari (assuming the Cisco-Apple partnership accelerates WebRTC in Safari). In other words, if you are invited to a Spark room, you can just join by clicking on the invite URL. But if you join Spark and get a free account, you can participate in any Spark activity just as a paying customer can. While there are some limitations (number of attendees and WebEx functionality, for example), if the person inviting you has a paid account, their account privileges apply to the room/meeting. Clearly, the emerging Web model for real-time communications is changing the game.
This potential new model for how users from different companies interact is just the next battle in the war between Microsoft and Cisco for the emerging UC marketplace. Over the past four years Cisco and Microsoft have been fighting for the hearts and minds of enterprise communication and collaboration decision makers. Each company is attacking the convergence of voice, video, personal productivity, business applications, cloud, and the whole kitchen sink, which is emerging as the next-generation communications and collaboration platform.
This has created a major challenge for many organizations trying to decide which vendor best fits their needs. With over 35% of the market having both a Cisco VoIP or video solution and a Microsoft Skype for Business implementation deployed, the decisions are very significant. For many more organizations looking to determine their path forward, the question is just as important, as they have strong strategic ties to both companies. Further, a number of organizations have decided to deploy both. The challenge of deciding on one or integrating the two solutions is more complicated than ever with the announcements of the Office 365 cloud telephony solution and the Spark messaging/collaboration cloud platform from Cisco. As both companies move to the cloud, the choice becomes more complicated and interoperation is more challenging, both technically and from a business licensing perspective.
Over the last three years, one of the most popular sessions at Enterprise Connect has been the Microsoft versus Cisco comparison. This session will continue this year as Microsoft versus Cisco: New Issues and Decision Factors, presented by Brent Kelly and myself. This year the session will focus on understanding the differences in these new offers. We will discuss the differences in basic collaboration philosophy and tools, how telephony is integrated, platform dynamics and more. The goal of the session is to provide a strong overview of both offers and how they position for different organizations.
Join us Tuesday March 9 at 2:45 for a detailed analysis of both company's cloud offers, licensing models, strategies, and directions. For anyone in the enterprise communications and collaboration space, the emerging battle between Cisco and Microsoft in the cloud will define solutions and implementations for years to come. Don't miss the opportunity to get this grounded view of the battle in the clouds.
Learn more about UC&C at Enterprise Connect 2016, March 7 to 10, in Orlando, Fla. View the Unified Communications and Collaboration track sessions; register now using the code NJPOST to receive $200 off the current conference price.