Gartner recently published its 2014 Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications and the two biggest nuggets were Microsoft edging out Cisco to move to the top of the “leader” quadrant and Mitel moving from “visionary” to leader, in large part of the strength of its Aastra acquisition.
Gartner gives Microsoft high marks for its work in turning Lync into a true UC platform, saying, “Lync offers a full suite of UC functionality that Microsoft continues to improve with each release.” As with other players, including IBM, Gartner likes when UC tools integrate with other business applications that employees use day-to-day, meaning the Office suite in Microsoft’s case. (Gartner specifically called out Office Graph and Cortana, though, which were not on the tip of my tongue.)
Under its “cautions” list for Microsoft, Gartner offers this:
Few IT managers report that they have completely eliminated their PBXs in Lync implementations. Typically, Lync IM/presence and Web conferencing are deployed across the broader employee base, while telephony is deployed only for a subset of employees.
It certainly makes sense that Lync would be deployed first for IM, presence and the like and that telephony would come later. If you’re more concerned with telephony, however, perhaps Cisco is a better bet – and the company still gets high marks. As Gartner says:
Cisco UC is an attractive solution for midsize, large and multinational corporations requiring strong voice and video capabilities. It is also attractive to enterprises that require full UC client support on leading mobile platforms and on Apple Macs, and those that wish to leverage Cisco's networking infrastructure.
Mitel is another strong alternative on a number of fronts, according to Gartner. Mitel gets credit for streamlining its offerings, although it still has a rather dizzying array of platforms and suites to choose from, many of them from its Aastra acquisition. For example, there are two call management platforms – MiVoice Business for “midsize to large enterprises,” and MiVoice MX-One (from Aastra), “targeted at large and very large enterprises.” The same goes for various UC functions.
Still, Gartner saw fit to promote Mitel to the leader quadrant and had this to say:
Organizations looking for a fully integrated UC approach at an attractive price, those looking for flexible cloud options and those evaluating telephony communications functionality to integrate with Microsoft Lync should evaluate Mitel's MiVoice and MiCollab UC solutions. Enterprises with existing Aastra investments should consider the MiCollab road map.
Rounding out the leader quadrant is Avaya, which also gets credit for having a broad portfolio of telephony and UC products, and for supporting third party software and services. As Gartner says:
Consider Avaya Aura if you need to bring together heterogeneous environments (systems, services and devices) or have significant investments in Avaya that you wish to migrate toward a next-generation UC solution.
Unify, the former Siemens Enterprise Communications, was bumped from the leader quadrant to visionary. While Gartner doesn’t explicitly spell out the reason, it seems the rebranding and recent management changes were of most concern. As Gartner wrote in its “caution” section about Unify:
In the past 12 months, Unify has undertaken significant management and go-to-market changes. For example, the vendor announced that it plans to reduce half its staff over the next six quarters. It will take time to complete these changes, which could be disruptive internally. While Unify's customers and channels themselves could be disrupted by the significant organizational and go-to-market changes, these changes will provide an opportunity for an increased sales footprint through channel expansion. Executing successful change in this climate could be challenging, and enterprises should ensure that the vendor is executing well on its plans.
Only Toshiba was dropped entirely from this year’s Magic Quadrant, because Gartner says the company focuses on the smaller and midsize enterprise segment, not the midsize and large enterprises that are the focus of the UC Magic Quadrant. Aastra Technologies, since Mitel acquired it, also does not appear in its own right this year.