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

Tim Greene | Feb. 22, 2013
It seems Microsoft's unified communications system Lync is becoming so popular among businesses that it is the No.1 threat to the top vendors Cisco and Avaya. Cisco this week launched an online blogging campaign to point out Lync's shortcomings, and Avaya volunteered a nearly identical list of what it perceives as Lync limitations.

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.

The advice Lazar gives to his enterprise clients is to seek a holistic answer to unified communications problems that can provide a seamless user experience - one that supports all modes of communication readily.

Microsoft has been extremely aggressive, pushing hard for customers that use Lync for instant messaging to adopt it for voice as well. "It just makes sense to ask, 'Could this be my voice platform, too?'" he says.


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