Changing the Channel: Networking VAR news

Jun 10 2009   8:53PM GMT

Unified communications: Microsoft/HP vs. Cisco

ElaineHom Elaine Hom Profile: ElaineHom

At a press conference last Wednesday at the Cisco Partner Summit in Boston, John Chambers made a pretty interesting comment when asked about Microsoft’s recent UC partnership with HP:

“We compete with Microsoft in UC, and are partnering with them closely in other areas. What was interesting to us in their announcement last week… MS has been saying for years that the network doesn’t matter, their slogan: “VoIP as you are.” They just picked the wrong partner [HP]. That’s why Cisco has become market leader. Interesting that MS has recognized the importance of the network, but we think HP will probably not add value. We’re the best company in the world to deliver networking capabilities as far as unified communications.”

He raises an interesting point. Microsoft is probably a little late in the game in recognizing the importance of the network now, but at least they finally did. Yet the plan that MS has laid out with HP seems quite generous in terms of what they plan to accomplish. A big chunk of money is going into HP ProCurve’s networking hardware so it can integrate with Microsoft’s products, but Cisco is confident that its products are already there. (It’s pretty obvious that the products are there, seeing as Cisco already has a similar UC interoperability partnership with Microsoft.)

The question is, what kind of vendors are partners willing to sell to their customers? When talking to a partner about selling virtualization in the data center, he snorted when I asked if he was ready to sell Cisco.

“Why would I take a chance on Cisco,” he said, “when I’ve been partnered with HP and VMware for years?”

The same idea applies to taking a chance on Microsoft/HP over Cisco. Why would someone go with Microsoft, who only recently realized the importance of a network and partnered with HP, who only in the last ten years made the foray into networking products, over a vendor who built its foundation on networking and has been touting the importance of since the 1980s?

Are partners willing to take a chance on the Microsoft/HP team, or would they stay with the time-tested champion of networking, as John Chambers thinks?

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