UC infrastructure: Microsoft vs Cisco

Time to skate on thin ice ๐Ÿ™‚

Before making some enemies, please remember that personal blogs express personal opinions and this is my current vision based on the information and experience collected. I’m completely open minded about technology, so I will welcome your opinions.

I wasn’t sure how to make this type of comparison, but I decided to start by comparing on effort and investment. If someone wants to start implementing an UC solution on premises, what is required ? (and we have mail and calendar are in place so integration is desired).
You can make a slow start (and ease on end-user’s learning path) or go as far as your IT department and budget can take it:
Note: in green the change/increase of scenario components.

Requirements

Microsoft

Cisco

Scenario 1
Rich Presence and Instant Messaging
1x Lync Server Standard Edition
Lync Standard CAL
.

Total: 1 server

1x CUCM
1x CUPS
Cisco UCL/CUWL licenses

Total: 2 servers

Scenario 2
(s1+) Desktop voice, video and web-conference P2P and multi-party
1x Lync Server Standard Edition
Lync Enterprise CAL
.
.
.

Total: 1 server

1x CUCM
1x CUPS
1x Cisco Unified MeetingPlace
1x CUVC
Cisco UCL/CUWL licenses

Total: 4 servers

Scenario 3
(S2 +) VoIP connectivity with outside

1x Lync Server Standard Edition
Lync Enterprise and Plus CAL
1x IP-PBX gateway
.
.
.

Total: 2 servers

1x CUCM
1x CUPS
1x Cisco Unified MeetingPlace
1x CUVC
Cisco UCL/CUWL licenses
1x IP-PBX gateway

Total: 5 servers

Scenario 4
(s3 +) Redundant solution

2x Lync Server Enterprise Edition
2x SQL server Enterprise Edition
Lync Enterprise and Plus CAL
2x IP-PBX gateway
.
.

Total: 6 servers

2x CUCM
2x CUPS
2x Cisco Unified MeetingPlace
2x CUVC
Cisco UCL/CUWL licenses
2xIP-PBX gateway

Total: 10 servers

Scenario 5
(s3 +) Voice mail
1x Lync Server Standard Edition
Lync Enterprise and Plus CAL
1x Exchange UM Server
Exchange Enterprise Plus CAL
1x IP-PBX gateway
.
.

Total: 3 servers

1x CUCM
1x CUPS
1x Cisco Unified MeetingPlace
1x CUVC
1x Cisco Unity
Cisco UCL/CUWL licenses
1x IP-PBX gateway

Total: 6 servers

Scenario 6
(s3 +) 911 support
1x Lync Server Standard Edition
Lync Enterprise+Plus CAL
1x IP-PBX gateway
.
.
.

.
.

Total: 2 servers

1x CUCM
1x CUPS
1x Cisco Unified MeetingPlace
1x CUVC
1x CER (Cisco Emergency Responder)
Cisco UCL/CUWL licenses
1x IP-PBX gateway

Total: 6 servers

Scenario 7
(s3 +) remote user access and federation
1x Lync Server Standard Edition
Lync Enterprise+Plus CAL
1x Lync Edge Server
1x Forefront TMG server
1x OCS XMPP gateway (optional forย  federation with XMPP partners)
1x IP-PBX gateway
..
..
.
.
.
.
..

Total: 4/5 servers

1x CUCM
1x CUPS
1x Cisco Unified MeetingPlace
1x CUVC
1x VPN concentrator
1x Cisco ASA (not sure if supports VPN access and also Firewall federation)
Cisco UCL/CUWL licenses
Cisco VPN client licensing
1x IP-PBX gateway
1x Cisco IME(optional for voice/video ‘federation with other Cisco UC)

Total: 7/8 servers

I admit that this ‘simplified’ comparison might give the idea that Microsoft is a better choice, but for the $/โ‚ฌ you should always get a quote for comparison. For some scenarios, the partners might have other less expensive alternatives.
And even if Microsoft has a great products, remember that Cisco has mature and proven solutions (including hardware and devices) supported by their network infrastructure. There are some advantages with the Cisco requirements:

  • Since CUCM is required for any UC deployment, you get Telephony features from the very beginning (…but it could be a huge disadvantage if you have another telephony service in place);
  • With the very expensive CUVC you get an hardware MCU, capable of continuous video presence capable of interoperability with other 3rd party systems and telepresence rooms. Microsoft is a software MCU solution, only capable of showing the active speaker video to all participants.
  • (on a non-redundant system) one Cisco server down doesn’t mean a complete service failure.

But on future posts, let’s see other type of comparisons that might be important to consider…

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8 thoughts on “UC infrastructure: Microsoft vs Cisco

  1. Chris 03/05/2011 / 02:26

    Great comparison Luis. If you think about the comparison you made its not just the amount of servers but also for every product listed you also have a seperate administration interface in the Cisco solution adding to the burden. If you think about scenario 4 thats 5 different adminitration interfaces (make it 6 in the US if you include CER for E911). Thats a lot of admin burden. Doesn’t seem very unified.

    • LuisR 03/05/2011 / 18:12

      That’s why I choose this comparison approach: It’s just not about the costs and capabilities.
      When I wrote ‘IT resources’ my focus is on the people required to manage your total solution (and you usually you should also have redundancy on HR).

      But there’s another warning. Don’t just decide for Lync and give it to your IT system administrator (ex: the exchange admin team). Voice and video is not the same as an Active Directory, send and receive mail, or an SQL server. You must invest and give time to them: don’t rip and replace… You just might get some important people angry and ‘rip’ your UC project… ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I will update this post with your and another additional argument: remote access

      Particular thanks for your feedback,
      For more than a year I follow your blog and to increase my knowloedge about Cisco and MS. It’s great I can repay back ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Tim B 03/05/2011 / 20:28

    Interesting observations. Other considerations:

    scenario 2 forgets you may need additonal WebEx conferencing and WebEx node
    Scenario 3 leaves out the requirement for ASAs
    Scenario 7 does not include the IME server

    This is the difference between a software and hardware based approach. The hidden costs of hardware, administration and dependencies all take their toll on total cost of ownership- not to mention the cost of those phones!

    • LuisR 03/05/2011 / 21:13

      Thanks for your important contribution.
      I tried to make the scenarios in the most simplest approach to give an idea of what’s involved.
      I’m sure that for each specific one, we can find alternatives and less expensive approach.
      On scenario 7, I considered a simple presence/im federation… but yes! if you need to make a full federation (like Lync/OCS networks), you will need IME for voice and video ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Koen 24/05/2011 / 08:34

    Hello Ramon,

    As you probably know, with cisco latest release of CUCM you can virtualize applications 4:1. so it will reduce the amount of servers (respecting the architecture and requirements). But you’re correct you will need several apps of cisco running to provide the same service on microsoft.

    • LuisR 24/05/2011 / 18:25

      That’s why I tried to simplify this comparison. It’s about the amount of resources and “logical server” count.
      Lync can now be virtualized also, so can create a full redudant infrastructure with just two physical servers.

      Thanks for your contribution,
      And by the it’s Luis Ramos

  4. Will 13/12/2012 / 17:49

    It’s interesting to read these comments about the quantity of servers and all of the different admin interfaces having a huge overhead. It all depends on the perspective of what you’re familiar with and the other vendor suddenly has all of this added complexity. I’ve only installed Lync once for a proof of concept integration and it was painful. The pain was magnified because it seems that Lync is geared toward Microsoft Systems Admins. Cisco’s UC platforms are linux based and largely have the same look and feel. In terms of a ‘unified administrative interface’, I can only speak to Cisco’s offerings, but from within CUCM, you can provision a phone, user, and voicemail from one interface. Now, you can add the Presence admin to that also. It’s worth noting also that these different servers aren’t really licensed — I mean they require licensing, but with the server licensing is included in your maintenance costs. So it’s the cost of the hardware, maintenance, and user licensing. You can’t install a Windows server free of licensing costs and you can’t have a no cost upgrade from Windows 2003 server to Windows 2007 or beyond can you? With Cisco you can as long as your maintenance is current. The requirement for different servers is architecturally sound and makes scalability and ha decisions easier imho. Cisco has divided the functionality into separate components rather than just separate services or whatever in the MS world. So if I were asked to document scalability of a Cisco UC deployment, I could go platform by platform and say CUCM can scale to x number of users and up to version y, CUC can scale to… If it’s all on one platform, how do you do that without a whole lot of caveats and exceptions (ie “as long as you don’t add anymore features, you can do this, but then if you do this then you can’t do that)??

    I could install CUCM, CUC, CUPS, and a voice gateway and have them all up and running in a matter of a handful of hours. A basic Lync integration of a ‘single server’ took me the better part of a long weekend. Doesn’t make one solution better than another. The quantity of hardware is not the deciding factor. The biggest factor (which you never see people mention) is what your staff is comfortable and knowledgeable with — ie the learning curve. You’ve got a big stable of MS talent? Microsoft. You’ve got a bunch of Cisco geeks (who for some reason seem to be linux geeks too)? Cisco.

    • LuisR 27/12/2012 / 16:56

      Like many other things in IT, it depends of capabilities and resources availability.
      I respect your point of view. The software licensing upgrade costs it’s has a similar policy; With MS you can purchase for the licensed version, or an Open/Enterprise contract that covers future upgrades. I believe Cisco has similar approaches.

      As for experience, It takes me a couple (or less) of hours to setup a Lync Server and a little more for Cisco ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Thanks for your feedback.

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