Lync 2013 News and Responses

27 Feb 2013

Microsoft held it first Lync conference, Lync Conference 2013, February 19-21 in San Diego. In this Industry Buzz podcast, the UCStrategies Experts discuss some of the announcements that came out of the event, from both Microsoft and its competitors. Dave Michels moderates, and is joined by Marty Parker, Kevin Kieller, Michael Finneran, Blair Pleasant, Steve Leaden, Don Van Doren, Phil Edholm, and Art Rosenberg.

Unified Communications Strategies

Also on on this topic:

Dave Michels: Hi this is Dave Michels. Welcome to the UCStrategies Industry Buzz podcast. This week we are going to talk about Microsoft Lync. They just held their first conference. I don't know, Marty, was it a user conference or was it an analyst conference? How would you describe the conference that they held? If you could, tell us a little bit about your experience there.

Marty Parker: They billed it as the first Lync Conference. That is kind of a model that Microsoft has - that as a particular product gets up to critical mass it can justify its own conference. For many years there has been a Microsoft Exchange Conference, as an example.

Here we are talking about the first Lync conference. It was held in the Del Coronado Hotel in San Diego. Kind of maxed out at about 1,000 attendees and I would call it a Lync Community Conference, because a third of the audience was customers, a third of the audience were partners. The remainder was primarily the Microsoft people themselves, those that were presenters and organizers and so forth, and then a very small cadre of analysts and press. Fortunately, I was one of those representing UCStrategies; Jim Burton was the other representative of UCStrategies. It was good to be there and hear what they did. It went from Monday afternoon until Thursday morning; Tuesday morning a keynote, Wednesday afternoon a keynote. The keynotes were all about proving that Lync was making its way and leveling the playing field, is how I would describe it.

The keynote on Tuesday, and you can watch it online, they went through a tour de force to prove that they had nailed the mobility topic. I'm sure Michael Finneran can give them even more coaching on pieces they didn't talk about, but they went through a demonstration of the Lync 2013 client which includes voice over IP and video over IP, and the user or the administrator can control the settings on the device to allow for Wi-Fi or cellular data or both depending upon the network that's available. They demonstrated all of that on a list of devices starting with Windows Phone 8 of course, but immediately to iPhone, then to Android phone, then to Apple iPad, then to Apple, Mac, PC, then to Windows PC. They really wanted to prove "We have nailed this thing down."

The racket out there, which in my own personal experience with our clients, the competition had been using - "Oh, Microsoft doesn't have a complete mobility story..." - I would say at this point they pretty well caught up. Voice and video on all of those devices over the data network kind of nails it down. You can still set the device, by the way, to cause the voice to come in over the cellular voice channel if that's a better deal for you economically.

They also did this...when they did it they did it as part of a meeting, and Derrick Bernie, the VP, as is Microsoft's tradition, the top guy does the demo and he is the head of engineering. He was doing the demos and then handing different people's phone back to him, because different people in his group were using the different phones. As he handed it back they all were part of a conference. So by the end they had all of these different phones in a Lync conference showing the multi-party video and so forth. They really worked to nail that down. They did not demonstrate the RIM Blackberry capability because RIM does its own clients, but they already have a 2013 client without the voice and video, and the voice and video is coming soon. These clients, by the way, are not available immediately but are within the next three months, in various week-by-week releases of each different device. So it's happening.

The other one they wanted to prove is the issue about video, because of course Cisco has its own room video systems, namely the Tandberg company. Avaya has its own now, namely the Radvision company, so there are different solutions out there that competitors are offering. Microsoft wanted to be sure they nailed that one. In this case they announced a specific room version of the Lync client so that you can put touchscreen controls, of course you can obviously use a mouse and click on them, but touch screen controls for the room features. To start a meeting all you do is walk up to a touch screen and touch-start the meeting. Not even a phone on the desk, by the way, and I think that was obvious who they were talking about. They talked about their relationship with Polycom and Lifesize, both of whom were there with the room video systems, and of course the MCUs behind that.

There were breakout sessions later in the conference about all of the different interoperability scenarios between Lync and embedded base, installed base systems. They also were there with Smart Technologies, who are pretty much a leader if not the leader in touch-screen world, and Crestron, a leader in the room control systems. And since they demonstrated that the reservations for the rooms could be done through a calendar function within the Lync client they also were touching on the reservation capabilities. They were doing a very aggressive job to get at the video rooms.

Then in the final keynote it was all about customers who are adopting Lync for enterprise voice. Because Skype was so present in this conference, there was some sense that Lync Enterprise Voice was kind of fading into the background. But the leaders were continually trying to make the point we are in the enterprise voice business and we are doing well, 35 percent annual growth rate is what they represented on the slide. They are doing quite well in that. The only thing I would say is they didn't talk much about applications and CEBP in the main tent, but there were a lot of breakouts at that point. I have touched on a few of those in my post on UCStrategies today.

With that I think I will wrap it up with a comment that Skype was definitely present throughout this, and they used the term B to X - "business to anywhere" kind of connection. Saying for companies and consumers and other customers and other people who aren't on your internal Lync platform, you can now communicate to them through presence, IM, and voice through a Skype client. Not Skype In or Skype Out to the PSTN to the telephony network, but IP Skype clients with voice and IP and presence video to be in the future, telephony connections in the future.

Dave Michels: That's a great summary. Thank you, Marty, for kicking that off. Let me just ask you - I watched the keynote online. I have been reading various articles that some of the experts here on the call have published. There has been a lot of focus on the event being sold out. They keep on saying "Sold Out." There is a big "Sold Out" banner. I am really suspicious of this because I go to a lot of conferences and I can't say I have ever been to the Coronado because it's a very small venue. When they announced something like 5 million users, it's growing at 30 percent, what were they thinking? Were they after the "Sold Out" banner or do you think they really, honestly, misunderstood where they were at? What is your take on that?

Marty Parker: Well, I think it's one of those things that if you can't fix it, feature it. Some people said to me on the side they had started out with the idea of 300 or 400 people coming to this conference and the demand just kept growing. By then, they had a contract with the Del Coronado and literally there aren't any adjacent hotels or conference centers or convention centers. If you fill up the Del Coronado you're done, and they filled it up. I think if they had known they could have had 2,000 people there, or 4,000, I think they would have been in the San Diego Convention Center, not at the Del Coronado. I think they just underestimated. Like I say, once they got sold out they might as well say it.

Dave Michels: I'm suspicious of it. It's the same thing with a lot of these new cell phones that come out and they say they Sold Out. They don't say exactly what the numbers were.

Marty Parker: I don't think it is a marketing gimmick. I think they just underestimated.

Dave Michels: It seems to me if they had done a Vegas Convention Center or Vegas hotel or something like that, nobody expects you to sell out Vegas or sell out the Bellagio or whatever. It would just grow to the natural size that demand wanted. I'm still a little suspicious of that.

Marty Parker: I think that's fair, Dave. And I think putting that banner up there was probably a waste of space, but alright.

Dave Michels: Kevin, I know you've got a lot of opinions; you've been very busy writing and commenting on a lot of the coverage around here and tweeting, I might add. Let's get your take on some of the big news from the event.

Kevin Kieller: Thanks, Dave and Marty. Thanks for that great summary and your great post that summarized the conference. I thought you hit on the major topics. Like Dave, I was watching and following from afar so I watched the keynotes and then followed the twitter feeds.

Certainly, one of the most interesting things that I have found and started commenting on and then it kind of snow balled from there, is Cisco deciding as a pre-emptive strike right at 5 a.m. Eastern time to release a survey of what people want in collaboration, and then to have a number of Cisco leaders comment on those survey results. And not surprisingly, Cisco interprets the survey results to suggest that people don't necessarily want Lync. I wrote a post on UCStrategies entitled, "What People Want in Collaboration," and I have written a lot about Lync. I know we don't have time on the podcast to cover all of that. Certainly, we will link to the article, that then links to the Cisco blogs that I have also tried to be active commenting on.

The thing that I find is there are really three key points that I find fascinating in this whole Microsoft Lync, is it complicated, not complicated, good/bad, and how does Cisco stack up scenario. The first thing is I really think it is critical to know, document and prioritize their requirements. There are a lot of different takes on what Lync does well or what Lync doesn't do well and how mobility stacks up versus Cisco or some other vendors' mobility clients. At the end of the day if you can't compare those back to your requirements, then you're left just following popular opinion or getting caught up in some of the survey results.

I'm not that interested in what other people think as an opinion is the best solution. I am a lot more pragmatic and I would like to understand whether I even have mobile customers or mobile end users. There are organizations in which that isn't a use case that they have to deal with. Know, document, or prioritize your requirements. And then, I think, you know what you will find is both Cisco and Microsoft make fine UC solutions. I would argue that Cisco makes a better voice solution and probably if you are just looking for voice you may not want to then invest in a unified communications and collaborations solution. And that is what Lync is. From the get-go Microsoft has been trying to provide a unified communications solution.

This is my third key point, which is, UC is not voice. So what happens is Lync gets beat up when somebody is looking for a voice solution and they look at Lync and they say, "wow it takes a lot of servers," or "it's pretty darn complicated." Cisco points out it's difficult to support a Lync environment. Arguably it is difficult to support a UC environment because in unified communications we are trying to tie everything together. So in the Lync world you connect Lync to Exchange, you connect it to Active Directory, you connect it to your desktop Office applications, you connect it into SharePoint. And yes, you have a lot of connections but the value that Microsoft was showing off at the conference and really has always been talking about is those interconnections. If you honor that it is a unified communications solution, if you implement it, and you actually let it do what it can do, then there are customers that absolutely find this Lync platform change the way they operate to improve the efficiencies of their business.

If on the other hand you take Lync and you try to make it into a voice system, if you try to say, "well, how do I do paging or call pick up," you kind of miss the boat. That is what is so fascinating about the Cisco-Microsoft debate is I think it brings into focus are you trying to make a unified communications solution grow out of voice. I would argue and I have written on UCStrategies that voice is not the path to UC. Or are you going to be willing to use Lync and to allow it to do things and get your business done perhaps in other ways, but in ways that are efficient to your business. That brings up 3B as a sub point; because if you are using Lync to be a unified communications solution, really beyond the technology training and change management is probably going to make or break the success of your implementation because you are asking end users to do things in a different way and you are trying to show them, to teach them, to train them that the new way of doing things is arguably more efficient and more effective.

A little bit of a plug: we are going to be talking about this in the Living with Lync session that I am running at Enterprise Connect. If you can get there, please attend. And as well, I am writing a weekly series on NoJitter called Living with Lync where we are looking at some of the issues the Cisco-Microsoft debate brought to the forefront. With that, back to you, Dave.

Dave Michels: Excellent. Thank you, Kevin. I have really been enjoying a lot of the analysis you have been doing on NoJitter and on UCStrategies.

One of the points that Marty was making was about the mobility story and there was a lot of coverage around this. Michael, I have a question for you. Isn't this la-di-da; have they brought anything really new or are they just catching up?

Michael Finneran: They are certainly catching up. In reality, Lync did have a mobile client earlier. It didn't do video. But if you wanted that, there is a company called Dimaca that made one. Still, across the board we haven't seen very strong adoption either for voice over IP on a Wi-Fi network, or for these mobile clients in general. Part of that is just personal experience. Also, in the last couple of months I have been involved now in two different surveys on the UC market; one for Webtorials and one for Information Week. In both cases the interest in that voice over Wi-Fi that Microsoft is touting came up fairly close to the bottom of the Importance scale. We will have to see how that changes now as we go forward with a BYOD environment, but certainly they have covered the board. Of course, exactly the role with tablets is going to be difficult to fathom in all of this. Of course with the tablet you have to use voice over some data service because there is no cell phone built into the thing. It's either going to be 3G, 4G cellular or Wi-Fi.

Back to those surveys for a moment - we did find out something very important which is that the UC market turns out to be really coming down to a two-horse race. If the argument is between Cisco and Microsoft, those are the two combatants in the ring. In the Webtorial ones in particular, of course, it's important to bear in mind that the audience in both of these is largely U.S.-based. We did have some international participation so we got a spattering of votes for Siemens and for Alcatel-Lucent, but it was primarily Cisco and Microsoft showing up time and again. But one of the interesting questions we asked in the Webtorials survey was who are you using for different functions today, and who do you intend to use in the future? For voice, Cisco, of course, came in the top in both current and future, over 65 percent. Microsoft, however, for current users we are seeing 28 percent are currently using Lync for voice. Of course the way we ask the question if you just had one phone on you can answer yes. That is moving up to 39 percent in future purchases. And Avaya was going in exactly the opposite direction; for current they were 41 percent of voice respondents, 28 percent in the future. As we look down the list of the different functions, it was Cisco and Microsoft one and two. Although, interestingly, in different areas. As Kevin pointed out, if you want voice it is Cisco. They are up there for voice, video and also for their web meeting capabilities. Where Microsoft really shined, however, was in basic UC which we defined as IM, presence, enterprise social capabilities and of course, email. So Kevin, the point you made about different strokes for different folks and different levels of importance for each of the vendors was clearly on mark.

One last thing - we did ask in both surveys was who is the primary champion for UC and about 70 percent of the time it was either the CIO or the IT Director. The telecom manager was mentioned about 13 percent of the time. Clearly, the decision is coming from the IT side. While Marty got to visit San Diego, I got to spend my time staring at spreadsheets. Back to you, Dave.

Dave Michels: Thanks, Michael. The event was both product focused and dealer focused. Blair, you have been doing some work recently with the resellers. Where are the resellers at with Lync? What did you find from your research?

Blair Pleasant: Thanks, Dave. I just completed a UC channel study. There was a big online component but I also spoke with about 50 UC reseller partners and a good portion of them were Microsoft reseller partners. And, in general, they were pretty positive about dealing with Microsoft and they love the fact that Microsoft is what some of them called a marketing machine, and Microsoft has been really good for them to work with in terms of providing marketing resources, doing customer meetings, partner meetings and other marketing activities which they found really helpful and they were just thrilled about.

On the downside, some of the partners said that Lync is still missing some capabilities. It's a bit too complex to deploy and integrate and most of them said that mobile capabilities are lacking, but based on the new announcements last week it sounds like this won't really be an issue going forward. Several partners did express disappointment that their customers and the market was all gung ho on Microsoft but they are not seeing this turn into real deployments at this point. There are still lots of customers using Lync for IM and presence, but not integrating it into their telephony environment. I also found this to be the case when I did my UC market numbers last year. Lots of standalone IM and presence, but little integration with customers' existing PBXs and still limited use of Lync voice although obviously that is increasing as well, although not as quickly as the resellers would like.

Microsoft did a great job of getting Lync or OCS out there to lots and lots of enterprises. But they need to take it to the next step, going beyond IM and presence to the telephony world, whether that is by integrating with existing IP-PBXs or by moving more customers to Lync voice. I would say that based on the feedback I heard from Microsoft channel partners, they are split between being really excited about what the future holds for Lync and feeling that things are still a little too complex and that they would like Microsoft to do more in terms of making it easier to do the integration needed and provide more support that the channel partners need. Thanks, Dave.

Kevin Kieller: I just want to jump in and respond to one thing that Blair said. I think it's an important point. I see this time and time again - the Microsoft side starts with IM and presence being driven predominantly by IT. Voice solutions still are driven by the telecom manager and my observation is that UC... because I have deployed both Cisco UC... fine product, and Microsoft UC with Lync, but you need to bridge that gap and so what happens is if you are deploying any UC system you have to figure out a way that the telco people can talk to the IT people on the email/calendaring integration and that is tough when you start with a Cisco deployment. Most of the time that is championed by the telecom side, so you have to get the IT people on board. The Lync has the opposite problem so people start with IM and presence and they really need to go out to the channel and get the expertise. The people that actually understand what a PRI is, a 1FL, that can talk voice engineering at the network level. Both of the companies have challenges; it's just that you have to be able to put together that project team that spans the gap. So when Cisco in their survey said something like 47 percent of Microsoft deployments weren't being used for critical, external communications, Cisco saw that as being a positive. I saw that being as, man, if those deployments figure out how to get the right project team together, Cisco is going to have something really to be worried about because the base of IM and presence that Lync provides, you connect it to the ISDN and then it's not really about being interoperable with your phone system, it absolutely becomes your phone system.

Dave Michels: What you're talking about Kevin is what I call convergence, started at the physical level of voice and data but it has moved into the organizational levels and now how the voice and data teams are converging from a management and operational level. It is also, to Blair's point, impacting the partners because in the Lync's case the software purchased is usually from the enterprise agreement, which is not typically the reseller and so you have the system integrator to help install it. Then also you have got these partners out there that are looking at Lync from a hosted perspective. I know Microsoft was courting with various service providers to host Lync for companies both in a public and private cloud type of environment. Now, there was a bunch of announcements at the conference about Lync online and integration with Office 365. That seems to be converging as well and creating a bit of confusion. Don, did you have any thoughts on this topic?

Don Van Doren: I wanted to build on something that Kevin said. I think it was really insightful what his comments were about. But I would like to extend it a bit because the other dimension of this is beyond the IT and the voice people and it gets into of course, the business owners themselves - the line of business management. As they are starting to become interested in all of this of course that really adds yet another dimension to this whole puzzle. I think the key is going to be as we start seeing unified communications and collaboration capabilities built into business applications, built into business processes, built into workflows, all of a sudden the guys in IT and the guys in the telecom department, they are pretty much in the dark about these kinds of things. They really don't have good insights into how those things work and how best to deploy them. I think some companies that we've worked with have business architect people or individuals that are either in the IT department but physically deployed right with the business units to serve as liaisons. Kevin mentioned the problem of how do you get these different groups talking to each other. Well, it's even more complex when you start bringing in the business side. Frankly, I think that's going to become a much more important avenue in the future as this thing continues to develop. Part of it, I think, is going to be again the channel partners. People that have industry specializations, vertical market expertise, who can come in and really look at how do you change the way an insurance company works, or how do you really change the way a manufacturing operation can be improved by embedding these kinds of communications within the business processes themselves? It is going to be an interesting time.

Dave Michels: That's great. Thank you, Don. I want to change gears a little bit and turn it over to Steve. Lately Steve, at least online, the conversation has changed dramatically to a Lync versus Cisco conversation. It's kind of strange if I think about it, you have Cisco as the market share leader in terms of new sales, and Microsoft I don't think is in the top 10 yet, and so that means pretty much everyone is in between. Yet the conversation has kind of switched to Cisco versus Microsoft. Is that what you are hearing from your clients and from what you are seeing on the street?

Steve Leaden: Yes, Dave. We are finding especially with our enterprise clients that are going through procurements and considering procurements, that Microsoft is now being included in the mix which was not the case just 24 or even 18 months ago. So we are definitely seeing an uptick there. Obviously, with the market share that Cisco has close to 50 percent in the telephony market, they are going to pretty much show up at every dance that's available out there, which we also see consistently.

Back to Kevin's point a little bit earlier as well as to some of Marty's observations, it really starts with Microsoft. We find this consistently when we are going through these procurement processes with our clients, that if the shop is a Microsoft Exchange kind of SharePoint shop, then the UC thread and the interest from the client starts there. Obviously, if they are a legacy different shop ie., even new for that matter, Google Gmail, Google Apps or Lotus or IBM, etc. then there's also a leaning maybe more towards a Cisco solution potentially. Again, one of the drivers is that literally 80+ percent of the switching and router market is from the Cisco side and then again you've Cisco on that. It really starts with those two camps for either UC or telephony. On the Microsoft side, we see consistently their integration with the Microsoft Office Suite, with SharePoint, with other components they are very, very strong, and that's kind of where the de facto start is for the market.

Then you get into really who has the vision here on UC. Clearly Gartner rates Microsoft very high in this area and we see that again consistently when we go through the procurement process. What we find though on the telephony side again, back to a couple of earlier points, is that once we introduce the telephony piece integrated into UC then the ball game changes. We find that the distribution channels for Microsoft are still very young compared to Cisco who has been doing this for quite a while now. Obviously, you've got a lot of legacy telephony players out there that do it quite well also. Microsoft is really learning as we are going. Their claim to fame is that they are going to be selling the software to the enterprise, but as soon as we get into the gateways and the servers and the infrastructure for training and change control, etc. for going forward and implementation, that all becomes the VAR's responsibility.

Again, when you are looking at legacy Microsoft who are the strong VARs in that place, it starts with your Microsoft native vendors who are again learning telephony overnight which is what Cisco went through five, seven years ago and now it is here. It really becomes the contest on UC. Is it a Jabber, is it really Microsoft as a starting point? Then when it expands into telephony you see Cisco winning a bit more.

I think with Microsoft getting so much ground and visibility with Lync that I think they are definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with. I think really within the next 24 to 30 months, in my opinion. I think they will be playing head-to-head against any challenger that's out there.

Dave Michels: Steve, the conversation is the Cisco versus Microsoft conversation. I see Avaya responded to that on their blog and they said it's not an either or, it's Avaya and Microsoft Lync. A lot of other vendors of course integrate with Microsoft Lync as well. What do you think of that play?

Steve Leaden: Very interesting point, Dave. Because when we see Cisco pitching their solution, they are really pitching their entire UC suite and really in general being for lack of a better word, resistant to a Microsoft partnership in their space. Yet when we are seeing clients who are legacy Microsoft on the Exchange side and other areas, to me, that's a big uphill battle for Cisco to try to win that over.

You're absolutely right; Avaya and other players are playing the role of Microsoft as a partner. In that particular space, in my opinion, it's very hard at the moment to beat Microsoft in the UC-only space just because of their integration and collaboration with Microsoft Office and other Microsoft native products which the majority of the market owns at this point. I think it's a very smart play for a telephony provider to include Microsoft as a partner for the UC play specific to Lync.

Dave Michels: That has always been the debate I mean both Cisco and Microsoft are on the same side: comprehensive solution versus best of breed solutions. The best-of-breed vendors have to have something to offer. They either have to have some sort of specialization in the technology. They have to have the lower cost of ownership or something that makes that more compelling. Kevin, I know you've got an opinion on this.

Kevin Kieller: I can't see that there is a long-term good solution for when you put Lync together with another telecom provider. The problem is the value prop of unified communications about bringing everything together, and then through Cisco Cookie Lync or Avaya their ACE platform in Lync, you fracture the user experience and so all of those nice things like common management, common reporting and common user experience, you break and so you don't get the ROI that you expect, the licensing becomes doubley complex, support is complicated enough for UC... try supporting it with additional vendors. I think it's great and I continue to admire the software engineering that both Avaya and Cisco have done to use the APIs in both of their solutions into Lync. I think it's great technically and great from a marketing perspective. I don't think it's good for the users or for organizations in the long-term.

Marty Parker: I would say Dave, however, given the investments customers have already made both in their equipment, their licenses and their organizations and people, I think we or at least I will say Don and I, find ourselves helping those two departments work together rather than picking a winner. I think that "work together" model is likely to last for some time into the future. Phil has a session on that topic at Enterprise Connect.

Phil Edholm: This is Phil; I have just a couple of comments. This first comment, having been with a vendor that partnered very heavily with Microsoft for an extended period; the challenge that you really find is that unless you have a strong, positive relationship with Microsoft, you are to some extent at their mercy relative to the sustainability and stability of your integration capabilities. Because as someone said, you are dependent upon on the APIs. You are doing a lot of engineering. A minor set of API changes in a release can actually throw huge monkey wrenches into that integration process. Unless the vendor you are dealing with has a partnership with Microsoft that has a level of endorsement you run that risk.

I would like you to come back to the point that was made earlier of pure Jabber versus Lync. What is happening in the market is this really interesting situation where Cisco has 50 percent market share, 40 to 50 percent market share; in the install base, it is actually much smaller, obviously, because they have not been in the market that long but they are still becoming significant. Microsoft you see typically a 60 to 70 percent kind of number of people who are either adopting Lync, trialing Lync or have plans to adopt Lync; some would say that is even higher. In organizations you have this conflict. I actually had a client that had a very strong Cisco investment in voice and video and other services. On the other side they had a strong Microsoft investment in terms of the desktop and SharePoint and some of the other Microsoft capabilities. They really had a tough decision to make. It was actually compounded by they needed to make an email decision. They were trying to decide going through a different vendor whether they would go to Google mail or to Exchange and Outlook directly. So they asked me to come in and help them. What I realized was that it was not a question of comparing the technologies per se. It really was a question of how those technologies integrated throughout the organization. So working with the client to put together a model of essentially four parameters, how do you integrate with the business applications, business processes? How do you integrate with the desktop experience? How do you integrate with devices and how does it integrate from a federation perspective?

Because this customer was an organization that had both knowledge workers who were heavily dependent on UC kind of functionality, and information workers who are much less dependent, we actually looked at it from both ways and put together a quantitative model. That's one of the things I will be doing a session on at Enterprise Connect. Not really coming back to anybody to say one is better or one is worse, but rather to say, "here is a model you can use." You can actually quantify your requirements in your organization and then quantify it based on your requirements what the comparison between the vendors to arrive at a quantitative result, which I think is very important. Otherwise, organizations right now are almost in this emotional battleground between the Cisco team inside of the company and the Microsoft team. It is virtually impossible for anyone to decide which direction they should go. There is a lot of essentially stymying going on in organizations today. I think this is a critical thing that people need to understand and go through to be able to make the right decisions.

Dave Michels: Excellent. On the best of breed point I wanted to point out that both Aberdeen and Nemertes have put out some total cost of ownership studies that are not very kind to Microsoft. I could see why some vendors are pushing those reports.

Marty Parker: I think on the total cost of ownership, Dave, it really depends on how the enterprise looks at their current assets. And if an enterprise has a Microsoft Enterprise agreement and they have the infrastructure in place, they have the active directories, the Exchange servers, the Office desktops, those TCO studies don't capture the concept of Lync as an increment to the investment. I find those TCO studies and when I look at them, I'm not saying they are wrong, I think that they tend to be a greenfield type of discussion and there aren't many greenfield discussions out there. Maybe in an SMB, but not in a large enterprise.

Dave Michels: That's a good point, Marty. Thank you. I think we covered most of the major announcements out of there. Just looking through my list here, the one thing that kind of surprised me that didn't come up very much was any kind of social integration. Particularly, with Cisco in particular, IBM, Jive and even Google pushing social integration so much. Of course, also, the backdrop of Microsoft's effort with SharePoint and their recent acquisition of Yammer. I would have thought there would be a little bit more of a roadmap discussed around social. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

Marty Parker: There were questions about Yammer at the Lync conference and it was always responded to in the context of future. I would say that the way that Skype, in this B-to-X conversation that I mentioned was positioned, they were trying to I would say nudge up against social. You've got 280 million people active on Skype every month. Isn't that a social community? I know it's not social as we understand it but they are certainly trying to make the point that the bridge between the enterprise and its customers and consumers can be enhanced with Skype even if it's not a social platform.

Blair Pleasant: I'm going to be doing a panel at Enterprise Connect about integrating UC and social and I have been trying for months to get a Microsoft customer to participate in the panel and I haven't been able to. It's not just Microsoft, frankly. I have been having a hard time with several of the vendors. I just have not been able to get a customer that's integrating Lync with social capabilities. We had one speaker last year who participated in a panel, but he wasn't able to this year. Basically what I'm getting is that customers just aren't that far along in what they are doing, it's just a little early in terms of integrating these tools. I haven't heard anything from Microsoft in the roadmap about what they are going to be doing in this area. I am a little disappointed that there hasn't been more from Microsoft and that there aren't more customers doing this kind of thing.

Dave Michels: You're saying when it comes to being social they are a bit shy.

Kevin Kieller: I thought Blair was right on when she said that people aren't there yet. What I see is there are already so many pieces and so few organizations are putting them together. For example, Lync and SharePoint integrate so you can search for individuals inside of your organization using skills based on your SharePoint individual page. The problem is that people are still working at deploying other things and they haven't gotten there yet. I think it's pretty clear that Yammer will be connected in. I think there is already enough integration work between just Lync and Skype that Microsoft has on their plate and customers haven't caught up yet. I think we will see it, but it will be a couple of years out.

Dave Michels: I understand it takes time for these things to happen. I don't expect the solutions overnight. I am just surprised there wasn't more of a clear roadmap discussed or intention around that. Particularly, with SharePoint.

Dave Michels: Art?

Art Rosenberg: I just wanted to throw in something else that I think hasn't happened yet, but is obviously going to, especially with mobility and so on. That is the concept of unified messaging expanding to include people being able to send a voice message without necessarily making a phone call, and it ends up in telephone answering or a video messaging. It's going to expand the media that would be involved in initiating a message exchange and in responding including the option for click-to-chat or click-to-call or click to be on video depending on the circumstances. The flexibility of UC will show up there as well. I think that to some extent Microsoft will have some strong positioning because of what it's done with email so far.

Dave Michels: Those are excellent points. With that, I think we will bring this to a close. I would like to thank all of the UCStrategies experts for participating and we will be back next week with another compelling topic.


There are currently no comments on this article.

You must be a registered user to make comments

Related Vendors