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LAS VEGAS -- Cisco and Microsoft squared off again this year at Interop 2014, but a battle to the death may not be necessary.
While Jabber vs. Lync has become a common debate among those seeking UC tools, the two are not equal and enterprises don't necessarily have to make a black and white decision between them, said KelCor principal analyst Brent Kelly during the Cisco vs. Microsoft session at the show.
Cisco comes from the data world, while Microsoft comes from the software world -- "it's just a different approach," Kelly said. "If you are used to a traditional system [similar to Cisco], you'd have to change how you get things done [with Microsoft]. You could still get the same work done, you might just have to teach people how to go about it differently," he said.
Jabber vs. Lync: How the two 'measure up'
Cisco owns 75% of the enterprise network market and about 25-30% of the IP voice market, while Microsoft owns about 60% of the instant messaging (IM) and presence market, according to Kelly. Microsoft has made strides recently with its own softphone offerings, but Cisco is still widely considered the telephony market winner with its own purpose-built PBXs. "Microsoft is where Cisco was 10 years ago with voice," Kelly said.
Along with IM and presence, Microsoft's strong suit lies in its desktop and business application integration, as well as in its federation capabilities. "They own the operating system and they own the platform -- Lync -- and the two are tightly integrated," Kelly said.
One of the main takeaways from the session was that Cisco is a one-vendor show, providing its customers with endpoints as well as services. This gives enterprises the much sought-after "one-throat-to-choke" feature. Microsoft doesn't make endpoints, instead relying on equipment from its partners -- a possible disadvantage for enterprises looking for the whole package from a single vendor.
Nevertheless, the desire to work with one vendor doesn't shut Microsoft out of the game, Kelly said.
While the two strategies differ greatly and sometimes don't integrate that well, it's not impossible to take advantage of features from both vendors, Kelly said. Enterprises can, for example, use Cisco for voice and Microsoft for presence.
Of course, that could take overcoming internal politics. Some departments within an organization may be more attached to one vendor over another. What's more, the decision will have to hinge on both human and financial resources.
"If you are a Cisco shop through and through, you might want to consider staying consistent because it will be more costly to take on [another vendor offering]," he said. And while costs also need to be a part of the conversation, enterprises should determine where their IT expertise ultimately lies. Making everyone happy can be one expensive undertaking.