Cisco is pushing Jabber really hard in the market right now but they seem prepared to sacrifice the UI and customers end user experience to lock you in to their hardware platform. They do talk a good talk though so I thought in this post I would look a little deeper into what the “free” offer is in comparison to Lync Standard Cal licensing and some of the more interesting comments from a recent video Cisco posted on YouTube.
Jabber for everyone
Jabber for everyone was announced a while back which basically promises those with a compatible (if you don’t have a CUPS capable CUCM it upgrade time) Cisco Unified Communications Manager deployment can get free IM and Presence for everyone in the organization. Sounds great or so it would appear.
To begin with let’s take a look at what Microsoft Lync Standard Cal is all about. Lync Standard Cal is traditionally bundled with Core Cal Suite. I have yet to meet a company that doesn’t own Core Cal. It’s the easiest and cheapest way to purchase Microsoft software in a bundle.
Lync Standard Cal features (available in the licensing guide):
So how does “Jabber for everyone” compare to Standard Cal licensing?
Features not supported in the Jabber offer:
- Desktop sharing
- Options for phone configuration
So for these parts not included there is of course a nice upgrade license you can purchase. You will need either UCL Advanced or UWL Standard or above to these missing features on the desktop. Which according to the No Jitter article the UCL Advanced license will set you back $295 per user. According to the Cisco Licensing guide if you want these on your mobile device you will need UWL Premium or UWL Pro. Again according to the No Jitter article list for both of these start at $415 and $500 respectively. Also the amount of devices varies between licenses so best to understand that as well. All of a sudden “Free” isn't looking so hot now is it?
Before you can begin evaluating a UC offer, first you must understand your requirements today and into the future. If you have a future that includes BYOD, mobile workers, softphones, desktop video, web conferencing, audio conferencing etc,etc a free offer such as this is probably not going to work for you. Instead, you are more than likely going to have to remove the client if you decide down the road that’s it’s not really the direction you want to head down. So understanding your requirements is a critical piece of any UC decision along with pulling together the right resources whether it be engineering or key business decision makers etc.
What is Cisco willing to admit to?
During Cisco Live the UC team at Cisco recorded an interesting session titled the Real Story Behind Cisco and Microsoft Interop. The obvious message from this 18 minute video is fear Microsoft Lync and hug your Cisco investment as hard as you can. But if you sort through the marketing there are some interesting messages that Cisco admit to.
Direct SIP is the most common way used to do interoperability and provides the best UI experience.
Within minutes the first big thing Cisco admits to is Direct SIP is both the easiest way to do interoperability and the most common. Why? Because companies want to the UI experience of Lync. Not a close to or nearly as good experience, they want the Lync experience. What Cisco fail to mention here are other factors that lead companies to Lync. Like federation, web conferencing and the ROI of on-premise audio conferencing with Lync.
The con’s they mention are mainly amusing to me. It’s like they are treating engineers as if they have forgotten how to work in multi-vendor environment. Things like dual CAC and dial plans. Well guess what, if you have more than one CUCM cluster you already have dual dial plans and if you have a Cisco VCS with CUCM you most likely are already dealing with dual CAC for video and voice. So they use their own complexity as weapon against Lync which doesn’t require dual dial plans for multiple pools or different CAC policies for video. So well done to Cisco for using their own complexities to scare your customers.
CUCiLync’s UI experience is poor.
I have covered this here on VoIPNorm but under a more general discussion around plugins. Cisco aren't the only ones with the issue of a poor UI experience though. In general companies are drawn to Lync’s easy to use UI and plugins devalue that experience. At least Cisco is willing to admit that CUCiLync’s experience is poor at best.
Cisco’s Medianet doesn’t interoperate with Lync.
Cisco try’s to call out Medianet interoperability as a con but in reality I am not sure why they didn’t build Medianet to interoperate with any media stream not just those from Cisco devices. Seems it would be to their advantage to be able to work with any media not just that of Cisco’s. So I would call this a con of Medianet rather than a con of Lync that it can’t detect Lync media streams. Same can be said for their wireless products. Aruba can certainly work well with Lync but here is Cisco calling it a con. I would say it’s more a con of Cisco wireless equipment than a slight on Lync that’s it not more application aware unlike Aruba.
With Jabber you lose key Lync capabilities.
I can’t have said it better myself but Cisco said it themselves. You do loose advanced Lync features with Jabber but what they didn’t tell you wasn’t the whole story. Below are some of the advanced features they didn’t mention:
- Outlook Web Access IM and Presence and in 2013 the ability to schedule a Lync conference
- Desktop share, audio and video across federated partners and public IM. If you take a look at the federation directory created by Matt Landis there are 10K+ companies that are doing federation today. On a personal level I have over 150 contacts in my buddy list and at least half of them are from other companies that Microsoft has federated with. It has really enabled me to give a better level of customer service to the companies I work with by being able to easily add voice, video and desktop sharing when they reach out to me.
- Skype federation with Lync 2013
- · Advance Office integration
- SharePoint skills search (one they mention but try to dismiss like no one uses it)
- Exchange Distribution Lists
- Rich presence beyond the four states offered by Jabber
- In call device selection
Adhoc conferencing is a lesser experience on Jabber than Lync
Their words not mine. I would also add that the scheduled meeting experience is also lesser as well. I wasn’t aware of a Jabber plugin for scheduled meetings. You would need WebEx for that.
In the end if you’re willing to sacrifice productivity to protect a Cisco hardware investment, even despite an industry that already acknowledges is mostly moving more towards software, maybe Jabber is for you. But if you truly interested in productivity with better connectivity and relationships with your partners and customers through federation then maybe Lync is more your thing.