Cisco and Avaya, two major VoIP system providers (among other things) are criticizing Lync Server 2010/2013. And not just for missing one thing – it’s an outright attack.

They’re saying Lync is not suitable for full-time use. Microsoft doesn’t supply all the infrastructure elements needed to run it, causing too much complexity and producing an unreliable product.

The objections are documented in a NetworkWorld article titled, Unified communications Battle Royale: Cisco, Avaya feel the heat from Microsoft Lync. I think “feeling the heat” is apt – because it sounds like Cisco and Avaya are suffering from a serious case of sour grapes.

I’m a bit late to the party here – the smear campaign began in late February – but examination of these criticisms is still fair game. Let’s go through the issues Cisco and Avaya are jabbing at Lync with.

The Strategy: Tear Down Instead of Innovate

The attack takes the form of an online campaign + a white paper from Cisco, with Avaya chiming in. They’re attacking several points about Lync Server, from voice & video reliability to total deployment cost.

The white paper is available at Key Considerations when Evaluating an Enterprise Collaboration Solution
Links to other campaign efforts are in the NetworkWorld article above.

The white paper is even in tone. But it’s definitely more of a push against Microsoft’s Lync than neutral advisory on Unified Communications.

The entire issue with this campaign is: They’re attacking competition, instead of examining your own product for improvements you can make.

When was the last time we heard of Cisco innovating? I don’t know of anything really impressive lately.

This is an old, old tactic. And one that has a terrible track record. Yet it’s pulled out almost every time companies want a competitor to go away.

Now Avaya, I kind of like their VoIP. They have a good-quality product. We actually haven’t replaced many Avaya systems with Lync yet…their customers like what they have. Great. No problem here.

So I don’t quite understand why Avaya’s jumping on Cisco’s bandwagon. If your product IS solid and well-supported, then it’s just a competition in the marketplace. Something we ALL have to do.

“Limitations” of Lync, and Why The Objections are Hollow

Let me address a few of the points Cisco and Avaya make in their campaign. From one perspective, they might be considered negatives.

Of course, they might be applied to Cisco and Avaya too. Or maybe they’re just options made available to customers. We’ll see.

Cisco (from the article): “Microsoft doesn’t provide phones, video endpoints, voice and video gateways, networking and cloud PSTN connections – leaving customers to find them elsewhere, increasing cost and complexity to implement, manage and troubleshoot Lync installations.”

Maybe this is intentional? Microsoft doesn’t try to take on all of that, leaving the choice up to service partners and clients? They get to choose which providers for things like SIP and cloud hosting, maybe saving money in the process?

(Full disclosure: PlanetMagpie is one of those service partners. We make several provider options available to Lync Server clients. We tested all of them ourselves, so we could recommend appropriate providers to the right size companies. This way smaller firms only pay for the bandwidth they need.)

Cisco (from the white paper): In attacking what it sees as Microsoft’s strategy for Skype, Cisco says that Skype will evolve to run better on Microsoft’s own software than on others. They point to a statement from Steve Ballmer: “We always want Skype to be first and best on Windows.”

One could easily interpret this line to also mean that they want Skype to remain in its dominant position for Windows voice communications. The position it gained over years of great functionality, on its own before the acquisition. Maybe Microsoft just wants to keep that ball rolling? Who wouldn’t?

Avaya (from the article): “[Avaya] questions whether Lync is resilient enough to provide 99.999% uptime for telephony services, long the industry standard among telecom carriers, says Vincenzo Signore, vice president of marketing.”

This is a dodge. The Lync Server software IS perfectly capable of 99.999% uptime. However, because Lync’s setup brings in other elements such as networking and gateways, Lync cannot be expected to muscle each of these into 99.999% uptime all day every day. It’s perfectly reasonable to want full uptime from VoIP hardware – and we take every step in deployment to assure it.

But let’s face it. Glitches happen. A line goes down now & then. This happens in ALL voice & video networking…even Cisco’s and Avaya’s.

What’s this attack really about? Market Share, and they’re losing it

The NetworkWorld article is well worth a read. It has a lot to say, and more to link to.

My impression of Cisco and Avaya’s campaign? They’re scared, and they’re trying to discredit Lync before it eats into more of their market share. Lync is doing great–but rather than improve their own products to continue competition, they’re resorting to attack ads and mudslinging.

Problem is, when you sling mud, a lot of it ends up on you too.

Is Lync Server perfect? No. It’s still a younger piece of software, bound to have a few kinks and support issues. That’s okay. It gives us a HUGE assortment of communications tools in exchange.

I’ll end this post by paraphrasing a military saying: “If you’re catching flak, you’re over the target.”
Looks like Lync Server is definitely over the target!

Do you currently use Cisco or Avaya for your communications? What’s your experience been like?

Are Cisco and Avaya afraid of competition? They're attacking Lync Server!
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