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Cisco vs Microsoft Unified Communications

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Howdy folks, today within many of my customers, elements of the UC solution are provided by a number of vendors. Cisco delivers the voice solution, Microsoft delivers Instant Messaging and presence.

A large volume of my customers are heavy users of many of the Microsoft technologies and several are core to the business for example Office, Outlook and SharePoint.

The key strategic goal for my customers are to select either Cisco or Microsoft to deliver the core UC services. In the first instance these will be delivered from a private cloud solution, but with the ability to shift into the public cloud in the future.

The solution must unify the communication and collaboration experience across voice, IM, presence, conferencing (audio, video & web) and broadcasting, whilst delivering the best possible user experience globally. As both Cisco and Microsoft are existing strategic vendors to many customers and represent the two most mature UC platforms, there is a need to determine which should be selected as the strategic vendor of choice for Unified Communications.

Cisco

Overview

Cisco has a rich, mature set of capabilities that can fully address most organisations’ enterprise telephony, voice/unified messaging, audio conferencing, video conferencing, web conferencing, presence and instant messaging requirements. Cisco has also invested significantly in enabling mobility through supporting access to UC functionality through mobile clients for Jabber, WebEx and Cisco Spark. In addition, Cisco supports unique mobile integration capabilities such as Intelligent Proximity, which allows users to control Cisco-based video systems, interact with shared content, and share content wirelessly using a smartphone or tablet.

Cisco technologies

Cisco solution is based off of several key technologies.

  • Cisco Meeting Server – This solution brings premises-based video, audio, and web communication together to meet the collaboration needs of the modern workplace
  • Cisco Spark – This is an app-centric, cloud-based service that provides a complete collaboration suite to create, meet, message, call, whiteboard, and share, regardless geographic location
  • Cisco TelePresence Management Suite (TMS) – This Solution provides the scheduling and management of Cisco telepresence end points.
  • Cisco Unified Collaborations Manager (CUCM) – As part of the Cisco Voice heritage, this is an IP-based communications system integrating voice, video, data, and mobility products and applications
  • Cisco WebEx Meeting Server (CWMS) – This offers the customer a conferencing solution that combines audio, video, and web conferencing in a single solution

Cisco Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • The existing telephone infrastructure can be utilised in doing so the same technology can be used which will lessen the user training, and no change means that there will be no disruption.
  • Future state solutions can integrate seamlessly with the existing telephone service.
  • Cisco has a distinct advantage with its hybrid UC offering, by connecting Unified Call Manager and HCS with Cisco Spark in the public cloud. Cisco Spark has also integration into WebEx with CMR Cloud, Collaboration acquisitions by Cisco also provide another layer of native integration to dispersed video conferencing end points.
  • Cisco provides unified management for voice and video networks including automated, accelerated employment and provisioning. Real-time monitoring, proactive troubleshooting and an easy to understand license management solution.
  • Cisco has a strong financial foundation. Revenue growth in its collaboration business has been good and earns a positive rating with Gartner.

Drawbacks

  • Spark is primarily a workplace collaboration solution rather than a unified communication solution. Real-time presence is not included. However this is a road mapped item and will be available in the future.
  • Cisco is continuously improving and simplifying its licensing. However, Cisco licensing is complex.  Not all software applications appear in the licenses management portal which can make central license management an issue.
  • A common source of concern has been the user experience. For example, using Unified Communications Manager, WebEx and Cisco Spark can result in multiple user experiences creating confusion, increasing complexity, decreasing adoption, and expanding management and administration costs. In an effort to address this challenge, Cisco continues to invest in platform and service integrations, such as moving WebEx into Cisco Spark. With the implementation of Cisco Spark, Cisco’s customers can gain from the integration of all of these best-of-breed products to deliver a unified user interface. It is expected that in the future Spark will provide a single interface for separate systems into a single interface.
  • Private certificates are not currently allowed within Cisco Spark however this is a road mapped item with no defined expected or anticipated timeline attributed.

Microsoft

Overview

Microsoft offers a broad UC solution set under the umbrella brand of Skype for Business. The on-premises UC solution is Skype for Business Server formerly known as Microsoft Lync Server. The cloud UC solution is Skype for Business Online, which is licensed as part of the Office 365 portfolio. The Server deployment has significantly more PBX and telephony capabilities than the online configuration, so it is critical to distinguish between these two offers. Microsoft also has some additional UC configurations, most notably Skype for Business Hybrid.

Microsoft Technologies

  • Skype for Business Online – Microsoft unified communications platform located within Microsoft Data Centres located throughout the Office 365 infrastructure.
  • Skype for Business Server (On-premises) – allows for connectivity to regional SIP trunks and Voice gateways and through a hybrid configuration to Skype for Business Online can utilise CloudPBX features with on premises PSTN calling.
  • Office 365 – Microsoft cloud based solution providing Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, Skype for Business, and Yammer services.

Microsoft Benefits and Drawbacks.

Benefits

  • Microsoft solution would allow seamless native integration into Office 365 in the future without the requirements of plugins or third-party integration tools.
  • Skype for Business has a broad range of well-established business, collaboration and office products, allowing it to leverage its dominance in enterprise IT and office solutions.
  • Microsoft’s financial position is strong. It earns a positive rating according to the Gartner’s financial statement scorecard.

Drawbacks

  • Microsoft solution would require a complete removal and replacement of the incumbent telephone solution currently in situ should a single vendor strategy be adopted.
  • Conversations are not persistent. Chat history can be found in Outlook however not part of the continuation of the conversation as seen in Cisco. Persistent chat is managed through three possible solutions. Microsoft Teams, Office 365 Groups and Yammer.
  • Enterprises regularly report some dissatisfaction with the quality and capabilities with the Skype for Business audio and video conferencing functionalities and often maintain a separate conferencing service for business critical use cases. As with any VoIP solution that is implemented poorly will deliver a poor user experience.
  • Microsoft now offers several PSTN and telephone through the Skype for Business Online and Office 365. In doing so it is encouraging customers to migrate to an online deployment. Skype for Business online telephony functionality is new to the market is limited with references. Microsoft have had PSTN Calling from Office 365 since June 2015 and have been available in the UK since December 2015 and is a major commitment by Microsoft.  However, this is currently limited to United States, United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, and Porto Rico.  The roadmap of this is not clear and not explicitly expressed, but we know that Belgium and Germany are quickly arriving.
  • Skype for Business deployments requires multiple partner solutions for implementation, design, and managed services. Microsoft has more than 900 partners in the Skype for Business certification and this number is likely to grow.  Microsoft is improving its partner program, determining which partner select remains a challenge. Historically this has been seen as a benefit within the Gartner review however in 2016 this has been seen as a drawback.  To deliver an entire hosted voice solution there is a requirement to utilise SIP trunks or session boarder controllers (SBC) from a third party providers.  IN addition if voice/ call recording, switchboards and Contact Centre solutions are required a 3rd party solution is required.

Required Capabilities

This section details capabilities required by many of my customers solutions, but not necessarily in use today. Details of how those capabilities are met by each solution are captured below.

Cisco

Required Capability:

Ability to appear seamlessly in the office. This is the ability to have a single number that follows the user (phone mobility) and can be answered on the device the user currently has, i.e. Mobile, Desktop, and Desk Phone.

This capability can be met using Cisco UCM. The phone mobility feature allows users to answer incoming calls to their extension on either their desktop IP phone or at a remote destination, such as a mobile phone. Users can pick up active calls on the desktop phone or the remote phone without losing the connection.

Using Cisco CUCM and Jabber, a device using the Jabber client can become the phone extension. Calls can be made from the mobile device using Jabber, or by using Dial via Office (DVO) to retain the illusion of a user calling from their office number. Using the Cisco phone mobility capability, the mobile phone and the Jabber client if connected will receive the call. This allows people to dial a single number, but reach the user wherever they might be. This improves productivity and removes the time wasted trying to contact a person across multiple numbers or mediums.

Reduce the cost of international travel. This is the ability to use technologies to reduce the amount of travel needed, whilst still having productive meetings and sessions.

This capability can be met using Cisco WebEx. Cisco WebEx can perform the Video, Desktop Sharing and voice conferencing elements necessary to bring staff together regardless of the geography and device used to connect. Individuals on a mobile phone can connect to room or desk based video systems to provide face-to-face video meetings with access to voice, video, content etc. as required for the session. Depending the licenses purchased for Spark Flex WebEx is available to consume – further information on Spark Flex can be found in the appendix.

Moderated interactive large events; employee engagement

WebEx provides the ability to have 3,000 users engaged at the same time.

Unification of UC leading to reduced cost. This is the ability to use a single Unified Communications product to reduce cost through support, simplification and training.

Using a single vendor for unified communication allows cost reduction in a number of areas. Support for products will be reduced as users learn and utilise a reduced product set. In addition, training costs will be reduced by a number of products a user must learn and remember is smaller, which should, in turn, reduce the number of calls to the helpdesk or peers for support.

A further benefit is seen by the reduced testing and interoperability of a single vendor solution as opposed to a larger number when enabling or trialling new features.

Users have the ability from Jabber to be able to utilise the mobile client to make and receive phone calls natively within the iOS application.  In addition to this, Spark has the ability to rest natively within the Apple Call Kit API so calls can be made and received without having to launch the Spark Application.

Use of mobile device as a replacement to the desk phone; Move to a softphone where appropriate to aid more flexible working by ensuring users remain contactable

Using Cisco CUCM, Jabber and integration into Spark, a device using the Jabber client can become the phone extension. Calls can be made to and from the mobile device using Jabber, or by using Dial via Office (DVO) to retain the illusion of a user calling from their office number. Using the Cisco phone mobility capability, the mobile phone and the Jabber client if connected, will receive the call. This allows people to dial a single number, but reach the user wherever they might be. This improves productivity and removes the time wasted trying to contact a person across multiple numbers or mediums.  Likewise, in the future, the users will be able to use Spark as a means as a desk phone replacement.   In order to meet all local legal requirements dependent upon local geographies a hybrid configuration would be required between Jabber and Spark.  Spark is not allowed in all geographies at this moment in time.

Use of SIP trunks to allow the removal of secondary ISDN lines thereby reducing the costs; improve resilience where diverse ISDN lines are not available; and increase speed to market for new offices

Where applicable SIP trunks can be used.  For areas where only geographical presentation is mandatory the solution will require a locally hosted telephone presence.

Ensure voice traffic is routed the most effective way; capitalise on “best cost” routing to reduce telephony costs

Utilising the least cost routeing within Call Manager would ensure that where applicable the lowest cost calling would be used.  There are regulatory requirements which must be met, the vendor solution where applicable will fulfil these.

Move to a managed/ hosted service for telephony and UC to reduce the amount of time and effort involved in maintenance and align with cloud strategy

All core telephone and server infrastructure can be hosted in a service provider’s data center.  There may be a requirement for some local PSTN breakouts that may require a telephone presence in some locations but these would be managed and supported by the managed service provider. In addition, cost reduction could be realised with the reuse of hardware in local geographies where applicable to do so.  This will be understood in more detail upon the due diligence phase of the project.

Deliver moderated Q&A capability for broadcasting large events (town halls & Open forums)

Meetings can be recorded and Q&A sessions held, this is currently limited to 3,000 users

 

Skype for Business

Required Capability:

Ability to appear seamlessly in the office. This is the ability to have a single number that follows the user (phone mobility) and can be answered on the device the user currently has, i.e. Mobile, Desktop, and Desk Phone.

Softphone, mobile clients, and desk phones that users authenticate with will fully meet this requirement.  Users have the ability to make and receive phone calls from either their soft client or their mobile device.  In addition, people are planning on allowing users to have the ability to access their Office 365 email and cloud-based content while using the native integration either the full client or webRTC.

Reduce the cost of international travel. This is the ability to use technologies to reduce the amount of travel needed, whilst still having productive meetings and sessions.

Teams can work collaboratively on projects through the use of Skype for Business and Office 365 collaboration tools.  The use of a privately hosted Skype for Business which is connected to a hybrid Office 365 allows the content of all Unified Communications platforms to be centrally managed and secure while allowing the information within Office 365 to be accessed from Skype for Business.  Remote working and multi-user collaboration while working on documentation, spreadsheets, and presentations is also possible.

Moderated interactive large events; employee engagement. This is the ability to host larger than 20 people meetings and control the content and the attendants within the larger events.

Skype for Business allows for meetings up to 250 users in an interactive session.  For users on Office 365, the ability to use Skype for Business meeting broadcasts are available.  This is a One to many – town hall style event.  This has the capacity to provide 10,000 users access to the media via a standard HTML 5 browser.

Unification of UC leading to reduced cost. This is the ability to use a single Unified Communications product to reduce cost.

Use of the mobile device as a replacement to the desk phone; Move to a softphone where appropriate to aid more flexible working by ensuring users remain contactable – This is the ability to use a mobile device as a native UC and telephone endpoint to ensure that the user is contactable.

Skype for Business has the ability to utilise a softphone and mobile client to aid in flexible working.  The quality of calls will be impacted by the quality of the network provided.  Skype for Business and Apple devices have the ability to take priority over a software defined network.  Where this is not possible such as a shared public internet connection.  When network connectivity is an issue the ability to have the calls direct to your native telephone number is possible.  This will be seamless from the inbound caller perspective.   However, this call configuration must be managed by the end user and is not dynamically configured by the software on the mobile device.

Use of SIP trunks to allow; the removal of secondary ISDN lines thereby reducing the costs; improve resilience where diverse ISDN lines are not available; and increase speed to market for new offices – This is the ability the ability to reduce the overall number of ISDN lines by implementing SIP trunks where applicable and possible to do so.

SIP trunks can be used.  For areas where only geographical presentation is mandatory the solution will require a locally hosted telephone presence such as an enhanced session boarder controller which would allow for the local registration of clients and the break out of telephony.

Ensure voice traffic is routed the most effective way; capitalise on “best cost” routeing to reduce telephony costs

Tail end drop off or least cost routeing can be used in locations that allow. There are regulatory requirements which must be met, however where applicable this is possible.

Move to a managed/ hosted service for telephony and UC to reduce the amount of time and effort involved in maintenance and align with cloud strategy

All telephone and server infrastructure will live within a hosted data centre where possible.   Some local breakouts may maintain a telephone presence managed and supported by the managed service provider.

Deliver moderated Q&A capability for broadcasting large events (town halls & Open forums)

Meetings can be recorded and Q&A sessions held, this is currently limited to 10,000 endpoints from Skype for Business online town hall meeting 1 to many is limited to a maximum of 250 for an interactive user meeting.

 

Vendor Roadmap

Cisco

The publicly announced items which are currently in development and are road mapped for Cisco and Spark for Business are listed below.  Due to the nature of a hosted solution, the roadmap continuously changes and the future solution is continuously improved upon addition more features and functionality as the hosted solution matures.  This is the current announced roadmap at the writing of the document.

  • Spark Call is currently only available in the United States, however this is likely to be rolled to other geographies in the future. There is no set roadmap to identify when this will be available. This can be overcome through integration with CUCM onsite.
  • Hybrid Architecture with Cloud providing full required feature set to my customers. This would involve utilising existing infrastructure onsite at my customers and consuming additional cloud services to provide full feature functionality
  • Cisco Spark integration to on premise
    • Cisco Hybrid Media Service:
    • Optimises media for dial-in to a meeting from on-net endpoints and clients:
      • SIP based endpoints/clients (Cisco endpoints, Jabber, 3rd party SIP).
      • Cisco Spark clients that join a meeting.
      • Cisco Spark room devices that join a meeting, including Spark Board.
    • Provides WebEx clients with an optimized call back to on-net SIP based endpoints and clients-applied to the call my video system option in WebEx.
    • Provides optimized interactive voice response (IVR) to on-net SIP based endpoints and clients-an audio prompt plays when the host hasn’t joined.
    • Improves quality and reduces latency by allowing you to keep your calls on premises.
    • Extends your calls transparently to the cloud when on-premises resources have reached their limit.
    • Allows you to manage your Hybrid Media Nodes from the cloud.
    • Allows you to optimize resources and scale capacity, as needed.
    • Combines the features of cloud and on-premises conferencing in one seamless user experience.
    • Eliminates capacity concerns, because the cloud is always available when more resources are needed.
  • Jabber iOS notification for voice and instant messaging

Apple is expected to release iOS 11 in the autumn 2017.  A major change is coming in the way that push notifications work for apps that are in the background in iOS 11.  Apple will deprecate the existing background API architecture (keep-alive socket) and require notifications to be pushed via the cloud-based Apple Push Notification service (APNs).  The primary reason for this is to save battery by stopping IM and VoIP apps from continually doing a keep-alive to their backend service.  When the app is put into the background it will be completely terminated, this requiring APNs to wake up the app to receive IM/VoIP calls.  All APNs notifications are encrypted all the way to the device.  This work allows us to support APNs on the infrastructure.

This change in iOS 11 will affect ALL Vendor’s IM and VoIP solutions, not just Cisco Jabber. This will effect all platform developers, not just Cisco

  • Security – increasing TLS v1.2 support across the products to fix inherent issues in TLS1.1 and 1.0. this provides ongoing security patching for by customers. Multiple customers want to depreciate support for older TLS protocols across the infrastructure and applications
  • IPv6 support

Support for ipv6 across more components in the infrastructure.

  • Presence via Spark

Ability to see presence status colours within the Spark application however this is still on the roadmap with no date being provided at this stage.

 

Microsoft

The publicly announced items which are currently in development and are road mapped for Office 365 and Skype for Business are listed below.  Due to the nature of a hosted solution, the roadmap continuously changes and the future solution is continuously improved upon addition more features and functionality as the hosted solution matures.  This is the current announced roadmap at the writing of the document.

Road mapped items which are in development within Skype for Business Server and Office 365 currently are:

  • Auto Attendant in Cloud PBX

The Auto Attendant in Cloud PBX provides call treatment and routing to end-users in Office 365.  Includes support for multiple languages, voice commands and menu options for all size businesses. Hunt Groups provide a simple call queuing and routing capability suitable for help desk and other internal functions.

  • Automatic transcription and Translation in Skype Meeting Broadcast

Automatic transcription and translation of audio in a Skype Meeting Broadcast.  This was publicly demonstrated in the Enterprise Connect keynote — see playback around minute 36 at http://aka.ms/eclive . The preview will include English, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, and German.

  • Call Queues in Cloud PBX

Call Queues in Skype for Business Cloud PBX provide the ability to queue and route calls using a service operating in Office 365.  Callers hear custom greetings and music on hold and multiple routing options are available for flexible configuration.

  • Cloud Connector Edition 1.4 and 2.0

This update to the Skype for Business Cloud Connector Edition provides for an automated update mechanism going forward, where any new updates to the software are automatically pushed from Office 365 and made available to the appliance, greatly simplifying administrative overhead of the software.

  • Cloud PBX Support for Exchange Server

Provides the ability for customers with Cloud PBX in Office 365 to have their Exchange Server 2013 or 2016 on-premises act as a repository of their voicemails.

  • Search & Acquire Service Numbers in PSTN Calling

An enhancement to the PSTN Calling service from Microsoft, customers will be able to search for, acquire and use in their tenant service numbers including both Toll and Toll-Free.  This will allow for auto attendants and call queues to be directly dialled using numbers designed for high volume.

  • Regionally Hosted Meetings

Support for a Multi-National Corporation tenant to have users be distributed across multiple data centres for Skype for Business Online in the Multi-Tenant environment to provide better media quality by reduced latency.

  • Skype Meetings

Free online meetings from Skype for Business that is easy to set up with a personalised meeting URL, helps team collaborate with screen share and is built for business with reliability and encryption.

Market View

Some key information from market analytics.

Forrester review

According to the Forrester Total Economic Impact study:

  • Cost reductions have been known to hit up to £2,500,000 per 1000 employees in six months.

This can be achieved by:

  • Replacing the ongoing and costly maintenance and management of a traditional PBX telephone system. This is because Skype for Business does not require an on-site telephone PBX hardware, software, or annual maintenance contract.
  • Delivers in-built conferencing which can save up to £1,000,000 over 3 years as business are not required to use expensive, third party conferencing solutions such as BT Meet me.
  • Reduction of IT and telephone support and labour costs
  • The increase of user productivity, which has been conservatively assessed at more than £8,000,000 over 3 years.
  • Travel savings due to meetings can now be hosted online via any device regardless of physical location.
  • Skype for Business customers can also save on average 43% on monthly telephone line rental as well as 57-94% on telephone call costs.
  • Skype for Business customers have a further achieved >60% reduction in costs compared to traditional ways of working.
  • Free end to end user calls (Skype for Business to Skype for Business calls)
  • Using a single communication system across PC, Mobile, and Tablet saves time and makes it easier for end users to communicate.

 

Forrester have also stated in the 2014 review that both Cisco and Microsoft had better programs for developers and that their platforms meet a broad swath of business needs to deliver real business value like increased revenues, reduce cycle times, and improved customer satisfaction.

Figure 1 – Forrester Wave ™

 

Cisco – After entering the communications market with the acquisition of Selsius Systems in 1998, Cisco has built share and added capabilities, consistently innovating and expanding its offering both organically and via acquisition. Cisco’s focus on collaboration tools enables workers to easily connect between different media — including voice, video, and web conferencing — to deliver a more unified user experience. Cisco’s strategy to optimize and standardize Jabber experiences across all users will drive more rapid adoption by end users, while its Cisco UC Prime management capabilities lead the market in satisfying IT system owners’ need to manage and monitor their UC deployments.

 

Microsoft –The Microsoft Lync client can access the range of communication and collaboration capabilities from tablets, smartphones, laptops, and desktop computers running a wide variety of operating systems. Microsoft’s single familiar user interface drives rapid adoption and utilization of its solution by information workers. The single integrated package of communications and conferencing capabilities delivered by the Lync client/server infrastructure in a web/XML paradigm makes it easy for developers to customize and build applications to complement Microsoft’s UC&C capabilities with industry- and role-specific capabilities from contact centre to enterprise resource planning.

 

Table 1 – Forrester Weighting

 

Gartner Review

Both Microsoft and Cisco have maintained their strong leads within the market.  Cisco continues to execute well in both the market and within its strategy for evolving the next generation of Unified Communication services. Microsoft solutions continue to attract significant on-premises growth while continuing to advance its Office 365 offering.  Gartner feels however that the uncertainty around Microsoft’s on-premises versus cloud focus resulted in lower ratings for its on-premises Skype for Business solutions.

 

Figure 2 –Gartner Magic Quadrant

 

Gartner Cisco review – The on-premises solution is based on the well-established Cisco Unified Communications Manager (Unified CM); bringing together voice, video, telepresence, messaging, presence and several forms of conferencing. It also leverages WebEx for web conferencing; Collaboration Meeting Rooms (CMR) Cloud for cloud-based videoconferencing; and its merging portfolio of TelePresence and Acano video solutions for on-premises-based videoconferencing. For on-premises deployment, Cisco offers Unified CM Session Management Edition for large enterprises, and has packaged offers for easier configuration — Cisco Business Edition 7000 (BE7000) series for large enterprises, and Cisco Business Edition 6000 (BE6000) series for SMBs of fewer than 1,000 users. Cisco also offers Unified CM as part of a cloud-based service — Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) — hosted and offered by its partners. Cisco also provides a full range of endpoints, including phones, desktop video endpoints, room video systems and immersive video solutions, plus its Cisco Jabber mobile and desktop client.

Key recent additions to the portfolio include: Cisco Spark, a cloud UCaaS service that offers business messaging, meeting and call capabilities; integration of its CMR Cloud hosted video bridging service with WebEx; and the acquisition of Acano for video scale and interoperability. Cisco has also introduced a cPaaS solution with a developer community of 200,000 that will speed development of communications integrated with targeted vertical and mobile applications.

Cisco’s UC solution is an attractive prospect for midsize, large and multinational corporations requiring strong voice, video or conferencing capabilities. Cisco UC is available on-premises, in the cloud and as a hybrid option through a network of global partners.

 

Gartner Microsoft Review: Microsoft offers a broad UC solution set under the umbrella brand of Skype for Business (SfB; formerly Lync). The on-premises UC solution is Skype for Business Server (SfBS; formerly Lync Server). The cloud UC solution is Skype for Business Online (SfBO), which is licensed as part of the Office 365 portfolio. The Server deployment has significantly more PBX and telephony capabilities than the Online configuration, so it is critical that planners distinguish between these two offers. Microsoft also has some additional UC configurations, most notably Skype for Business Hybrid.

Microsoft made some year-over-year improvements to SfBS 2015; notably, an improved client for mobile devices and improvements to its video and meeting capabilities (including the release of Surface Hub), with plans for an improved Mac client to be released in September 2016. However, the bulk of Microsoft’s SfB development and marketing improvements during the past year were targeted at the Office 365 portfolio, including SfBO. Most notably, it added a range of telephony capabilities to SfBO that, while new to market and not proven, represent significant emerging capabilities for that platform.

Microsoft has partners capable of hosting and operating SfB Server for enterprises, both stand-alone or as part of an Office 365 configuration. Although this approach does overcome many of the telephony limitations of SfB Online, it also introduces complexity and cost.

The SfBS solution will be useful to a broad range of enterprises. Enterprises with advanced telephony and video feature requirements should ensure that the necessary functions are supported and, as is true for any VoIP deployment, should undertake a thorough network readiness assessment. Often, working with a Microsoft Skype partner helps to ensure the deployment is as successful as possible.

 

My observations

I have observed an exponential increase in use of cloud technology rather than on-premises technology.  This has been observed through both vendors as a Hybrid First stance.  A major shift from on-premises to Spark or Office 365 has been observed over the course of the last year.  I expect this trend to continue as the functional parity between an on-premises solution becomes surpassed by cloud offerings.  Both Cisco and Microsoft have already started offering the new technology first from the cloud.

 

  1. Malte Emkes Malte Emkes

    Microsoft Skype for Business has an on prem persistent chat function, too. Can be deployed in addition to default services.

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