What Smart Analysts Think About Microsoft's Lync Telephony Claims

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The big brains at UCStrategies had a very relevant podcast last week. Ten of the Unified Communication industry’s leading independent analysts weighed in on Microsoft’s recent claim that its Lync unified communications suite was “leading” in shipments of enterprise voice/telephony software.

Microsoft appears to be basing its claim on shipments of Lync voice, but doesn’t say much more. As a result, “there’s a lot of debate and discussion” about what Lync voice shipments actually mean, says UCStrategies analyst and podcast moderator Blair Pleasant. “Are they paid licenses, free licenses that customers get from enterprise CALs (client access licenses), (voice) seats actually being used and deployed, or (numbers) just out there because companies have Lync [suite]?”

One thing’s for sure: when you go by the tried-and-tested methodology of tracking the number of phone lines actually being deployed to users today, Microsoft isn’t on top according to any of the analyst firms. Indeed, according to one of the most respected market watchers, analyst Alan Weckel of the Dell ‘Oro Group, Avaya is actually number one in enterprise voice. My colleague Enzo Signore pointed this out in a blog several weeks ago – before the UCStrategies podcast.

There were too many opinions in UCStrategies’ 38-minute podcast to neatly summarize. Not all of them agreed with each other, of course. But here are the quotes that particularly stood out for me:

Blair Pleasant: “I personally have some issues with these numbers and what they mean…I don’t think it’s fair to say that Microsoft is a leader in enterprise voice at this point. Again, they’re doing gangbusters, but they’re still a niche player. And the companies I speak with aren’t rushing out to deploy Lync voice.

Marty Parker: “I think [Blair] you’re exactly right, that any claim like this should be greeted initially with some serious skepticism…Microsoft, pretty uniquely among the leaders, sells licenses far ahead of deployments. The number of licenses can be 2x or more what is actually being deployed. The deployment reports we’ve seen from a number of sources put Microsoft in the 5% range in terms of actual deployments for FY12. If you extrapolate from that 6-7% for FY13, and then double that, you get 13%…That is a number that wouldn’t stand up when someone goes out to use a rigorous approach to market share data. Maybe for shipments, but it doesn’t reflect reality on the ground.

Dave Michels: “I see a lot of firms deploying Lync. I don’t see a lot of firms deploying Lync voice…I also know from other observations that Microsoft is pretty shady about their numbers. A lot of other firms are very open. Microsoft is very secretive about this stuff. They don’t put a lot of detail behind this…It’s a whole different level of open-ness you don’t see with Microsoft.

Jim Burton: “When I was in debate in school, my Bible was a book called ‘Lying with Facts and Figures.’ I don’t think he [Microsoft blogger] lied, but the way he presented it was a bit of a misrepresentation, if you understood all of the facts.”

Roberta Fox: “It really wasn’t til late 2012 where Microsoft was considered for telephony or even desktop video. They really were not seen as reliable or credible telecom solutions from enterprise clients as replacements for their PBXes, due to concerns about reliability, availability and the feature set. Another interesting thought: there was very little interest in Lync for desktop video applications.”

I encourage you all to take a listen to this podcast.

Related Articles:

Who's the Real Number One in Business Telephony?

The telephone is far from dead. You know who still loves to call people? Family members, close friends and…the Pope. No joke: 76-year-old Pope Francis has startled a quite a few strangers with a call from a Vatican landline in which he simply announces, “It’s the Pope.” It’s happened to enough people that the Corriere della Sera, a leading newspaper in my native Italy, published a front-page article offering tips on how to make small talk if His Holiness calls (tip #1: talk about soccer).

You know who else loves the telephone? Businesspeople. Unified Communications may be a diverse, ever-growing set of tools and technologies, but the channel that started it all still plays a central role. It’s why there’s a never-ending stream of articles advising how to schmooze colleagues on the phone, how to run your phone meetings, how to close sales deals on the phone, how to ace telephone job interviews, etc. The stakes are high, which is why telephony remains such a hotly-contested market.

Last week, Microsoft put out a blog claiming it is “now shipping more enterprise telephone lines than any other technology company in the world.” It was a bold claim. So bold that longtime industry expert, Eric Krapf of No Jitter, felt compelled to investigate. One respected market watcher, Infonetics’ Diane Myers, told Krapf that her own research – which shows Cisco and Avaya neck-and-neck far above other rivals in telephony – made her “struggle” with Microsoft’s claims. When Krapf confronted Microsoft’s spokespeople, they admitted that Redmond’s claim to have shipped the most telephony lines was based on different data, revenue. As anyone familiar with software bundling knows, revenue alone can paint a deceptive picture.

However, revenue COMBINED with other data CAN be illuminating. While Microsoft and Cisco bicker, they are ignoring what’s really going on in the voice market. According to the well-known telecom market research firm, the Dell’Oro Group, Avaya passed Cisco in Q2 this year in telephony according to two key metrics. First, powered by growth in our small and midsized UC solution, IP Office, the number of telephone lines Avaya shipped grew 10% quarter/quarter to 1.8 million, while Cisco’s slipped for the 3rd-straight quarter, according to Dell’Oro:

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Source: Dell’Oro Group

As a result, Avaya had a commanding lead of the global enterprise telephony market by revenue, both for Q2 2013:

Dell'Oro Global Enterprise Telephony Systems Q213 Rev Share.JPG


Actually, Avaya led Cisco by the same margin for all of calendar year 2012, too:


Dell'Oro Global Enterprise Telephony CY12 Rev Share.JPG


How come Microsoft’s nowhere to be found? We asked Alan Weckel, Vice President, Enterprise Telephony & Ethernet Switch Market Research at Dell’Oro and author of the report, who “confirmed that Dell’Oro Group does track Microsoft in the report. While Dell’Oro group does not break out Microsoft call control directly, based on the size of the remaining market, Microsoft would not be amongst the largest vendors on the charts.”

Why is Avaya gaining telephone users and increasing sales revenue? For a number of reasons:

1)The rock-solid quality of our flagship Avaya Aura platform (read how billion-dollar real estate firm Forest City Enterprises virtualized Avaya Aura software onto VMware and cut costs and increased reliability);

2)The cutting-edge advances in the Aura platform, including the new Collaboration Environment platform to enable developers to quickly build communications apps, and the Avaya Messaging Service that finally brings texting into the enterprise world (and supports any vendor’s system, even Cisco);

3)The quality and cost-competitiveness of Avaya IP Office;

4)The increasing attractiveness of IP Office 9.0 to the fast-growing mid-market segment;

Importantly, we see many customers that use the Microsoft Lync solution for IM and presence turning to Avaya for voice. Rather than deploying Lync software all the way or integrating with Cisco, hundreds of enterprises are trusting the Avaya Client Applications (ACA) plug-in, which offers scalability, ‘Five 9s’ of high-availability, technical features such as open call control, protection for your other communication investments, and tight integration with our contact center solution, which happens to be number one in the market according to Gartner.

Related article: Avaya’s New Wireless LAN 9100 Mutes the Sucking Sound of Network Downtime

ACA is not a tactical solution, either. Providing a comprehensive, open alternative for customers who wish to avoid vendor lock-in is part of the Avaya long-term strategy. Simply put, we want to be the best Lync integrator in the industry.

Lync software undoubtedly excels at IM and presence. But as Cisco Collaboration chief Rowan Trollope pointed out last week, IM and presence are last decade’s news. The future is things like enterprise-friendly text messaging (like Avaya Messaging Service) and open collaboration platforms that let businesses pick the best technologies for their needs.

So when you’re thinking about your UC solution, don’t think it’s only about Lync software vs. Cisco vs. Avaya. The telephone isn’t going away anytime soon. And if telephony is important to your business, the right solution might very well be a combination of a Lync client and Avaya.

Seven Things to Know About Microsoft Lync (And One Thing You Should Do About It)

The economy remains a schizophrenic beast. The stock market may be rocketing upwards, but governments are imposing painful cutbacks such as the U.S. Government’s $1.2 trillion sequestration.

At the same time, businesses are eager to gain the benefits that collaboration solutions can deliver to their organizations. 56 percent of enterprises view collaboration tools as very important or critical to their companies’ future, according to a February 2013 survey by Computerworld magazine.

Driven by BYOD, 58 percent of business leaders are pushing for more video collaboration tools, according to a recent 2,000-respondent survey sponsored by Avaya.

What does it all mean?

Business and IT leaders are still investing. However, they are investing carefully, looking for easy-to-use mobile video collaboration solutions, while keeping a close eye on cost, value and deployment risk.

Related article: Why Can’t Microsoft Get Lync to Work In Its Own Backyard?

Into this environment enters Microsoft Lync 2013. Microsoft touts improvements in the latest version of Lync. It is pushing hard for customers using Lync today as their desktop instant messaging app to upgrade to voice and video, as well.

I recently returned from the Enterprise Connect 2013 conference in Orlando, where Microsoft did a slick keynote demo of Lync 2013. However, there were some things about Lync that Microsoft didn’t share with the audience – things that we discovered from interviewing nearly 100 IT leaders, channel partners and analysts. Before you engage with Microsoft, you should prepare by considering these seven areas of concern:

#1: Lync’s limited video conferencing capabilities

Lync’s pathway into enterprises was as a low-cost instant messaging application. Despite improvements, its video capabilities remain immature even in Lync 2013:

No end-to-end solution. Microsoft doesn’t yet provide executive video desktops, video room systems, video gateways or telepresence systems. Even more importantly, Lync’s multi-party video solution only works on desktops.

Limited conferencing capabilities. You can only have continuous presence with 5 different parties in Lync 2013, for example. Also missing are common features such as dual presentation, multicasting and server-side recording. And interoperability with 3rd-party systems remains undefined.

Until this is addressed, Lync remains an island in the sea of collaboration, unable to work with any of your existing room-based video conferencing gear or telepresence systems. By comparison, Avaya offers full end-to-end video collaboration, from room systems to desktop and mobile clients, all fully interoperable with all major 3rd-party systems.

High resource utilization. Bandwidth is a huge part of your TCO. But Lync uses up to 600 percent more bandwidth than competing distributed media solutions, according to a white paper by Constellation Research’s Dr. E. Brent Kelly.

# 2: Inconsistent support for BYOD.

BYOD has been driven by workers toting their personal Samsung Galaxy smartphones and iPad devices. But Lync doesn’t do a great job of supporting BYOD. While it can support instant messaging and presence on Windows, Android and iOS, features such as viewing shared meeting content and simultaneous multi-party video are mostly missing from iOS
and Android devices.

The problem is that Android and iOS dominate, together holding 92% of the global smartphone market, while Windows holds just 2.6%.

# 3: Lync voice remains limited.

Voice is supposed to be Lync 2013’s biggest area of improvement. But there are many enterprise-class features it lacks that Avaya Aura has. To get Lync 2013 voice running well, you’ll need to buy additional 3rd-party gateways, Session Border Controllers for security as well as new desk and conference phones. If you already have a contact center or telephony solution in place, you’ll need to rip it out completely if you choose Lync (for the fiscal implications, see point #6.

There’s no contact center or call recording features. Such limitations may inhibit using Lync in your business. For instance, Lync’s weaknesses with the feature ‘call park’ may prevent many retailers from adopting it. These are all things that we, with decades of experience in communications and the most innovative solutions, already do better.

#4: Lync requires complex integration for real-time collaboration. To get Lync working as well as other solutions, you’ll need to source a variety of applications from 3rd-party vendors. For enterprises looking for reliability, simplicity and “one throat to choke,” it’s bad news.

Lync’s complexity is evident even at the most basic level. Well-known enterprise IT analyst Josh Greenbaum recently detailed his failed attempt to get Lync working with the cloud-based Office 365 in his blog, “Microsoft Lync 2013 Flunks the Unified Communications Opportunity.”

Cloud apps aimed at small companies are supposed to be easy to use, but Greenbaum was stymied, despite four calls to Microsoft tech support, two to his ISP’s, and Greenbaum’s background as a seasoned IT pro. Greenbaum’s conclusion? Lync is “a bloody nightmare” and “not worth the trouble.”

#5: Unproven “-ilities”.

Complexity is not just an academic issue. It means you need more IT staff, more training in new, different pieces of software, and more places where things can go wrong, costing you time and money. Lync customers will need to deploy management stations for each 3rd-party system, as well as real-time performance monitoring software. Even then, survivability of branch office telephony in Lync is limited to basic features only (messaging and conferencing are not available). That forces Lync customers to either endure costly downtime or invest more to prevent it.

Which leads me to…

#6: Lync Voice is more expensive.

Forget what you think you know about Lync’s cost based on what you pay Microsoft for IM. Switching to Lync for your voice is likely to be much more expensive. That’s not just my opinion, but the findings of Robin
Gareiss, co-founder and analyst at Nemertes Research. In her No Jitter piece, “Considering Lync for Telephony? Plan for Rising Opex,” Gareiss writes that “Lync’s operational costs can be significantly higher than competitors’.”

According to detailed interviews with 211 real-world customers that had actually installed and run Lync or solutions from other vendors (including Avaya), Lync customers spent an average of $1,912 on operational costs in the first year, nearly 3x more than the median (and more than 6x than customers using Avaya).

Customers of Microsoft attributed the higher cost “to challenges related to integration and sound quality,” according to Nemertes. While operational costs do fall 20% after the first two years, according to Nemertes, they will still make up the bulk of any businesses’ communications budget. Meaning Lync will likely remain pricier for you than other solutions. To learn more, you can download the entire Nemertes white paper here.

At Avaya, meanwhile, we are very sensitive to enterprise budget realities. Our solutions can offer you a better TCO through efficiency and ease of manageability, as my CEO Kevin Kennedy recently told No Jitter.

#7: Lync Reduces Customer Choice. This might seem strange, considering Microsoft’s heavy reliance on 3rd-party components. But Microsoft’s bundling of its solutions can leave enterprises effectively locked in. That’s a problem when Redmond raises its prices 15% for client enterprise software like Lync, as it did last December.

 You’ll face no such lock-in here at Avaya. As Kennedy, who gave the keynote speech at Enterprise Connect last week, told No Jitter: “We have an end-to-end play, but we have an open stack.”

Let’s give Microsoft some credit. They’ve done a great job at popularizing enterprise IM and presence, and have about half of the market. At the same time, many customers have successfully deployed real-time communications solutions from Avaya. So what should the enterprise do?

If you are looking for the best real-time communications and collaboration solution that preserves your existing workflows and keeps your TCO low, you should take a good look at Avaya. Our Avaya Client Applications 6.2 plug-inworks with our proven Avaya Aura communications stack to deliver simple, high-quality and reliable voice to Lync as well as Office 365, and at an estimated cost over three years of between 1.8x to 3x cheaper than Microsoft can do.

“Avaya’s ACA 6.2 plug-in is an ideal solution for customers who want to use Microsoft Lync for presence and instant messaging, but prefer the field-proven Avaya back-end infrastructure for telephony and collaboration,” says Ira Weinstein, senior analyst and partner with Wainhouse Research. Avaya’s “solution lets customers choose the experience they want, without increasing complexity.”

So let’s not be swept up by the hyperbole around Lync and the assumptions you may have as a Lync instant messaging user. The facts and figures show that if you are thinking of deploying an easy-to-use, mobile video collaboration solution for any of your users, Avaya offers a simpler, better-quality and more tried-and-tested solution than Lync, and at a much lower cost to boot.

If you have invested in Lync for IM or presence, you can expand into Unified Communications and earn maximum value at minimal cost and risk by integrating with Avaya. No need to impact your contact center, or risk impacting the reliability of your communications systems. That makes sense anytime, of course, but it’s the perfect solution in these challenging economic times.