The following comments are from Nortel’s Tony Rybczynski regarding the new relationship between Microsoft and Cisco. I found them interesting and worth passing along.
I was on holidays in Eastern Europe when the photo shoot took place. During my travels I learnt that the Austrio-Hungarian empire was largely created by making love (through arranged marriages) not war. I think there would have been a real story if it had been announced that JohnC’s son was to marry SteveB’s daughter;). However, the path to empire expansion will pit Microsoft and Cisco against each other on a growing number of fronts, with promises of ‘interoperability peace’ along the way. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In his August 15th Enterpriser Technology blog, Phil Edholm, responsible for Nortel technology vision, strategy, and architecture across the enterprise product portfolio, discusses whether Microsoft/IBM are going to war with Cisco. He ended by posing the questions “Is the network the computer or is the network the network delivering connectivity and services in a computing environment? Do you believe that Microsoft and Cisco see each other as competitors today?”
We need not look any further than Microsoft and Cisco CEO’s for an answer. Steve Ballmer and John Chambers were very clear about their positions on August 20 in NYC:“In unified communications we know we’re competing”. In referencing the Nortel relationship, Steve Ballmer further stated that "With Nortel, we are really working on the same thing, with Cisco we’re working on things that compete".
So why did this event take place. Simple. Just listen to John Chambers: "If we didn’t need to interoperate, we probably wouldn’t; it’s just that customers are demanding that we do." So it’s all about interoperability. Welcome to the open world of telecommunications.
Let me go one deeper in terms of the reality of the competition between these two companies. Microsoft’s approach is software-centric while Cisco’s is network centric. In Gartner’s 2007 UC Magic Quadrant, Cisco has been moved out of the Leadership Quadrant into the Challenger (vs Leadership Quadrant) with the following caution: “Cisco’s solutions are network-centric, rather than software-application-focused. This can create interdependencies between the network infrastructure and communication applications operating on the network, making it harder to integrate communications with business applications.” Nortel’s approach is more aligned with that of Microsoft, by investing in software application centric approaches and in vendor-agnostic SOA frameworks, as the foundation to communications-enable business processes.
Network-based intelligence in the right doses and in the right parts of the network, must dovetail the functionality resident in end points (clients and servers), while enhancing security and application performance particularly in heterogeneous environments (e.g. data centers). Cisco’s dominant position in routing supports their everything-in-the-network approach, often at the expense of price/performance and reliability (their fix is sell more routers). Working with Microsoft, IBM, EMC and many others (as Nortel does) is table stakes to meet customer needs.
I personally conclude (and maybe you agree) that the Microsoft-Cisco event was about alleviating concerns of customers about interoperability and about dancing around the true competitive nature of Microsoft and Cisco in the UC space.