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Monday, November 06, 2006

Enterprise UC Migration: Not Just Between Cisco and Microsoft

Copyright © 2006 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

November 5, 2006

Enterprise UC: Its Not Just About Microsoft and Cisco

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

The battle for enterprise UC migration is becoming sharper and more confusing as different technology providers lay claims as to what technology piece is most important for UC implementations. Because UC affects communication applications, business process applications that will enable contact with people linked to information, endpoint device user interfaces and operating systems, and last, but not least, wired and wireless networks for transport and access security, providers of these technologies are all jockeying for position in the enterprise UC market.

Because “UC” technology is still evolving and the focus is on the different communication software applications that must now interoperate in an open IP network environment with both legacy and personalized, multimodal devices, it is hard to keep up with who is doing what with whom in the “new” IP communications industry. As a result, industry analysts and consultants are having a field day evaluating new technology products and services, “educating” the confused enterprise market, and giving advice on how to migrate intelligently to new technology that is not finished.

Why Does Yankee Group Think The Main Battle for UC Migration Is Just Between Microsoft and Cisco?

Microsoft’s official jump into UC this year, coupled with their strategic alliance with No. 2 enterprise telephony provider Nortel (after Avaya), triggered speculative comments from all the industry pundits (including myself). Most highlighted Microsoft’s need for more real-time capability and software reliability in IP telephony that Nortel could bring to the partnership. In fact, a leading question at the time of the announcement was the potential for Microsoft partnering for UC with all leading telephony providers (not just Nortel) to exploit Microsoft’s market strength in enterprise email and IM offerings for UC.

We were confused, however, with Yankee Group’s evaluation of the Microsoft UC announcement (“The Impact of Microsoft’s Unified Communication Launch” August, 2006) for two main reasons:

1. Yankee based much of their conclusions about the UC market directions on a questionable 2005 enterprise market survey of “preferred” brands of IP telephony technology, rather than on leading provider market shares of installed telephone systems that are all candidates for “migration” to UC. Cisco’s actual installed base of telephony systems is much lower than represented in that “preference” survey and doesn’t accurately reflect all aspects of an enterprise migration to a UC environment. That migration will heavily exploit IP telephony offerings from current telephony providers in conjunction with new, unified messaging, presence management, and multimodal devices. The market strength of Microsoft in enterprise text messaging, both email and Instant messaging, especially when partnering with leading IP telephony providers, was not accurately reflected in the Yankee evaluation of Microsoft’s coming UC role.

2. Although Microsoft has been successfully developing its call control interface since its introduction of Live Communication Server (LCS 2005) in 2004, Yankee doesn’t trust the reliability of planned Microsoft UC software in 2007. On the other hand, Yankee considers Cisco’s new Unified Personal Communicator (CUPC) introduced early this year, as a “more mature product.” The fact is that true UC product capabilities involve more than old telephony functions, are still evolving with federated presence and multimodal mobile devices, and should not be evaluated yet as “finished” products.

Where Will Enterprise UC Migration Start?

Yankee concluded that UC products are “mature enough and feature-rich enough that companies can use it to enable new processes,” but focused on a “pressing need” for IP telephony from their primary (telephony) vendors as a starting point. However, the report pushes enterprise organizations for faster migration to IP telephony in order to avoid the nebulous risk of “falling behind their competitors.”

As Gartner analyst Bern Elliot pointed out in his keynote presentation at the annual conference of the International Association of Messaging Professionals (IAMP) in Las Vegas last month, “Start UC migration planning with your existing communication application providers in voice telephony and text messaging (the “king” and “queen” of UC). “

After highlighting the competition for enterprise UC dominance to a choice between Microsoft’s and Cisco UC (ignoring IBM and their Lotus Notes/Domino/Sametime, as well as other leading IP telephony providers), Yankee then proceeded to evaluate Microsoft’s desktop and business process application approach to UC, compared to that of network-oriented Cisco.

· Although Yankee considers the two approaches to be complimentary, it gives too much credibility to Cisco’s embedding application intelligence within the network hardware (their SONA, service-oriented network architecture), as opposed to anywhere “on the network edge.” Gartner has questioned Cisco’s SONA concept as being fundamentally flawed because it is not application-independent enough to provide all the enterprise “intelligence” that UC will require.

· “Federated” presence technology is key to maximizing the benefits of UC across networks, enterprises, and enterprise customers. However, it is still evolving and, although Microsoft’s Office Communicator (MOC) federates with the major public IM services, the Yankee report highlighted the current lack of 2-way federation with some of the enterprise presence management technologies, including Cisco’s Unified Personal Communicator (CUPC). It is clear, however, that federating presence management is in everyone’s best interest, but Microsoft is focused on the availability status of the user rather than the status of a particular device. If a user is busy talking on a phone, they will be unavailable to talk on any other phone, and old voice-centric technologies for “call waiting” can be better handled with new, less disruptive visual messaging, such as IM, on the next generation of multimodal endpoint devices.

· While Yankee suggests moving forward with IP telephony as a first step towards UC, simply replacing PBXs and wired desktop phones will not do much for enterprise UC needs. Until operational business management identifies the productivity values of new UC functionality, including IM, presence management, multimodal devices, and wireless mobility, and business applications that need to contact people, there is no point in rushing into UC without an initial migration plan for different end user needs that will, in turn, dictate application and IP implementation requirements.

The real competition is going to be between a mix-and-match of the leaders in desktop business applications, enterprise telephony providers, mobile device developers, wired/wireless IP network infrastructure providers, and, last, but not least hosted service providers. The days of closed, proprietary software suites and hardware platforms, as well as location-based communication services are over and network-based “virtual” business applications and people are slowly taking over.

Everyone Will be Partnering and Competing For Enterprise UC!

Because the value of UC is based not just upon the importance of VoIP and IP telephony, but also on the increasing importance of real-time and mobile messaging, all current communication application services have to be considered in UC migration planning. Furthermore, by definition, UC “migration” does not mean immediate replacement of all existing business communications for everyone in the organization, but must be selectively implemented where the operational need is required, i.e., at the individual user/group level. Finally, “open” IP communications are an enabler of practical hosted application services, which, when coupled with wide-area, wireless broadband services, may provide an easier, more flexible, initial migration step for moving selectively towards enterprise UC than traditional CPE options.

After the Yankee report went out of its way to compare Microsoft UC with Cisco UC on a competitive basis, it concluded that they would be complementing (and overlapping) each other’s technology strengths. Microsoft will work with Cisco’s enterprise IP networking infrastructure, Call Manager, Unified Personal Communicator (presence management), Unity voice mail, on desktop softphones, as well the same communication application software from other providers, including Alliance partner, Nortel. Likewise, Cisco will interwork with Microsoft’s Email Exchange 2007 server, Office Communications Server 2007, and Microsoft Office Communicator 2007. For wireless UC mobility, both providers will have to support the leading smartphone OS software and a variety of mobile application clients that will work across both public and premise-based wireless networks.

The bottom line is that with interoperability between legacy technologies and new IP-based UC applications, enterprise organizations will soon be able to selectively start their UC migrations with whatever functionality is most useful to key end user need, wherever and however it is most needed, from different providers of choice.

What Do You Think?

Let us know your opinion by sending us an email at, or by commenting to our new blog. (

NEW! Listen Now to this Industry Panel Discussion on Migrating The Enterprise to UC!

The annual conference of the independent enterprise group, the International Association of Messaging Professionals (IAMP), which took place last month in Las Vegas, was highlighted by a panel of leading industry providers discussing how the enterprise should approach migration to UC. For messaging technology management (both voice and text), who couldn’t attend or listen in, this lively debate is now available for replay, courtesy of Nortel and IAMP.

(Go to the UC Strategies web site ,, for telephone access information to the session recording.)

“Everything you wanted to know about migrating to UM/UC but didn’t know who to ask!” – Moderated by Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View


Avaya, AVST, Cisco, Interactive Intelligence, Microsoft, Nortel, Microsoft,

Issues discussed include:

1. When and how should UC migration planning start in the enterprise? Who should be involved?

2. What are the biggest myths about migrating to UC that enterprise organizations should avoid?

3. What are the 3 biggest drivers for enterprise organizations to migrate to UM/UC?

4. What are the 3 biggest barriers for enterprise organizations to migrate to UM/UC?

5. How do you migrate different end user needs?

6. How important will existing text messaging technologies be in choosing UM/UC solutions and what migration changes will such existing technologies have to undergo?

7. How will UM and UC integrate with automated business process applications?

8. How will federated presence technology fit into UM/UC technologies for the enterprise and what impact will that have on users and on enterprise infrastructures?

9. What are the most significant changes to enterprise IT responsibilities needed for consolidating administration and end user support for UM/UC? How will this affect email, IM, voicemail, and IP telephony management and end users?

10. What new communication productivity metrics and tools are needed for enterprise operational management to evaluate UC usage?

11. What will happen to the traditional TUI under UC?

Read our articles on UC for Customer Contact applications

The Math of Customer UC:

Customer Voice Contacts: Smarter Call Center IP Telephony Routing

Stop Guessing! The Five Real Reasons For Migrating Your Call Center to IP