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Good Things Come to Those Who…

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Good Things

Well said!

Written by Matthew Berry

February 27th, 2014 at 9:35 am

Posted in Blog

Cisco Collaboration Strategy and Announcements Update

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Rowan Trollope, is the head of the Collaboration business at Cisco Systems. The link below is the annual “State of the Union” for Collaboration at Cisco. It’s an hour long and mildly entertaining. Good stuff to have playing in the background while you’re building a CUCM cluster or writing design documents.

Link: http://bit.ly/1fcyVD8

Notable updates:

  • Cisco has made a decision to reduce the number of desk phone models they sell. Expect the 7900 series to EOS soon, no specific date yet. Expect the new 7800 series and 8900/9900 series to become the flagship phones. Say goodbye to SCCP endpoints. This has major implications for SRST. Learn “voice register global” (http://bit.ly/18kSbdN)
  • Cisco presented a partner application called “MindFrame” by Akkadian Labs (http://bit.ly/IetpBr). This sweet application presents useful information on screen during phone/video calls. The example they used was when calling internally, you can display information on your coworker’s personality such as “Bob values autonomy” or “Bob needs time to reflect on options before making decisions.” The information presented is customizable and could include Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn status, corporate values, and personal information about callers.
  • Cisco demoed a content sharing application that allows in-room iPhone or Android users to control video endpoints and gain access to on-screen PPT presentations. I’ve heard this product called “Alto,” but the name wasn’t mentioned on the video so it may still be under development. Expect to see that in 2014.

If you want to follow Rowan Trollope on Twitter, his username is @rowantrollope.

Written by Matthew Berry

November 19th, 2013 at 9:06 am

Posted in Blog

Tales of a Spoiled Engineer

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Bill HatcherThe following post comes from a friend and resident “rockstar” engineer at World Wide Technology (WWT), Mr. Bill Hatcher.

Bill, nicknamed “Cowboy,” has been with World Wide Technology since December of 2010. In his current role as a Senior UC Deployment Engineer, he has had the privilege of working with a team of engineers on several large, long-term UC deployment programs, as well as being the sole deployment engineer on numerous successful small to mid-size UC deployments and upgrades. He currently holds the following certifications: CCNA, CCDA, CCNP, CCDP, and VCP5-DCV.

I imagine most UC engineers come for a data background and not a traditional TDM voice background.  Because of this background, I for one have never had to punch down a 25-pair analog cable.  In most customer installations the cable has already been put in place and the work has been done by the cable installers, or it’s a pre-made cable with an RJ-21 Amphenol connector on each end connecting directly to the analog gateway and the punch down block for analog connections.

Recently, I had the opportunity to stretch myself and pick up another skill set while working on two different projects in which I was the one that had to do the punch down.  Most engineers are familiar with the color code of Cat5/6 cables with 4 colored pairs consisting of the first wire being a white wire with a stripe of color, and a solid colored wire twisted together.  Those familiar colors are White Blue/Blue, White Orange/Orange, White Green/Green, and White Brown/Brown.

Easy enough, right?

8-13-2013 8-41-40 AM

With a 25 pair cable we now introduce a fifth color, which is the color slate.  Instead of just a white wire with a stripe we now have four additional colors with a stripe: Red, Black, Yellow, and Violet are now our primary color.  Also the old familiar solid colors are no longer solid, but now they have a small stripe of color as well and are the secondary color in the pair.  How is a person to remember it all, and in what order should the wires be punched down in?  

Well, thank goodness for mnemonics!

There are many that are out there, some appropriate for the workplace, and just as many or more that are not.  The appropriate one I learned is “Winchester Rifles Bring You Victory.”  That gives you the order of the primary color pairs.  Then from looking at 110 punch downs for years I knew the order of the secondary colors.  While researching this article (on Wikipedia, of course) I did find a couple of mnemonics for the order of the secondary colors, and one that I like for the order of both the primary and secondary colors.

Primary Color Mnemonics: White, Red, Black, Yellow, Violet (Winchester Rifles Bring You Victory)

Secondary Color Mnemonics: Blue, Orange, Green, Brown, Slate

  • BOGBruSh (“Bog Brush” is a colloquial British term for a toilet bowl brush)
  • Bell Operators Give Better Service
  • The sky is blue, the sun is orange, the grass is green, the dirt is brown, and the slate is slate

Primary and Secondary Color Mnemonics:

  • We Ride Big Yellow Vans Because Old Guys Break Stuff (A new personal favorite of mine)

Written by Matthew Berry

August 13th, 2013 at 6:47 am

Posted in Blog

When to Deploy +E.164

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Now that we’ve established a basic understanding of +E.164 , we’re going to look at some case studies. In each situation, we will be looking to make a determination on whether a globalized dial plan is good for the customer.

Case Study: Bob’s Bikes

184498Bob’s Bikes (BB) was started in downtown St. Paul, MN in the 1980s. In the past thirty years, BB has expanded its footprint across the metro area. The company now employs 250 Minnesota locals in 10 stores. Bob Jr., the company’s CIO wants to optimize BB and bring the company into the 21st century. The company does not have any centralized phone system in place. The only site with a phone system is the headquarters, which has an old key system and 3 digit dialing.

To accomplish this goal, he plans to install a brand new Cisco BE6K system, which is Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM), Unity Connection (UCXN), and Cisco IM & Presence for Jabber capabilities, all running on a sleek UCS C220 M3 server. Due to the size of the headquarters/warehouse building (n.b. square footage), E911 legislation in Minnesota requires an intelligent E911 solution (i.e. CER). While a call center is a dream for the future, Bob Jr. is not ready to move the company in that direction quite yet.

Should the collaboration engineer configure an E.164 dial plan?

Let’s analyze the situation:

  • The user base is 250. The site count is 10. All sites reside within the same Metro area.
  • Users at the headquarters use three-digit intra-site (inside) dialing.
  • Users at the retail stores have no concept of extension numbers.
  • We can assume that the IT staff for a company of this size is minimal and unfamiliar with Cisco UC.
  • Cisco Emergency Responder (CER) will be deployed for the headquarters/warehouse.

Answer:     No     (Select this line of text for answer!)

The environments that benefit most from an +E.164 dial plan have the following: (a) enough DID numbers to easily cause dial plan overlap, (b) an international footprint, and (c) skilled IT staff who can handle the complexity of a globalized dial plan. Bob’s Bikes has none of these characteristics.

Bob’s Bikes, with 250 users, will likely have no more than 300 extensions in the cluster. For scalability, I would propose a 4 digit dial plan. Configuring directory numbers (DNs) in CUCM as 19523401XXX seems overkill to me. The fifty-five year old, former Qwest technician, grandfather of three named “Bud” will quickly get exasperated with using the symbol + (e.g. When do I configure + or \+? More on that later!). The  administrator’s frustration will infect the user base (e.g. “This is too hard!” or “We want our old system back” or “What a waste of money, Bobby Jr.!”). Poor customer experience results in non-repeat business.

Further, if the company plans to deploy CER, +E.164 is not supported as of CER 9.0(x). Sure, there are documented workarounds, but it amounts to nothing more than a bunch of translation patterns to prefix or strip the symbol + as calls are on there way in/out of CER. Trust me, the administrator will thank you if you keep things simple.

I’m sure you’re a genius and you’ve read the CUCM 9.x SRND three times during long visits to the washroom. However, this is not the time to flex your technical muscle and prove how smart you are. Trust me, no one at Bob’s Bikes cares that you have an +E.164 dial plan running on the phone system in your home. They also don’t care that you just came off the Bank of Minnesota project that had 5000 endpoints.

The best thing you can do for Bob Jr. is to deliver a manageable solution that meets the customer’s present needs (i.e. centralized phone system), is easy(er) to maintain, and will scale well for the next five years. A four-digit dial plan will suit them just fine.

Next case study, Abstergo Industries. Bonus points go to those who know where that reference is from!

Written by Matthew Berry

July 22nd, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Posted in Featured

Going All the Way: +E.164

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DosEquis-E164

+E.164 – What is it?

E.164 is an ITU-T recommendation that defines an international standard for how telephone numbers are formatted. Numbers that conform to this recommendation have a maximum of 15 digits.

Anatomy of an E.164 number

  • Country code (CC): 1-3 digits, defined by the ITU-T
  • National (significant) number: (15 – CC) digit maximum length, defined by country

The presence of the character + (plus sign) indicates that (a) the telephone number has been formatted according to this standard and, in turn, (b) the number contains its respective country code.

Sample E.164 numbers

  • US: +19524465000 (+ 1 9524465000)
  • India: +912266011825 (+ 91 2266011825)
  • Brazil: +557536521490 (+ 55 7536521490)

The title of the original version and first revision of the E.164 standard was “Numbering Plan for the ISDN Era”. The mention of ISDN is significant. The E.164 standard emerged during the “reign” of ISDN. We are now seeing an industry shift toward SIP-based communication. While SIP does support E.164 dialing quite well, the next generation to follow E.164 will be a true identity-based “dial plan” based on a user’s Uniform Resource Identifier (URI).

+E.164 – Does the “+” matter?

Technically, yes, the character + (plus sign) does matter when it comes to E.164. This is precisely because that character signifies that the numbers to follow conform to the ITU-T standard.

Practically, though, Cisco’s support for the character + is not complete. Without full support across all UC products, deploying a globalized E.164 dial plan requires either (a) complex workarounds that don’t scale or (b) dropping the character +.

There are still three Cisco UC products (that I am aware of) that do not support that character:

  • Cisco Emergency Responder (CER) version 9.0 and earlier
  • Cisco Unified Contact Center Express (UCCX) 9.0 and earlier
  • Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise (UCCE) 9.0 and earlier

For this reason, many engineers select option (b) and configure a “full E.164 dial plan minus the plus.” This provides many (if not all) of the benefits of a fully globalized +E.164 dial plan without the annoying “workarounds” for the products listed above.

For such deployments, I would reference them as “E.164” and not “+E.164” (notice the placement of the character +). Be warned, however, that the “sans plus” dial plan, no matter how elegantly designed, is still not technically conforming to the ITU-T standard of +E.164. If you encounter a customer who likes to “split hairs” on technical details, you may have to concede this point.

Summary

In this post, we’ve covered the +E.164 number format and whether the character + matters or not. In the next post, we’ll look at (a) the pros/cons of an +E.164 dial plan and (b) what is involved from a CUCM configuration standpoint.

Until next time…stay thirsty, my friends.

Written by Matthew Berry

July 10th, 2013 at 6:39 am

Posted in Blog