Namely, I am going to discuss using Cisco WebEx Connect for IM/Presence and Cisco's Jabber Video for TelePresence (or as I like to call it, @jabber.com). It is worth noting that we are going to explore the "Personal Account" provisioning track here. That means discussion of WebEx Connect with CUCM or Cisco VCS won't be front and center. That will come later.
For those that are not familiar with the WebEx Connect or jabber.com hosted services, let's do a quick overview. The WebEx Connect service is obviously a WebEx application and it came over to Cisco as part of that acquisition. It has been an available service for several years and I have used it on and off since 2009 (?). It is basically position as a cloud-based IM/Presence solution, with some file sharing/collaboration elements (called "Spaces") thrown in. You can read more about this offering on Cisco's WebEx Connect product page.
There are two WebEx Connect editions available: Guest Edition and Business Edition. You can see a handy-dandy chart comparing the two versions here. Since we are looking at provisioning using the Individual Account option, I did look at using the Guest Edition. Basically, this did not work. After exploring it a little deeper I found out that the Guest Edition is one full rev behind the Business Edition WebEx Connect and it is based on the AIM proprietary standard for IM/Presence. So, my assumption is that since Jabber clients are XMPP-based, the Guest Edition won't work in our scenario.
Cisco's Jabber Video for TelePresence is a relatively new offering that is intended to provide desktop, software-based video services to the masses. It is a free service that is presently (in the beta version, anyway) open to anyone. There are clients for Windows, Mac, and (of course) the iPad. More information about this offering can be found at the Cisco Jabber Video for TelePresence beta program page.
So, our focus at the moment is on setting up the Jabber client using the Individual Account settings as opposed to the Company-Provided Account option. With the Individual Account option you can use valid accounts for WebEx Connect, Jabber Video for TelePresence, or both.
It is worth noting that you can use WebEx Connect with the Company-Provided Account option as well. In this mode, WebEx Connect accounts can be provisioned to use CUCM or Cisco Video Communications Server (VCS) for call processing. We won't be exploring this config approach today, but we will in a later installment.
The versions of the UC applications and clients that I was running during this test:
- Cisco Jabber for iPad v1.0.0 (6808)
- Cisco WebEx Connect (cloud-based service, I used Business Edition)
- Cisco Jabber Video for TelePresence (cloud-based service)
General Considerations for this Solution
Mixture of Free and Paid SaaS
The Jabber Video for TelePresence is a free subscription. The Business Edition of WebEx Connect is a fee-based service. I actually used the Business Edition in my testing because my attempts to get the Guest Edition to function failed (see Background-above).
The Jabber Video for TelePresence service does not include a presence facility. Yes, this service is built on Cisco VCS and yes, Cisco VCS does support Presence functionality. Regardless, that functionality is not exposed in the free Jabber Video for TelePresence service. That is why we are showing WebEx Connect for Presence/IM.
The primary consideration (at least from my testing) is that I was unable to originate a call to a contact added from WebEx Connect nor could I escalate a call from an IM chat. From the Jabber client I can "click" the call button but it wants to use the URI associated to the Device attribute of my WebEx Connect contact. It appears that this attribute is being populated by my Email domain suffix. This URI is obviously different than the Jabber Video for TelePresence (@jabber.com).
Since I was testing with the Business Edition of Connect, I tried a few things. For instance, I tried modifying contact numbers in WebEx Connect to use URIs. The config is accepted and populated in the WebEx Connect contact in my Jabber client, but it doesn't change dialing behavior. I also tinkered with the VCS cluster integration on WebEx Connect (in an effort to be a trickster). I am not done exploring that option, but what I have tried thus far didn't change observed behavior. I suppose that it may be possible to do something in DNS since the Device URI provided from Connect is the email alias. I need to explore this more before commenting on it further. At this point, I haven't closed the door on this but I didn't want to wait for resolution before posting this blog.
Provisioning Cloud Services
To use the integration discussed in this blog you need a valid account for the Jabber Video for TelePresence service and the WebEx Connect service. The Jabber service is currently a free subscription. You just go the portal page and follow the instructions to create an account. All you need is your video (or "telepresence") URI and password.
The WebEx Connect SaaS solution is a fee-based subscription service if you use the Business Edition. The account is provisioned by an administrator and initialized by the user. It is a pretty straightforward process.
Configuring the Jabber Client
Loading the Cisco Jabber for iPad application from the AppStore is pretty straightforward. Go to the AppStore on your iPad and search for Cisco Jabber or just Jabber. Let your fingers do the walking.
Note that to use this application, you need the iPad2 or iPad (3rd Generation). You can use WiFi, 3G, and 4G (depending on what your tablet supports). I only tested WiFi communications as I was using iPad2 and I know from previous tests with other softphones that video over 3G is not worth pursuing.
Provisioning the Client
When we first launch the client, we have two main options: Individual Accounts or Company-Provided Accounts. We are going to go into the Individual Accounts option.
After selecting the account option, you are asked to provide account credentials. Notice that you can either select the Jabber Video for TelePresence OR the WebEx Connect option. If you wish to provision both services then use the WebEx Connect credentials first. You will have an opportunity to at the Jabber Video account later. In our example, we are doing WebEx Connect + Jabber Video.
Enter your WebEx Connect account credentials and select Sign In. After you logon, you will see that your WebEx account is online and "Available" and you will have the option of setting up video and voice calling.
The top-left hand section of the screen provides status information and if you select Set Up Video and Voice Calling Account in the frame/pane on the right side, you will be able to add the Jabber Video account.
Using the Client
Once you have provisioned the accounts, the first thing you will likely want to do is set up some contacts. On the left hand side of the client, click the "+" symbol next to contacts.
Since we are using WebEx Connect, you can start typing in the contact name and options will be presented from the Corporate Directory. You can add contacts whether they are on-line or off-line. Though, the Jabber client will default to only displaying on-line accounts after adding contacts.
After adding contacts, you can see who is on line and if you are using the WebEx Connect Business Edition along with WebEx MeetingCenter (or other WebEx service) then you can see when the contact is in a meeting.
You can initiate communications with your contact by selecting the contact. You will see two options "Chat" and "Call". Call will use the URI associated with the "Device" attribute to launch a call. I was not able to get that to work with the WebEx Connect + Jabber.com duo. You can still initiate a video call using the dial-pad icon in the top-right corner of the client. All other video call functions work as expected. You can view shared content, you can run in the background and receive calls, etc.
Chat works as chat often does. Initiate the chat and start sending/receiving IMs.
We cover provisioning the Jabber client for iPad using the Individual Accounts option. There are two services available: WebEx Connect (IM/Presence) and Jabber Video for TelePresence (aka @jabber.com). You can run both services simultaneously or you can provision the client to just use WebEx Connect or just use Jabber Video. Workflow between the two accounts lacks a little continuity but I think there may be a work around discovery in my near future. In follow on installments, we'll look at other configuration options. With the CUPS+CUCM and the WebEx+Jabber Video we see a fair bit of how this client works.
Also, I am aware that we haven't covered much in the way of kicking the tires. I'll revisit that later. For now, I am focused on getting the tires on the road.
Thanks for reading. If you have time, post a comment!