Jabber vs Lync/Skype for Business

Jabber & Skype - which is better?

Jabber & Skype - which is better? What a difficult question to answer. I personally much prefer the Lync/Skype experience to that of Cisco Jabber - but why? How do you quantify that? It's a question that gets asked a lot by businesses now, and certainly ones that are heavily invested in Cisco.

It's an interesting fight isn't it? I saw a comment from a Cisco commentator a while ago asking:

'Do you want an Enterprise Communications Platform that also does Instant Messaging, or do you want an Enterprise Instant Messaging platform that also does some telephony?'.

I think that's a little disingenuous really, and doesn't tell the whole story.

There's an (obviously one sided!) document from Microsoft here, that's worth reviewing:

Comparing Skype for Business versus Slack, Cisco, and Google Hangouts

Technical Comparison
The problem you can often run in to when running a technical assessment of products is a lack of differentiator. How do you choose between say a Mitel PBX and a Cisco one for example - on a list of functional capabilities? The gap isn't big, if it exists at all. Yet people constantly do, much preferring the Cisco UCM route in my experience.

It's more than a list of functions.

It's the same with Skype vs Jabber. Look at them from a functional basis and what gaps do you see? Not many really:


Both products do this in some form don't they? …and yet.

Do I need to choose?
This is another interesting question. Do you have to choose between Cisco & Microsoft? Well, no, is the answer. A Cisco voice platform with Lync/Skype on top is probably one of the most common deployment topologies we see. Some view it as the best of both worlds - leveraging Cisco's excellent Call manager platform, while utilising Microsoft's brilliance in the software space.

The only comment I'd make on this model is that once a user starts using Skype for telephony, the user won't care how you're delivering that telephony from an architecture point of view - they're a Skype user. Now, with that comes pressure from other users - they look on enviously at the roaming user who gets their services everywhere, and an any device…and they end up wanting it too. If you're not careful you end up with a large proportion of your estate on Skype, with a smaller Cisco back end just supporting the transport. I've seen this happen a lot - you end up re-engineering around the Cisco platform.

Field Experience
I'll be the first to point out this is subjective opinion…..I've never seen a site move from Lync to Jabber and the users enjoy the experience. Ever. Yet companies sometimes do this. Often as they're invested in Cisco, and expanding on their Skype deployment may involve additional costs in product/licenses. Legitimate reasons of course, but it's not one the users enjoy from my exposure to it.

I think this is where the gap starts to widen. Integration of Microsoft apps into, well, the Microsoft ecosystem is far stronger than Cisco's (Who knew etc.). Everything from the look and feel - it's all familiar, it's all Office.

Cisco isn't that far behind to be fair, but the interface isn't as familiar, and it doesn't have the integration points that Microsoft has.

Usage - Switching Modalities
This is an interesting one - one of the things I love about Skype is the ability to start with one conversation type and quickly move to another. It's simply how conversations go.

Start with an IM, jump to voice, share some docs, drag in another person etc. You go from an IM to a full on-line multi-party conference simply and easily. Using different clients to achieve this drops the user's drive to use them - jumping between Jabber and WebEx for example. You need to plan and have an idea of what you want to use.

The Office365 Juggernaut
If usage is one thing that starts leveraging the difference, I think Office365 is really where value and capabilities start stretching the divide.

Pretty much
all of my clients are on the Office365 roadmap or considering it. Astonishing isn't it - ALL. I can't remember the last time I did on on-prem Exchange migration that wasn't consolidation in expectation of a '365 move.

This is where the Microsoft Value proposition comes in - Skype is in pretty much all of the Enterprise Subscriptions within Office365. It's there - you buy an E3, and you get it by default. Whether you use it or not is a value choice - but why would you pay for something twice? WAIT - Jabber is free, right? Well, sure, apart from the infrastructure you need to run it on….

You then take in to account what's coming with Office365 & Skype for Business - the roadmap. Things such as:

  • Dial in PSTN Conferencing. We're all familiar with this - dial a number, enter your PIN etc. This will be natively available in Office365 so you won't need any additional kit on-prem. Even the lines will be provided by Office365, so you don't even need to worry about channel consumption.
  • Native PSTN Calling. This is the ability to make normal phone calls directly from Skype within Office365 - so again, not requiring any on-prem equipment or lines. All the infrastructure is from Office365.
  • Integration to on-prem PBX. Soon enough you'll be able to integrate your Office365 Skype users to your existing on-prem PBX. If you should want to.

I think once you start looking at the value proposition from Microsoft and Office365 - the gap between Jabber and Skype for Business starts to get wider. Quickly.

What about QoS! I need Enterprise Grade Voice Quality! Well, that's coming too by way of
Express Route.

In some respects I think with telephony and voice we are where we were maybe five years ago with Email. Back then the idea of putting all of your corp email into the cloud was a bit wild & crazy. Now - not so much. I suspect large groups of users will start utilising '365 for voice as their working model allows it. I would fit the model for example - never in the office, always work from remote sites or home, and never use a traditional desk phone.

Delivering my telephony natively out of a cloud - why would I care? Truth is of course it's exactly what I do today anyway - use Skype Consumer as my everyday phone.

It won't match for all users - users with more complex requirements will still need a more complete functional delivery…but…the cloud will catch up.

How to summarise without having the hounds of subjectivity after me in the comments section…I think the Skype for Business proposition is a stronger one on every level than Jabber. It's a nicer environment to use, user's like it, and the IT Business has a stronger roadmap for delivering better services, more efficiently (I.e. Cheaper) in the future.

Microsoft have this right.

Would I be disappointed if I ended up working for somebody who only had Jabber deployed? No, no I wouldn't. It isn't a bad platform - if you think I'm saying it is then I've obviously not written this in a way that represents my thoughts. I just think the SfB one, combined with the roadmap for '365, is a far stronger proposition.

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