Microsoft Rebuts Siemens Criticism of Its UC Strategy

A Microsoft official says that Siemens' OpenScape adds complexity on top of existing siloed systems.

The war of words between Microsoft and Siemens is heating up over which of their unified communications solutions is better and more appropriate to customer needs.

Earlier this month, executives at Siemens Communications, a market leader in the UC space, told eWEEK that Microsoft was late to the unified communications game and that its offering was inadequate.

Those comments came ahead of Microsofts Oct. 16 launch of Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator 2007, two products core to the companys UC offering and the click-to-communicate abilities of its software.

"If it is a Microsoft-based solution, you can be sure the company has some pretty tight ties into it. And if it doesnt say Microsoft, as far as they are concerned it doesnt exist, and its not important, and why would you use it? That approach is not helpful to customers with heterogeneous platforms," said David Leach, a senior consultant at Siemens.


To read more about how Siemens panned Microsofts UC offering, click here.

Siemens believes in a strategy of open unified communications, practiced in its OpenScape offering, where the elements are unified regardless of which vendors provide them, Leach said, adding that Microsofts solution works only on the Microsoft platform.

But Microsoft hit back hard, with Gurdeep Pall, corporate vice president for the Redmond, Wash., companys unified communications group, telling eWEEK that Siemens OpenScape just keeps adding more complexity on top of existing complex siloed systems, which goes against the industry trend of scrapping the silos for a more unified approach.

As to the "openness" of OpenScape, Pall said that product would be best characterized as an open alternative that sits on top of the old model, and that it will exist only as long as there are PBXes for it to sit on top of.


Read more here about Microsofts UC strategy.

In contrast, one of the biggest advantages of Microsofts solution is the cost benefits it brings, Pall said, although he did acknowledge that the move away from traditional PBX systems to Microsofts software-based unified communications approach is a tough decision for the PBX vendors.

With regard to the failure of Exchange 2000 Conferencing Server, Pall said the product did not get broadly adopted primarily because of two technology evolution points that had not been reached at that time: network speed and processing power.

"I think that world has completely changed, as advances in processing power and network speeds have both made hugely significant advances since then. Exchange 2000 Conferencing Server came to market too early, which was clear in the fact that during its entire lifetime we probably didnt even have a hundred customers," he said.


Siemens pushes unified communications toward SAAS. Click here to read more.

In contrast, there were already 150 customers in production before Microsoft even shipped Office Communications Server, with tens of thousands of people inside Microsoft also using the product, he said.

But some, like Keith McCall, the chief technology officer for Azaleos and a former Exchange executive, are not convinced that widespread adoption will happen anytime soon.

"Were not exactly seeing huge demand from our over 40,000 managed e-mail users for Office Communications Server. Those customers looking to deploy it at this time tend to be early adopters, and the cycle for adoption is likely to take three to five years as companies will need to buy either an IP-PBX bridge or a new IP-PBX solution to take full advantage of OCS," he said.


Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.