Cisco Unified Communications Primer

Modern business communication capabilities have evolved tremendously from the days of analog and digital telephony. Back then, we relied on Private Branch Exchanges (PBXs) located physically at each site to control the analog and digital signaling for local phones and other devices such as fax machines and overhead paging solutions.

Likewise, the PBX also defined and controlled the signaling of external trunks to the telephony carrier’s central office (CO).

Today, the implementation of server-based solutions based on the TCP/IP protocol suite has become standard practice. These newer IP-based PBXs fulfill exactly the same role as traditional PBXs by housing the dial plan; identity of endpoints, gateways, trunks, etc.; device features like Call Park, pickup, Music on Hold (MoH), confer­encing, etc.; and other communications configurations.

While the Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) is at the heart of Cisco’s UC design, there are many additional components that greatly increase the organization’s capabilities to stay connected.

For example, a few of these additional server-based resources include:

Cisco Unified Presence

This feature-rich UC component uses standards-based protocols such as the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and the Jabber Extensible Communications Platform (XCP) to work with a range of native and third-party client ap­plications.

Users are able to initiate such activities as instant messaging, presence, click to call, phone control, voice, video, visual voicemail, and web collaboration. Cisco Unified Presence lays the foundation to deliver enterprise IM and Cisco rich, network-based, presence-enabled collaboration capabilities.

Cisco Unity Connection

Cisco Unity Connection is a Linux-based appliance that provides a robust unified messaging platform for Cisco’s Unified Communications suite of products. This product allows the user to access and manage voice messages in a variety of ways, using his/her email inbox, web browser, Cisco Unified IP Phone, smartphone, Cisco Unified Personal Communicator, etc.

Additionally, Unity Connection provides speech recognition features for mobile users, ensuring the user can safely and quickly manage and access voicemail while driving or otherwise preoccupied.

Cisco Unified Contact Center

This powerful set of products comes in two variations:

  1. Enterprise — Delivers intelligent contact routing, call treatment, network-to-desktop computer telephony integration (CTI), and multichannel contact management for large-scale enterprise deployments
  2. Express — Designed for midmarket, enterprise branch, or corporate departments requiring a sophisti­cated customer interaction management solution for up to 400 agents

Cisco’s UC products evolved over the years from Windows applications installed on Microsoft Server plat­forms to predominantly appliance-based solutions installed on Linux platforms. The included system, network, and user features have increased steadily with each release, but the most dramatic improvements can be seen in the most recent version of the Cisco UC, currently in version 8.x. As of version 8.0(2), virtualized deployment is fully supported, when installed on the Cisco UCS architecture.

UC on UCS Requirements

Cisco supports virtualizing your Unified Communications solutions on the UCS system, according to these require­ments/considerations:

  1. Cisco UC applications supported in a virtual environment include:
    • Unified Communications Manager 8.0(2)
    • Unified Contact Manager Express 8.0(2)
    • Cisco Unified Presence 8.0(1)
    • Cisco Unity 7.0(2)
    • Cisco Unity Connection 8.0(2)
  2. The only hypervisor supported initially is VMware vSphere ESXi version 4.x which includes more of the real-time enhancements required for UC than ESX. Any other hypervisor versions, products, or vendors are not supported.
  3. Bare-mental/physical/non-virtualized installs are not supported.
  4. Dedicated CPU/RAM/Storage is required for the VMs, oversubscription is not yet supported.
  5. VMware supported SAN storage is required.
  6. 1-4 Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) Virtual Machines per server, dependent on the model, with MCS 7845 parity per VM (7,500 users).
  7. Application co-residency is not yet supported — the ultimate goal is “mix and match.”
  8. Only “Basic” features supported (e.g., copy VM, restart VM, HA, SRM), “Advanced” features are deferred to future versions (e.g., vMotion, snapshots, DRM, templates, DPM, etc.) .
  9. The hardware BIOS, firmware, and drivers are managed by UCS and VMware, not by CUCM.
  10. The boot order is controlled by the VMware virtual machine’s BIOS instead of by the CUCM Application.

Related Courses
DCUCI – Cisco Data Center Unified Computing Implementation
CIPT1v8.0 – Cisco IP Telephony part 1
CVOICEv8.0 – Implementing Cisco Unified Communications Voice over IP and QoS

This post is reprinted and used with permission from Virtualizing Your Cisco Unified Communications with Cisco UCS

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