UC experience: Cisco vs Microsoft

The other posts were about the architecture and products.This time I’ll try to make an “what can I do?’ comparison.

When you deploy UC in a corporate environment, your main target is the employee expectations and impression. So let’s evidence some of the different end-user experience when choosing Cisco or Microsoft.
I will not write about all features, just the differences and how the user performs with some daily common tasks and devices. So you can consider that other features are similar if not identical.

Simplicity and out-of-the box features

While enhanced presence (with status changing according to our activity at the device or with your agenda or answering a phone call), instant messaging and (right-)click-to-call are well known on a UC desktop ,  there are several differences that you should be aware off:
◊ The most distinct one is that Lync is the single user interface for communication (except mail and agenda). You use it to start and switch between IM, voice, video and share content with one or more users. With Cisco you have an IM window separated from the call and you need to start the meetingplace console to share content.
◊ Lync client will show the ‘out-of-office‘ mail message next to a contact, which is very useful for people to know when and why a person is unavailable. On CUPC we can manually set this message.
◊ The same happens for ‘in a meeting‘ status: if you click on a contact detail you will see when he will be available (meeting end time on user’s calendar).
◊ You can also Tag a contact presence, and get notified when he gets available or online.
Presence access level can be set on CUPC, but Lync let you assign levels of access (ex: allow some colleagues to bypass the do not disturb status) you a right click on a contact or a group.

Device & Redirect switch

◊ ‘Click & Do’: all end-user settings are available on the Lync client. On the Cisco you might be redirected to the CUCM/CUPS user options webpage. On Lync you can set call forwarding from the main screen and easly switch between multimedia devices even during a call. On Cisco you can set simple call forwarding from the softphone/hardphone keyboard only.
◊ Lync introduced location awareness (LIS), which  has the capability to set user endpoint location according to a combination of network address, switch or wireless access point information. This can be very usefull to locate persons before try to reach them or assign a task.
◊ Lync allows you to add rich content on an IM (ex: copy > paste a small excel table) and transfer files. None of those are available with Cisco.
◊ Cisco does not have an email solution for their UC solution. You can use their SaaS solution, but you need an Outlook client to get UC integration (with CUPC, for example)

Equipments and devices

Let’s look now what an user can have without his powered UC PC-device:
There are several choices for hardphones for both (wired and wirelles). Microsoft has 3rd party vendors loaded with a Lync firmware, while Cisco provides their own hardware which is an advantage with support contract management. Another advantage is that you can connect standard SIP phones (including software clients) to CUCM, while with Microsoft you must use 3rd party proxies, but Cisco is the only with VideoPhones.
◊ One possible advantage for Microsoft is that hardphones are cheaper and  the displays have  the same Lync user interface, a can even include contact pictures.
◊ In terms of PC, tablets, and smartphones environments, Microsoft has an advantage in Windows and MacOSx operating systems and presence and IM in general, but Cisco has much more options, specially for voice. Not only they provide VoIP clients for different platforms, but existing 3rd party SIP softphones available for all type of OS and devices (Linux, Android, …) have good chance to register with Cisco telephony. Note: XMPP compliant clients can register with CUPS to get presence and IM.
◊ On the tablets 3-digit growing market, Cisco has the high performance video/voice Cius and Microsoft responds with Windows slate

Voice and Video

RTaudio vs G.711 vs G.729 vs….. quality vs performance vs pack-loss… Microsoft and Cisco will do the work.
For the video things are much different:

◊ Lync now supports H.264 high definition… in peer-to-peer calls. It’s great but Cisco/Tandberg hardware do that with multiple endpoints with continuous presence. You can connect a PC with a Lync client and a 1080p webcam to a HD screen on a conference room, but its still a huge difference from a conference hardware.
◊ Cisco can also offer telepresence solutions and interoperability with other conference systems. Microsoft try to overcome this with an acceptable price/quality solution but needs to develop more on the interoperability (but is on the right path…).

Mobility and Remote Access

UC stands for ‘converging the existing communications tools to the users work environment’, but it also stands for ‘wherever the user goes’. As an example, if I’m outside my office / on the road with an internet/NAT connection:
◊ With Cisco, I need to establish a VPN connection to my company before using any software.
◊ With Lync, it will automatically find and establish the connection to the server and provide the same experience has if I was at the office; If I’m inside a private lan (ex: at a customer) behind a firewall usually might need an SSL/VPN tunnel to reach my UC  Cisco or Microsoft infrastructure (unless there’s an Internet guest access VLAN using just NAT).

Interoperability and Federation

An important decision factor is that a company wants to extended the UC experience and communicate with others:
◊ Cisco and Microsoft allows a full UC experience when connecting with partners with the same technology, i.e.,
       [Cisco <<>> IME] <– Wan/Internet Link –>> [IME << >>Cisco]
       [Lync <<>> Lync Edge] <– Wan/Internet Link –>> [Lync Edge << >>Lync]

Between different platforms there are some important remarks:
◊ Cisco (CUPS) clients are able to exchange presence and instant messaging with OCS, Lync, AOL, Google and Sametime;
◊ Microsoft users are able to exchange presence and instant messaging with CUPS, OCS, XMPP servers, Sametime MSN/Windows Live, Yahoo and AOL, and you can make voice and video calls with Windows Live Messenger devices (even a XBOX360 with a kinect)
◊ You can overcome some interoperability limitations or just simplify using 3rd party solutions


15 thoughts on “UC experience: Cisco vs Microsoft

  1. nbctcp 08/09/2011 / 09:37


    -CISCO CUPS 8.6 (without RCC)
    -Lync 2010
    -single domain, internal CA

    My boss want lync client can chat with CUPS client within local domain in internal LAN.
    I can’t found pdf on how to do that in cisco website. I only found pdf for Lync with CUPS RCC.
    Can you guide me on how to achieve my boss goal.


    • LuisR 08/09/2011 / 18:49

      Look on Cisco Configuration Guides (http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps6837/products_installation_and_configuration_guides_list.html)
      and read 2 documents:
      – Integration Guide for Configuring Partitioned Intradomain Federation for Cisco Unified Presence Release 8.6 and Microsoft LCS/OCS
      – Integration Guide for Configuring Cisco Unified Presence Release 8.6 for Interdomain Federation
      It’s is possible and you may need extra tunning. It’s on my ‘to-post lists’ to show how.

      • KevinV 04/11/2011 / 14:45

        Those docs describe the partitioned intradomain federation to OCS/LCS and not Lync. Will this integration also work for Lync?

      • LuisR 04/11/2011 / 19:18

        It will work, but for a partitioned intradomain federation you need to configure Lync with the “sharedaddrespace” (like Lync onpremises / Online coexistence) .
        If both domains have different sip domains, integrations is possible
        Part of the answer and configurations can be used from the Integration Guide for Configuring Cisco Unified Presence Release 8.6 with Microsoft Lync Server 2010 for Remote Call Control

  2. ionut 15/11/2011 / 17:01

    nice post

  3. Greg Sando 26/11/2011 / 08:52

    Really good summary, your guide is very logical and straight forward.

  4. jan 21/12/2011 / 05:56

    is it possibly to link uc client to Microsoft access to a database ?

    • LuisR 21/12/2011 / 18:50

      I’m not quite sure what you are trying to ask.
      You can develop plugins for use along with de Lync client, for example, to query an external database customer based on a phone call.

  5. jan 22/01/2012 / 08:19

    how do i integrate this program with Microsoft Access
    what i want.
    1) when a phone call comes in it should automatic open a page in access where it should automatic fill info from the Caller ID then i should be able to make notes also be able to open a case with follow ups and more things

    what i want to know if the main idea can work with UC Client


  6. Beyers 25/01/2012 / 15:07

    Great comparison, much appreciated!

  7. Kirk 11/06/2012 / 14:39

    I’m a little late on this discussion I realize. We have been running Cisco UC for awhile, with the latest upgrade I noticed the Exchange CAS maxing in resources. After checking into this I found that I knew very little about he cisco IM client. It seems to really be an imap mail client monitoriing inbox content – I guess looking for voicemail. With cisco IM client alone running, looking at wireshark the client makes many imap connections and constantly chunks through the inbox. I will need to signficanly increase the resources on the CAS that Presence connects to. More that I didn’t know about Cisco Presence 8.6.

  8. pallavi 22/08/2013 / 10:11

    Is there any document of federating Lync with Sametime

    • LuisR 01/09/2013 / 12:33

      I didn’t have the resources to deploy that scenario, but this is my ‘resource’ documentation
      -Looks like you need the latest Sametime hotfixes
      -It could as simple has this IBM documentation procedure for OCS

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