According to a recent Gartner Magic Quadrant report for Unified Communications, Microsoft, Cisco, and Nortel are the industry leaders in terms of both innovation and the ability to actually deliver that innovation to customers. Nortel and Microsoft have an intimate partnership through their ICA (Innovative Communications Alliance) relationship with Microsoft, and they work very closely together to ensure seamless interoperability of their unified communications products.
Cisco is another story. At one point Microsoft and Cisco made a very public showing of burying the proverbial hatchet and vowing to cooperate in the best interests of corporate customers and unified communications in general. That cooperation lasted right up until they started rolling out products at which time the mud-slinging began. Each declared their approach and solution superior and slammed the other.
Whether they want to admit it or not though, they are sort of forced to play nicely together (sort of like the nerd and the playground bully while the teacher is actually monitoring recess activities). Cisco is a dominant player in network infrastructure and VoIP communications. Microsoft has a virtual monopoly on the PC desktop and a significant share of the enterprise server market. There is a high probability that a prospective customer is already using Cisco networking in conjunction with their Microsoft Windows network, so that prospective customer may very well wish to continue that balance as they move forward into unified communications.
Thankfully for the prospective customer, Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) does integrate with the Microsoft Office Communications Server environment. It isn’t always pretty, but it works. Mike Stacy, a Director with Evangelyze Communications, provides an illustrated step-by-step guide to configuring direct SIP connectivity between the Cisco and Microsoft communications products.