Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Microsoft OCS 2007 Launch

I attended the launch event last week and I have been thinking over what I really wanted to say about OCS. First, I think it is very cool product (Kudos to the team). Second, I think Microsoft is not marketing it correctly in the Enterprise space. Third, they have definately gotten Cisco's attention (I think I ran into more Cisco folks I know at the event then Microsoft folks if you can believe that.) Fourth, the guitar opening for the keynote was lame.

Ok, so, to my points. If you haven't played with OCS 2007 you should. I think the new MOC and presence features that they have put into this platform are very cool. If you are looking for a great presence and collaboration tool this should be on your list without a question.

Microsoft has been delivering a message of VoIP as you are (which just makes me think of a Nirvana song) and the majority of their published presentations on the topic of QoS is to say it is more important to deal with Quality of Experience (QoE.) They have taken the approach of Skype and Live Meeting and are utilizing a wideband codec that is very good at delivering high fidelity audio over questionable networks (think the unknown of the Internet.) Their argument is that if you design for the potential loss and latency you commonly see on the Internet then the product will perform just fine in a corporate enterprise environment. They have tailored their design philosophy this way and therefore they arrive at the QoE argument. They are not concerned with what the network is doing with QoS, they argue that the advances in the wideband codec handle those issues in almost all cases. They do request that you add bandwidth but they are saying do not bother to design QoS into the network at all.

Well, here is where I think they are missing the mark. Most enterprises UNDER provision in networks - especially on WAN's. No one ever gets praised for increasing a companies monthly recurring costs so for many enterprises adding more bandwidth is a very expensive proposition. In addition, many utilize QoS to prioritize line of business applications, data backup, replication, database functions, citrix and lots of other network traffic due to the limitations. They are willing to keeps costs in check and build a more measured approach to controlling their costs relative to what all their application needs are. With voice and video, they are simply another application riding on top of IP and therefore should be designed and accounted for in the same way. I think Microsoft is missing the main point for the enterprise, they need to redo what they are telling partners and customers about the best strategy for deploying because they have not accounted for the fact that for many companies they don't have a WAN that has unlimited BW potential. Perhaps they could argue that no one should get a WAN and that all infrastructure should run on the Internet since getting a relatively large pipe to the Internet is cheap - there may be something to that but we don't have room to talk about that now.

Since I work for a company that is both a Cisco Premier Partner and a Microsoft Certified Partner (plus others) it is interesting seeing the shake up at Cisco about what Microsoft is doing. I think Cisco is in an interesting position of having a much more mature and stable platform but one that is modeled in many ways on a traditional voice PBX. Microsoft has really stepped out of that model and is shaking things up. They are a long way away from having the feature sets and robustness that Cisco has today but some of the features that Microsoft has out in a 1.0 product is very impressive.

Well, more thoughts later but that gets the first wave done.
- Ed


Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention Cisco was nowhere to be seen although Nortel was all over the place --- Looks like Cisco will continue with their competitive strategy against Microsoft with Microsoft only helping those that don't complete at multiple levels against them.

AND, Cisco was not even a partner of the event? Wierd!

Howfunky said...

Well, Cisco was all over the place but just not a sponsor at the event and therefore did not have a booth.

Nortel was there because of their partnership although I am sure you noticed that Nortel was making a bigger deal out of that then Microsoft was, because Microsoft wants to partner with as many folks as possible.

Cisco and Microsoft have definitely put Unified Communications in the competitive category and I don't think you are going to see a lot of partnership announcement around OCS at all. There will be a Cisco announcement about integration and a Microsoft one regarding supported Gateways but that is all I expect to see.

Personally, I think this is good for Cisco and good for Cisco customers. Companies always seem to perform better, have better features and listen to their customers more when there is health competition. I don't think I have seen Cisco move like this since they were getting clocked in the wireless space. Lets hope it leads to some great engineering and better pricing for all of us!
- Ed

Anonymous said...

I your network links are underprovisioned, probably no to smart to add any service the network. Doesn't matter what product or what technology can be used to police. If you have a highway and its congested you "add lanes" or take a different route. Now Microsoft should start thinking about alternat routing...but most enterprises only have one route.