24 September 2008

Un-unified communications

Cisco recently announced the take over of Jabber & Postpath to complement their unified communication offering. This news item would have probably gone unoticed if the two companies were not editors of... open source software! I wonder if the next one on Cisco's shopping list isn't Digium ? -the well known editor of Asterisk! ;)

It really seems that Cisco's UC strategy is shaken since Microsoft launched its offensive in the field... and Microsoft's comment about the deal is quite acid :

"In early 2007, Cisco was touting their three year lead on Microsoft in UC. Now, Cisco seems to have decided they were running in the wrong direction - and perhaps even in the wrong race. In the last month, Cisco has added two new software pieces to their UC puzzle and are now playing catch up to companies like Microsoft and Nortel who have long seen that the path to UC was in powerful, well-integrated software, not wires. Cisco’s offering is the definition of un-unified communications. With more than 40 products, their solution is a patchwork of technologies and networking. The risk for customers is that a patchwork system is slower to roll out, harder to train users, and more expensive to manage and maintain over the long term." according to Microsoft's UC vice president.

Indeed, Cisco is no longer a challenger in the UC arena but is not the leader either. The challenger role has been taken over by Microsoft and Open source solutions, while historical telecom manafacturers (Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Siemens, etc) are no longer seen as old-fashionned, have adapted to the VoIP paradigm and have preserved a significant market share.

Furthermore they will not fight to death with Microsoft as they did with Cisco, because Cisco was attacking their core-business (voice switching) whereas Microsoft is on the edge (computer telephony integration). Their strategy against Microsoft consists in providing fully fledged interoperability (as well as for the other collaboration software editors like IBM or Novell) and a cheaper proprietary alternative.

However, I have to agree that this is nothing but the same patchwork architecture that was used in the TDM environment... indeed, VoIP has not changed much things in the application space to date (the only really new application that has come forth being the softphone).