Cisco has another new “Unified Collaboration” system release, and for those fresh off the “Drive to 9”, some may wonder is another major systems upgrade really worth it? We of course recommend that you do, because obviously staying on the latest supported versions help with bug fixes, and security flaws, etc., but also, why not take advantage of newer, better, faster whenever possible? That’s the name of the game ultimately in IT. So, to make it easy for you, we’ve tried to highlight the best new features of Cisco’s UC 10.X Platform, in no specific order (drum-roll please…):
Cisco Collaboration Edge
Cisco’s primary focus of 10.X is all about extending UC devices beyond the corporate environment, and making things easier and less complex. From an end-user standpoint, they’ve done a good job. Collaboration Edge is a HUGE step in the right direction. What it does is allow Cisco Jabber users, whether they are on their Jabber Desktop client for Windows or Mac, or if they are using Jabber for iPhone, iPad or Android devices, to connect without the need for Cisco AnyConnect or other VPN solutions. It allows Instant Messaging, Call-Control, and Visual Voicemail to work within Jabber, without worrying about being connected back to the Corporate network. It also does not matter what type of Cisco Instant messaging deployment you use. If you have an on-premise IM & P deployment, or if you are using the hybrid model with WebEx Messenger, you can still connect and get the same end-user experience. We will be posting a blog soon on the setup of Collaboration Edge in the Byteworks environment, so look for that coming soon!
Cisco Jabber Guest
Cisco Jabber Guest leverages the Collaboration Edge infrastructure to allow any guest of the company to communicate with internal employees through a web browser, i.e., a company website for example. This is true “Business-to-Consumer” collaboration. A better description of this: let’s say you have your company website setup with a button that reads: “Click here to video-chat with a live agent.” The agent for the company is running Cisco Jabber, and they get a new window-popup within their client, and they are now sharing their video to a customer through the company website. Think Amazon Mayday.
Cisco UC Self-Care and Self-Provisioning
A really nice new feature of UC 10.x is the new Self-Provisioning and Self-Care features built in. Similar to what used to be called Cisco TAPS (Tool for Auto-Registered Phone Support), this functionality allows a Cisco Phone user to self-provision their own phone.
TAPS was first introduced in order to make rolling out and administering a large Cisco VoIP environment easier, however previously it was only available with a Cisco Unified Contact Center server. TAPS allowed you to create “Phone Templates” and have the end-user log into and provision any phone they receive as their own, simply by plugging in the phone and having the user dial a special number and enter their extension. With the release of CUCM 10.X, these functions are built-in to make the lives of the administrators easier. In addition to provisioning, any user can use the tool to change phone settings, names, directories, speed-dials and other personal phone settings.
Cisco Prime Collaboration Provisioning Standard
Another new tool is the Cisco Prime Collaboration Provisioning Standard. This software attempts to unify administration of your UC environment to one interface. As of version 10.X, this means you can administer CUCM, CUCME, Unity, Unity Connection and CUE.
This should hopefully keep you from having to remember all the IPs, usernames, and passwords for all of your systems like you do today and, best of all, the standard version is included with every install of CUCM 10.X.
This solution provides a single interface for a single cluster for call control, messaging, presence, and video. It provides Administrator audit logging and order tracking to promote accountability, network security, and operational control, and it can help facilitate troubleshooting. It uses Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) integration for user changes and helps ensure consistency among systems. Batch provisioning (single cluster only) increases operating efficiencies and reduces costs with scheduled scripts and templates that lets an operator rapidly and consistently add or modify a large number of users or a large number of endpoints or device profiles (and the corresponding configuration settings).
Cisco Prime Collaboration Assurance Standard
Another new tool from the Prime Collaboration line is the Collaboration Assurance Standard. This tool provides additional monitoring tools for the Cisco Unified Communications environment including CUCM, Unity Connection, and TelePresence.
The system can be configured to continuously monitor in real-time and do advanced troubleshooting of the environment. It can be configured to notify when a problem arises for proactive problem resolution. For video, it allows viewing of the end-to-end session paths including jitter and packet loss. In addition, The solution provides a web-enabled single interface for fault monitoring for core Cisco Unified Communications and video components. It has email notification of alarms and alerts operators even if they are not viewing the management system, reducing downtime and helping ensure that critical alarms are not missed. It also allows for pre-canned and customizable performance metrics dashboards that display short-term trends for core unified communications components and provide visibility into critical performance metrics for reduced troubleshooting time and effort. It allows the ability to search components within a unified communications cluster and view them in real time which allows you to customize searches and find the status of components quickly. Lastly, you can customize performance alerts based on user-configurable thresholds to facilitate proactive notification of problems.
Network-Based Call Recording
A major requirement of customer service and contact center environments is call recording. For years the only options were either SPAN based recording or phone based Built-in-Bridge. Both cases had some limitations especially if calls were transferred off site.
With the release of UC 10.X, a new feature called Network-Based Recording has been introduced. This feature enables call recording without caring about what type of device is being used. Since this recording is happening at the gateway, even calls that are going out through mobility can be captured.
Cisco Intelligent Proximity
Another new feature of UC 10.x is called “Intelligent Proximity,” which allows customers to automatically link a mobile phone with a corporate desk phone. Cisco is trying to bring some of the enhancements of smart phones to the corporate phone system. With most new cars for example, the phone automatically syncs with the car so the driver can easily scroll through contacts, dial, take calls and listen to music and other functions. With Intelligent Proximity, the UC system knows when a worker is near the user’s workspace (their dedicated desk-phone or a company video endpoint for example) and can automatically move the call from mobile device to desk phone. It’s like “Single Number Reach” or “Mobile Connect” experience, but just way more seamless and automatic. There’s a lot of potential for proximity information as it can help create a much better experience for the user, without the user constantly interacting. Cisco has rolled this functionality out to only a limited number of devices at this time, but more support for more devices will be coming. This is one feature we will definitely keep a close eye on!