Comparing Cisco and Microsoft UC – Fact or Fiction

If you haven’t seen it already Cisco recently released a new marketing document comparing Cisco and Microsoft UC offerings. Although I would love to take this document apart piece by piece and analyze all the bullet points I found one piece of information in it that really intrigued me. From point 3:

“Cisco also provides a richer set of instant messaging capabilities, including point-to-point and group chat, offline chat, IM logging and compliance options, and persistent chat, which is included in the same client and server solution, unlike the Microsoft offering, which requires a separate client and server for persistent chat. Cisco presence solutions interoperate with Microsoft Office Communicator, IBM Sametime, and Google Talk, without the need for additional servers in the demilitarized zone (DMZ), saving cost and operational complexity.”

I found this interesting in that there is specific information in this paragraph that is contrary to the information that they supply in their own SRND documentation which only makes this statement true through omission of actual facts or at best clever wording. The first section talks about group chat and in particular it makes mention of Microsoft requiring a separate server and client. This is true but what they fail to mention is that their own group chat requires a separate database to function, which means you will require a separate server if you don’t already support PostgreSQL. From the Cisco CUCM 8.0 SRND:

“Persistent group chat requires an external database to store chat rooms and conversations. The only external database supported is PostgreSQL (see “


Next is my favorite. They go to great lengths to explain that they do not require additional servers in the DMZ. Hmmm, this is true in the sense you do not need a “server” as such but what other equipment, I wonder. From the SRND:

“ Inter-domain federation requires two explicit DNS domains to be configured, as well as a security appliance (Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance) in the DMZ to terminate federated connections with the enterprise.”

So no, you don’t require a server, what you require is proprietary hardware made by Cisco, an ASA (Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance). This is true whether you are federating with external organizations like Google Talk or internally federating with your own OCS deployment.

So two sentences, two questionable points. This is one paragraph that I believe brings the whole document into question because its hides facts about their own solution.

My Opinion

I see nothing wrong with companies going at it, and can understand Cisco forming the information about Microsoft in this document to make their own UC story look better (however flaky that may be). What makes me confused is that rather than use the facts about Cisco UC to make their own proposition look better they omit facts about their own solution to beef it up even more. There is some very clever use of wording in this document that if this is what it takes to make you look better, then maybe it shouldn’t have been released to begin with.

There is no denying that Cisco are good at marketing, but are they marketing fact or fiction?

Comments welcomed.



  1. I agree entirely Chris.
    They have simply dropped all credibility with this doc.
    I was confused who it was actually aimed at since most customers these days are fairly well educated in both solutions, and often already have investments in both MS and Cisco.

    Someone in Cisco marketing needs a stern talking to.

    Microsoft must be laughing all the way with W14 about to launch!

  2. I had hoped that Cisco would try to take the moral high ground, however it seems that they have resorted to taking the same "history repeating itself" page out of the traditional vendors book. It's deja vu time- Cisco faced this themselves when they entered the IP telephont market over a decade ago.

    (Sideline- Is Unified Communications still advanced technology? Come on Cisco don't hide your revenues behind this title!)

    I remember similar "FUD" documents being posted by Nortel (remember them?) and Avaya (before they were bought out by Silverlake) and Siemens. (before they were privately bought out.)

    That was about the same time that Cisco were promising "New World telephony." (BTW- I'm still waiting Cisco if you are reading this.)

    Agreed we got a better TCO from converging voice and data- I'm still waiting for this "new world telephony"- glad I get it 10 years later- with Microsoft!


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