Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thoughts on Microsoft's vs Cisco's efforts in Unified Communications

Well, one of the cool things I got to do while up at the Microsoft MVP Summit was sneak over to the UC presentations going on about OCS 2007. Microsoft is up to some interesting stuff (Shell Oil seems to be really interested) but I am frustrated with Microsoft's lack of understanding on some fundamentals in the market they are trying to enter. Especially when compared to what Cisco is doing today - and has been doing for several years.
1. Lack of a reasonable QoS story. Effectively MS is telling folks QoS doesn't matter. While they have some interesting ideas behind some this they have completely failed to see the bigger issue with QoS. Sometimes Voice and their new wide band codec aren't the most important thing on the network - sometimes EDI or Credit Card transactions or Citrix traffic is far more important as a line of business application. QoS helps in making sure the performance and reliability are what the business actually want. To top it all off, the developers for Vista and Longhorn Server's networking stack did a HUGE amount of working in QoS. They even have a great new QoS solution called QWAVE that they could leverage but it seems the business units aren't talking to each other at all.
2. Client only SIP solution! I know they plan on "fixing" this but honestly, to not have a SIP Trunk solution working already is nuts. They are automatically dependant on existing SIP Gateways out there like...jeez Cisco's?!? or Nortel (snicker) or Avaya (please!). It is a "half" solution at best. Fun to test trial in a lab - nothing you would run your business on full time, it just isn't there.
3. Requirements to upgrade all your MS infrastructure (or close to it) to gain the benefits of UC. Cisco's solution today can work with all your existing platforms so your investment isn't wasted on upgrading other systems in addition to spending money to get UC. They have to have a backward support story or they are going to have serious issues.
4. A real lack of partner community building tools and reporting engines around the product. Real enterprise companies need reports on call volume, who called and how much it is costing them and those tools aren't really there in the way most folks are used to having them in the industry.
5. No call center solution. This one is huge. Even the small environments we support have a small amount of call queuing and call flow control. Often small businesses run their own support and sales groups and that really requires a robust small call center solution. On the larger scale enterprise market this is a requirement and not an option. Perhaps Microsoft plans to use a third party solution but I don't see anything as seasoned as what Cisco has today.
6. Lack of options in handset for clients. This doesn't seem like a big deal until you actually spend some time dealing with clients and their specific needs. Even Cisco until recently has had issues in this area.

All this being said, I must admit I am very excited and interested in what Microsoft is doing. As we all know, after the third release they typically have something pretty cool. Get ready to see more Microsoft partners and Cisco partners going head to head on UC deals. Things are going to get heated in the coming months.
- Ed

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more! We are seeing this first hand in Australia too, with the two vendors going for the juggler. It's September and Cisco Networkers is on in Brisbane - and MS are waiting quietly in the wings to see what they annouce with their new licensing strucuture around UC. Let's see what happens, but one thing's for sure, there's bound to be sparks...