Archive for October 2014

Cisco and Microsoft, don’t settle on being a bit better than the other guy. The goal should be to dominate UC like you both do in other markets.

Last month, Michelle Burbick authored this post regarding Cisco and Microsoft’s position in the unified communications space. The blog references some research done by Synergy Research Group that shows Cisco having a narrow 0.2% lead in market share (16% versus 15.8%). Shortly after this report came out, Cisco actually posted its own internal blog beating its chest that it had retaken the #1 spot in the collaboration market. This after Microsoft had previously put out some research claiming they were number #1 in the prior quarter. It’s worth noting that the market Synergy measured is actually a super-set of many markets including voice, UC applications, video, email, telepresence and other markets.

While the marketing folks at Cisco and Microsoft like to proclaim their #1-ness, I have a message to both of them–You’re both #2! Both Cisco and Microsoft have historically dominated their markets to the point where their share of things like routers, desktop operating systems, switches, and e-mail systems are almost monopolies.

Moving from “aggregated communications,” to truly Unified Communications.

This week, Cisco’s GM of collaboration, Rowan Trollope, issued a blog announcing a major update to the company’s popular WebEx product. Given the market leading position that WebEx holds, one may wonder, why fix something that isn’t broken? WebEx currently hosts over 15 million meetings per month, which consumes over 3 billion minutes per month. With that kind of usage, why upset the apple cart?

The reason is that despite the success of WebEx, the product is fundamentally flawed. It’s not just a WebEx issue, but something the whole industry deals with. Enterprise Web, audio and video conferencing platforms have been developed in silos and the technology has remained that way since its inception. These silos of communications have prevented us from having true unified communications.

I had discussed this with Rowan Trollope at Cisco Live earlier this year, and his feeling was that we really had, at best, “aggregated communications” and were far from fulfilling the vision of UC. During his keynote, he also was pretty matter-of-fact that Cisco (and all the other vendors) have made UC way too hard to deploy and use.

Historically, “difficult to use” and “Cisco” have gone hand in hand. Cisco’s new iWAN is an effort to get away from that.

If you stay up and watch late-night TV, you’ve probably seen a fellow named Vince Offer. Vince is the pitchman for products like the ShamWOW and the SlapChop. Part of the value proposition of these products is that they’re easy to use. Just rinse off the ShamWOW and use it again! The SlapChop comes apart simply and is dishwasher safe! (I actually have a SlapChop and it really is easy to use.)

As good a pitchman Vince is, though, there’s no way he could have ever been the person to promote Cisco’s iWAN. For those not familiar with iWAN, it’s Cisco’s implementation and powered by PfR (Performance Routing). As powerful as iWAN is, many customers have not taken advantage of it because it’s difficult to get set up and hard to manage. Vince would have started to configure PfR and would have gotten lost in all of the settings. That would have made for a bad commercial.

Interest in virtual Session Border Controllers is rising, but not all virtual appliances are built the same.

Late September is a great time to visit New York City. It’s not too hot but not too cold, making it perfect for a stroll around Central Park. This week, though, is like no other in that Interop comes to the Big Apple. One of the big themes of Interop New York is the topic of virtualized services, also known as Network Functions Virtualization (NFV).

Much of the focus of NFV has been on traditional network services, but I have seen increasing interest in communications infrastructure, most notably Session Border Controllers (SBCs). SBCs have typically been available only as hardware appliances, but as interest in the technology has broadened outside of service providers and very large enterprises (that have networks like service providers), the demand for a virtual version has grown.

However, not all virtual appliances are built the same. As the momentum around NFV has grown, more vendors have released a wide variety of virtual appliances, making it tough for organizations to make a decision on what to buy. When evaluating a virtual/NFV-based SBC, here are the key things to look for:

Extreme Networks this week announced that it has completed the qualification process for its wireless, wired, and software defined networking (SDN) products.

This week Extreme Networks announced the availability of an integrated solution for Microsoft’s Unified Communications platform, Lync. The announcement is well timed, as there is no hotter UC platform today than Lync. Over the past few years, Microsoft has been aggressively getting Lync into its customers’ hands. However, the majority of customers have been using Lync for its desktop features, such as chat, presence, and web conferencing. Over the past year or so, Microsoft has been much more aggressive in getting its customers to adopt Lync voice and video.

Today, Lync is a strong No. 2 to Cisco when considering a UC solution. In the last ZK Research Unified Communications survey, we had asked the question “Which vendor would make the short list for a UC deployment?” Cisco ranked No. 1 with 71% of the respondents and Microsoft came in second, with 51% (note: I am employed by ZK Research). No other vendor scored over 27% for consideration rate. In all likelihood, almost every large company is going to have some combination of Lync and Cisco to meet its UC needs. Lync is here to stay and Lync voice has become a viable alternative to a traditional IP PBX.

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