Can Cisco and Microsoft Just Get Along?

The two vendors are the biggest players in UC. The challenge is that their hardware and software often are called upon to work together. How effectively competitors and third parties make this happen – especially with the birth of Lync – is an important question.

 By Carl Weinschenk
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Cisco and Microsoft are the big guns of unified communications, and how their technology interoperates – especially in light of the birth of Lync earlier this year – is extremely important to IT professionals and the organizations for which they work.

Thus, a good deal has been written about it. VoIPNorm has a long post on the topic in which he provides some scenarios that he says work, but still lack any “support statement or interoperability documentation” from either of the two companies. 

This Cisco post answers the question of when official interoperability will take hold. The answer is that it will happen during the first half of 2011, at least between Lync and Cisco TelePresence systems. The interoperability, the post said, will be the same as the interoperability between Cisco's telepresence infrastructure and Microsoft OCS 2007 R2 – the system that Lync is displacing. According to the post, a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunk enables Common Intermediate Format (CIF) video interoperability, presence, encryption and other features. The post links to a video of an example.

Andy Ord takes up the important topic in a very technical post. He offers three scenarios for the use of Lync in a Cisco environment. The first is to replace the current Cisco infrastructure, and the second and third are variations on a shared environment. It is important to determine the level of potential interoperability if the co-existence is the initial goal. Ord concludes – and his long post attests to the fact – that melding together two complex platforms doesn't happen by magic: 

I'm sure it is clear for all concerned that interoperability is certainly essential but ultimately any model based on co-existence introduces additional cost and unfortunately a reduction in functionality. 
The displacement of the PBX, which is what Lync is about, is a long-term affair that will be resisted. Of course, the Microsoft approach won't necessarily prevail. Cooperating to create an inoperable environment will be difficult in such a landscape.
This article was originally published on Dec 14, 2010
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