CISCO UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS


IP networks in general, and the Internet in particular, have made communications a smorgasbord of availability. Getting in touch with somebody is as easy as sending an e-mail, instant messaging, making an IP phone call, or even video conferencing. Using an IP network to get in touch with someone is like opening a bag of Halloween candy-you have many options. However, like that bag of Halloween candy, too many options can be too much. While too many little candy bars can make you sick, too many methods of communication can give you a headache.

Different applications are needed to make an IP phone call, send an e-mail, or transmit an instant message. To this point, there has been no method of combining all these modes of communication. Seeing the need to converge all these applications, Cisco has introduced its Cisco Unified Communications solution.

Cisco Unified Communications is a suite of voice, video, and data products to help organizations of all sizes communicate more effectively.

Figure 9-10 shows how Cisco Unified Communications' components of presence, location, and call-processing intelligence work together to deliver the next generation of business communications.

image from book
Figure 9-10: Cisco Unified Communications is based on three components

Cisco Unified Communications is an open and extensible platform for real-time communications. It utilizes the computer network as a service platform to help users reach the correct resource the first time and by delivering presence and preference information to the organization's users.

"This Changes Everything"

Spend five seconds around Cisco Unified Communications, and you'll hear the efforts of the marketing department with their slogan, "This changes everything." The phrase gets old pretty quickly, but you have to hand it to Cisco-this system does, in fact, change everything.

The impetus behind Cisco Unified Communications is an effort on Cisco's part to change the face of business communications, not just fill an existing need.

Communications are critical to organizations, and they have been developed and deployed out of necessity. That is, people need to talk to other people, so a phone is put on everyone's desk. People need to e-mail other people, so e-mail accounts are set up. Cisco, however, believes that effective communications are lacking. Rather than simply provide a telephone and e-mail account, communications needs to be more robust and intelligent.

With the Cisco Unified Communications solution, users are able to do everything from their PCs or IP phones with a suite of feature-rich applications.

Cisco Unified Presence Server

One of the big attractions of the Cisco Unified Communications system is the Cisco Unified Presence Server. The server collects information about a user's status, including whether he or she is on the telephone already, and then applications like Cisco Unified Personal Communicator and Cisco Unified CallManager can help the user connect by determining the best mode of communication.

The server gathers information from the network along with Cisco Unified CallManager, third-party devices using SIP, and SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE), and then publishes that information to Cisco Unified IP Phones, Cisco Personal Communicator, and third-party applications, like Microsoft Live Communications Server 2005.

The process of communicating with someone using Cisco Unified Communications is illustrated in Figure 9-11.

image from book
Figure 9-11: Cisco Unified Communications helps connect users

SIP Support

The big picture of Cisco Unified Communications is, of course, its convergence. Cisco took a big step when it embraced the SIP protocol for communications rather than pushing its proprietary SCCP, or Skinny, protocol.

As we mentioned earlier, Cisco had been pushing the SCCP protocol for years, but because it was proprietary to Cisco, no third-party vendors' equipment and applications could be part of a Cisco solution. It was a business practice that aimed to give Cisco dominance in the IP telephony world-as long as organizations decided to abandon other vendors for Cisco.

Adopting SIP is probably a better strategy on Cisco's part because it allows thirdparty applications and devices to be part of its unified communications structure. While this might, in some regards, seem as a defeatist move on Cisco's part, it actually makes the solution that much more available to organizations. Plus, Cisco at least gets its foot in the door.

This change in philosophy is part of Cisco Unified CallManager 5.0, a key piece of Cisco's VoIP platform. This change allows third-party phones to communicate with CallManager, which wasn't possible before. Naturally, this allows customers with existing SIP-capable phones to leverage their existing investments. That said, Cisco is hoping that customers will be more attracted to their feature-rich phones when developing an IP telephony solution.

Products and Components

When it was introduced in March 2006, Cisco Unified Communications included 40 new products for various organizations and missions. Those new products-as well as existing devices and applications-can be broken down into five components of Cisco Unified Communications:

  • IP telephony

  • Cisco Unified Communications applications

  • Cisco Unified Contact Center applications

  • Cisco Unified Communications infrastructure

  • Cisco Unified Communications Management suite

The following sections explain the products of each component.

IP Telephony

IP telephony within Cisco Unified Communications includes both individual telephones and call-processing applications.

IP Phones While the Cisco Unified Personal Communicator is a way to do it all with a computer, some people just really want to use a good, old-fashioned telephone. Cisco offers 14 models of Cisco Unified IP Phone in its Cisco Unified IP Phone 7900 Series.

Table 9-3 compares the various models within that series.

Table 9-3: Comparison of Cisco Unified IP Phones

Product

Number of Lines

Display

Protocols

Ethernet Switch

Cisco Unified IP Phone 7985G

1

Video

SCCP

10/100

Cisco Unified IP Phone 7971G-GE

8

Color

SCCP, SIP

10/100/1000

Cisco Unified IP Phone 7970G

8

Color

SCCP, SIP

10/100

Cisco Unified IP Phone 7961G-GE

6

Color

SCCP, SIP

10/100/1000

Cisco Unified IP Phone 7961G

6

Yes

SCCP, SIP

10/100

Cisco Unified IP Phone 7960G

6

Yes

SCCP, SIP, MGCP

10/100

Cisco Unified IP Phone 7941G-GE

2

Yes

SCCP, SIP

10/100/1000

Cisco Unified IP Phone 7941G

2

Yes

SCCP, SIP

10/100

Cisco Unified IP Phone 7940G

2

Yes

SCCP, SIP

10/100

Cisco Unified IP Conference Station 7936

1

Yes

SCCP

N/A

Cisco Unified IP Expansion Module 7914

14

Yes

N/A

N/A

Cisco Unified IP Phone 7912G

1

Yes

SCCP, SIP

10/100

Cisco Unified IP Phone 7911G

1

Yes

SCCP, SIP

10/100

Cisco Unified IP Phone 7905G

1

Yes

SCCP, SIP

No

Cisco Unified IP Phone 7902G

1

No

SCCP

No

The Cisco Unified IP Phone 7985G is a video phone-including a camera, screen, speaker, and handset-all in one device.

The Cisco Unified Wireless IP Phone 7920 is an 802.11b device that connects to a WiFi network and provides the same sorts of presence and communication features that its wired brothers support.

Cisco Unified Communications supports dual-mode phones through partnerships with Nokia and RIM. Cisco's softphone client will be available on their dual-mode phones, providing full-feature access to CallManager when they are within the organization's WiFi network.

Call Processing Cisco's various types of call-processing software is used for organizations of varying sizes and types to manage voice and video calls between IP phones, mediaprocessing appliances, and gateways to the PSTN.

Table 9-4 compares Cisco Unified Communication's call-processing products.

Table 9-4: Cisco Unified Communication's Call Processing Products

Product

Number of Users

Distributed or Centralized

Serveror Routerbased

Cisco Unified CallManager

Up to 30,000 per cluster

Centralized

Server

Cisco Unified CallManager Express

Up to 240

Centralized for small businesses, distributed in branch offices

Router

Cisco Unified Survivable Remote Site Telephony

Up to 720

Distributed in branch offices

Router

Cisco Unified Communications Applications

While the term IP telephony brings to mind specialized phones plugged into an Ethernet port, that's not the only way to communicate, especially with the Cisco Unified Communications architecture. The functions can also be used on a PC, without having to use a special telephone. These softphones, along with other relevant applications, are described in this section.

Clients Cisco offers three communications client applications with a variety of features from softphone functionality to video telephony. Cisco's top-shelf product in this line is its Cisco Unified Personal Communicator, which can be used in either a Windows or Mac environment.

The Cisco Unified Personal Communicator is a single application that handles all of users' communications: voice, video, and data. The tool has a user-friendly GUI, making it easy to move through multiple applications. Employing dynamic presence information, the user can search through a directory for the individual he or she wishes to contact, click that entry, and is connected. This is even more streamlined in that it employs presence information to locate that individual no matter where that person is physically in the organization. For example, if the person is away from his or her desk, the call might be routed to a cellular phone.

Table 9-5 compares these applications.

Table 9-5: Cisco Unified Communications Clients

Product

Call-Processing Application Required

Softphone Capability

Additional Hardware Required

Cisco IP Communicator

Cisco Unified CallManager Express or Cisco Unified Call Manager

Yes

None

Cisco Unified Video Advantage

Cisco Unified CallManager Express or Cisco Unified Call Manager

No

Cisco VT Camera, Cisco Unified IP Phone

Cisco Unified Personal Communicator

Cisco Unified CallManager v5.0

Yes

Cisco Unified Presence Server

Voice and Messaging Voice and messaging is delivered to organizations of varying sizes and needs using three components of the Cisco Unified Communications family. Table 9-6 compares these products.

Table 9-6: Cisco Unified Communications Voice and Messaging Components

Product

Users

E-mail Integration

Networking to Other Voicemail Systems

Integration with Other Non-Cisco Call Processing

Speech Recognition

Cisco Unity Express

250

Integrated

Cisco Unity only

No

No

Cisco Unity Connection

1,500

Integrated

No

Some

English only

Cisco Unity

7,500 per server; 250,000 networked.

Integrated or unified

Yes

Yes

Yes

Media Conferencing Cisco Unified Communications also makes media conferencing a breeze. For example, if you are using Cisco Unified Personal Communicator, just click the people you want to include in your call, and it brings them all together for your conference call. You can also share media, collaborate, and conduct a video conference. Again, Cisco has a product for organizations of varying sizes.

Table 9-7 compares its media-conferencing products.

Table 9-7: Cisco Unified Communications Media-Conferencing Products

Product

Concurrent Users

Connectivity

Web Collaboration

Video Collaboration

Cisco Unified MeetingPlace Express

20-120

IP

Yes

No

Cisco Unified MeetingPlace

960 IP or 1,152 TDM

IP or TDM

Yes

Yes

Cisco Unified Video conferencing

3-30

IP or ISDN

Data collaboration

Yes

Cisco Unified Contact Center Applications

The Cisco Unified Contact Center applications are used as part of a call center to enhance customer communications. There are several applications that can be used based on an organization's particular need. Applications include:

  • Cisco Unified Contact Center Express and Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise Designed for organizations of all sizes, this solution simplifies application integration, agent administration, and provides call routing, contact management, administration features, and automatic call distributor features, including:

  • Conditional routing.

  • Call-in-queue.

  • Expected wait-time messages.

  • In-depth reporting.

  • Cisco Unified Customer Voice Portal Customers use this application to interact with the Cisco Unified Contact Center using only speech. This application is XML-based and integrates with the rest of a Cisco Unified Contact Center solution.

  • Customer Interaction Analyzer Used by the contact center, this technology can listen to a call and analyze it based on word spotting, tone, inflection, and cadence. Then it can determine the customer's mood and call content, and make analytic information available to other applications. This can be passed along to customer service for training purposes so that they can give better service the next time.

  • Cisco Unified Intelligent Contact Management Enterprise A call-routing and computer telephony integration solution for legacy automatic call distribution systems. This solution can make intelligent routing decisions while the call is still within the PSTN system.

Cisco Communications Infrastructure

The Cisco Unified Communications solutions require specific routers and switches to function properly. Those routers and switches include:

  • Routers Cisco 2800, 3800, and 7200 Series

  • Switches Cisco Catalyst 2560, 3570, 4500, 6500 Series and the Catalyst Express 500 Series

Cisco Unified Communications Management Suite

The Cisco Unified Operations Manager and Cisco Unified Services Monitor are used to manage the Cisco Unified Communications solutions:

  • The Cisco Unified Operations Manager provides a single view of the entire Cisco Unified Communications deployment. It gives the operational status of each component in the solution and monitors that status.

  • Cisco Unified Services Monitor monitors active calls and gives notification if the voice quality falls below metrics established by the network administrator.

VoIP didn't really hit the ground as the Internet's killer app, but it is quickly becoming rather important. While early incarnations were good ways to save some money, especially when communicating with branch offices, the field is getting more featurerich. VoIP is now offering organizations new and exciting ways to communicate within the organization as well as with those calling in.




Cisco. A Beginner's Guide
Cisco: A Beginners Guide, Fourth Edition
ISBN: 0072263830
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 102

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