As CTO for the collaboration group at Cisco, I get asked this question all of the time – are you guys committed to a multi-vendor environment with Microsoft?
Gosh, I find this a frustrating question. Why is that? Because most (not all, but almost!) customers we sell to also have Microsoft products in them. In fact, it’s hard for us to even imagine a customer environment that is entirely Microsoft-free. So really, the better question to ask is: What mixes of Microsoft and Cisco products do you support, and how do you support integration with each of the products in the Microsoft portfolio?
Cisco is investing more today in integration with Microsoft technologies than we have ever done before.
When put in those terms – when I look at what we’re doing today, I feel confident in saying that Cisco is investing more today in integration with Microsoft technologies than we have ever done before. Let’s take them one at a time.
- Active Directory: Perhaps the most ubiquitous product in the Microsoft portfolio. At Cisco, we have no equivalent. As a result, we’ve invested heavily in the last few years to make AD a central part of our products, especially Cisco Spark. We’ve built a directory sync engine that integrates with AD, treating it as the source of truth and syncing its contents with our Cisco Spark cloud. We use AD for SAML-based SSO when users sign in to Cisco Spark.
- Exchange: Second only to AD in its pervasiveness in our customer environments. Since Exchange is where people go to schedule meetings, we’ve invested heavily in making it a central part of our meetings solutions. Cisco Spark supports integration with Exchange on-prem and O365, making sure it is the source of truth for when meetings happen. Our first hybrid offering was calendar integration with Exchange.
- Outlook: WebEx Productivity Tools integrate natively with Outlook, allowing users to schedule WebEx meetings with a single click. Today, this represents the most common way people schedule WebEx meetings. Cisco Jabber supports click-to-call, presence, and click-to-chat integrations into Outlook, and similar functionality is on the way for Cisco Spark as well.
- Word, PowerPoint, Excel: The bread-and-butter of Microsoft‘s productivity tools are a centerpiece of our content strategy for Cisco Spark. It supports native rendering of these files within Cisco Spark.
These four are particularly important to us because Cisco doesn’t offer alternatives to these, and consequently, we work to make them essential parts of our solution. Indeed, we recommend customers deploy these in concert with the rest of our portfolio.
Our philosophy has always been that we will support customers that want a mixed-vendor environment.
Where things get more complex is with the next two on the list, Skype for Business and Teams, as these products compete directly with us. Our philosophy has always been that we will support customers that want a mixed-vendor environment where Cisco’s Collaboration products (video, Jabber, Cisco Spark, calling) are deployed alongside other vendors’ conflicting products. Interoperability has always been a major source of investment for us.
- Skype for Business: S4B is the best example of our commitment to interoperability. S4B clients can join Cisco meetings hosted on-prem or in the cloud. In the cloud, we support SIP dial-in including explicit support for S4B and Lync clients for application/screen sharing and video interoperability. On-prem, we’ve gone a step further. With our significant investment in the acquisition of Acano, we also support the ability to join S4B meetings, providing the best possible experience for users on our endpoints. We support voice, IM, and presence interoperability between S4B on-prem and Jabber/UC. We do all that using interfaces that Microsoft makes available to us, typically ones it formally supports through APIs or protocol interoperability.
- Microsoft Teams: As Teams is relatively new, we are currently exploring what level of interoperability is possible. Microsoft only recently released its API previews and our engineers are assessing – so stay tuned. Microsoft has yet to enable calling and messaging interop for O365, but if they do, we would be most interested to leverage it.
All this is just the beginning. As customer adoption of Microsoft’s newer products – like OneDrive and Teams grows – we’ll use supported APIs to make them work with our portfolio. I hope you can see that here at Cisco we’re committed to Microsoft integration. Indeed, though we compete in the marketplace, it’s hard for us to imagine a world without them.