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

Well, this is embarrassing: Apparently, Microsoft can’t get the phones to work in their own county.

The company recently sold King County, Washington—home of their Redmond headquarters—an $18.6 million, Lync-based phone system that has been plagued with problems since being installed in 2011.

Chief among those glitches? County employees need to boot up their computers to make phone calls.

Lync Headaches in King County, Washington

In a February survey of the King County Legislative department, nearly 4 out of 10 county employees said they were having issues with their Lync phones—notably problems transferring calls, experiencing poor call clarity/quality and calls getting dropped altogether.

Seattle’s KIRO-TV reports that the only reliable phones in the county belong to the 911 dispatch center, which we happen to know runs an Avaya CS1000 system.

Despite the problems in their own county, Microsoft likes to tout its Lync-based solutions as the top dog in enterprise telephony.

Do the numbers add up, or does a little more digging tell a different story?

In a rebuttal posted shortly after Microsoft’s claim in October, Enzo Signore, Avaya’s Vice President of Marketing, laid out statistics from No Jitter’s Eric Krapf and the Dell’Oro Group showing Avaya holding the undisputed lead in the global enterprise telephony market, as measured by both deployed phone lines AND revenue.

Just months after No Jitter questioned Microsoft’s claims of leadership in enterprise telephony, the blog ran an article portraying the Unified Communications market as a two-horse race between Lync and Cisco’s Jabber.

Let’s take a look at the missing third horse in UC.

In his post, Enzo said:

“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 comprising tens of millions of employees are trusting the Avaya Client Applications (ACA) plug-in, which offers best-of-breed Unified communications by combining Microsoft Lync for IM and presence, and Avaya for everything else.

This gives enterprises 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 voice solution, which happens to be number one in the market according to Dell’Oro.

Global Enterprise Telephony Market Statistics

King County might have avoided its Lync-related headaches if it had gone with Avaya instead.

As Signore points out:

“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.

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.”

So what if the decision is made to pair Avaya with Lync? We integrate well with Lync via our Avaya Client Applications (ACA) plug-in.

Avaya Client Applications Plug-In

Microsoft administrators can provide Unified Communication services to clients using Avaya Aura® Communication Manager.

This gives employees using the Microsoft Lync Client two telephony modes, Phone and Computer mode. Phone mode allows the user to control the desktop phone, with media going over existing PBX telephony equipment. Computer mode allows the user to use the computer as a soft client phone.

In short, we provide the solutions that help companies and government organizations avoid the kinds of problems that King County is facing. Galesburg, Illinois did a similar overhaul, using Avaya solutions. They needed to cover applications across a wide range of services and realize cost-savings.

And it worked.

Orlee Lucero, Information System Supervisor for the City of Galesburg, said:

“We wanted better conferencing capabilities, improved voicemail, and mobility. And above all, we wanted the ability to administer our system in-house, without incurring the delays and costs involved in calling for service to handle every change or minor troubleshooting situation.”

The change was dramatic. Dane Bragg, the City Manager, put it this way:

“Being able to build such a robust business continuity system has made this phone system for all intents and purposes more reliable than the Centrex service we had previously. We now have a comprehensive communications solution that will enable all our sites to maintain their telephone service during virtually any emergency. We no longer need to worry that we will be unable to communicate with a service site such as the Streets Division, which is critical to managing weather-related emergencies, or that citizens will not be able to reach us during a disaster.”

The installation in Galesburg resulted in a cost savings of $84,000 a year.

No doubt, King County administrators wish they could say the same.

Related Articles:

What Smart Analysts Think About Microsoft's Lync Telephony Claims

black telephone handset disconnected.jpg

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.

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:

dell oro total pbx shipments.JPG

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.