Unified communications Battle Royale: Cisco, Avaya feel the heat from Microsoft Lync

By , Network World |  Unified Communications, Avaya, Cisco

Skype integration with Lync for voice calls and a promise to include video calls in are attractive to business users, Lazar says. Skype remains an annoyance to Cisco, Avaya, IBM and others because their VoIP platforms are not integrated with it. That's significant to businesses in which Skype has become a de facto standard for business communication, he says.

Microsoft says it will integrate Lync fully with Office 365, its cloud application service, which would address another of Cisco's criticisms. But Lazar says it's been promised before, so keep an eye on whether it's delivered.

Lync does lack a collaboration vision, Lazar says, in which Lync is integrated with other Microsoft platforms such as SharePoint and Yammer. But Microsoft seems willing to forego that and remain focused on competing for enterprise voice business. "They think that's where their win is," he says

Lync's attractiveness breaks down when it comes to mobile devices because it lacks a unified client. Customers with an Avaya mobile client but a Lync IM client force end users into switching among separate applications when they want to shift from one mode of communication to the other, Lazar says, "That's not really user friendly."

Despite the announcements, Lync installations still require three to five other vendors to supply phones, video gear, client gateways, session border controllers, contact center software and the like, he says. That is still a side from which Lync is vulnerable to attack by Cisco, and the attack is effective among potential customers. "That resonates," says Lazar. It calls into question whom to choose as a professional services partner, how to get a clear picture of upgrade paths and whose neck to wring when problems arise.

Microsoft customers see the possibility of buying a voice license and getting rid of the expense of Cisco or Avaya licenses to save money. They see Internet-based conferencing as a way to cut out conference bridges and reduce long-distance charges.

Typical RFPs for voice systems call for getting them up and running in six months. For Lync that period is more like three to five years, Lazar says, "There's a lot of moving parts."

Challenges include dial plan management and converting voice trunks into IP addresses when migrating from a traditional PBX. Lync is more software centric than PBXs and requires a resilient infrastructure that Microsoft doesn't control. Businesses have to figure out how to provide 911 services to endpoints that can move around.

Originally published on Network World |  Click here to read the original story.
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