• 05/01/2014
    8:06 AM
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Cisco PBX & Microsoft Lync: Datacenter Dilemma

With the overlap of Cisco and Microsoft in the enterprise, and both vendors pushing their voice technologies, organizations can have a tough time picking a vendor.

Approximately 70% to 75% of enterprises have Cisco networking equipment, while 60% to 65% of enterprises have deployed Microsoft Lync for instant messaging (IM) and presence. Furthermore, Cisco has between 25% and 35% of the enterprise PBX market. This suggests that a sizeable number of enterprises have both Cisco voice and Microsoft Lync deployed, which can lead to a challenging decision on which vendor to choose for strategic communications in the enterprise.

With the overlap between Cisco switches and Microsoft software in the enterprise, both companies are pushing hard for their voice solutions to be adopted. Cisco wants organizations to abandon Microsoft Lync in favor of Cisco’s Unified Communication Manager (PBX) and 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 system based on Microsoft Lync IM/presence, conferencing, and Enterprise Voice.

Figure 1:
Cisco network/voice and Microsoft Lync have overlap in the enterprise communications and collaborations market.
Cisco network/voice and Microsoft Lync have overlap in the enterprise communications and collaborations market.

Choosing between them can be very difficult because the networking people are passionate about Cisco while the enterprise software people are passionate about Microsoft. Both groups of employees are articulate, educated, and well-meaning, and they often become quite entrenched in their opinions of which strategic decision an organization should make with respect to voice and collaboration solutions.

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 2:
Four deployment choices for resolving the Cisco vs. Microsoft communications and collaboration dilemma.
Four deployment choices for resolving the Cisco vs. Microsoft communications and collaboration dilemma.

Both Microsoft and Cisco solutions have excellent capabilities, and these are enhanced as the full solution stack is deployed. However, they come at the market from very different perspectives. Cisco approaches the market from the network perspective, suggesting that there should be integration between the network layer and the communications layer. Microsoft approaches the market from the application software perspective, suggesting that there should be tight integration and consistency between desktop software and the communications and collaboration infrastructure. The problem is that both can be compelling!

In my next blog post, I'll outine ways to solve the contention.


Cisco news

Interesting announcement today from Cisco about its partnership with Jive Software. It's also ending WebEx Social. I wonder how this will impact the enterprise collaboration space?

Re: Cisco news

That is interesting, Marcia. There are so many different UC and collaboration tools, it's enough to make your head spin. Perhaps that means treating voice and UC as an application makes more sense, becasue it's easier to change it out later on.


We have tried to use MS Lync as a meeting tool but have run into some issues with it. Desktop sharing is kind of clunky. We don't use it with our phone system.

Re: Lync...

Hi Paul S681 -- What do you use instead of MS Lync as a meeting tool?

Lync vs Jabber

I think the most important thing to look at is how the UC client fits in with the other software users are using more than the phone system or network. If you use Microsoft Office or Office 365, I think there is pretty compelling evidence that Lync is going to be a better choice than Jabber. When I use Lync, I like the ability to choose to either share the entire desktop or a PPT. I like the fact that when I'm using outlook and an email just arrives, I can launch an IM chat with one click.

While another poster mentioned the news of Cisco partnering with Jive, I prefer Yammer over Jive (I've used both for a couple of years each).

With Microsoft announcing plans to integrate Skype with Lync, this is pretty big news that may have impacts for connecting B2B or B2C. I saw an infographic a few weeks ago where in one day alone, 2 Billion minutes of Skype calling is used.

While we don't use Cisco or Microsoft to run our phones today, our IT group announced we'd be moving over to Lync with Polycom phones later this year.


Re: Lync vs Jabber

Thanks for providing your insight and perspective here PeterH617. I'm curious, what do like about Yammer compared to Jive?