Monday, October 21, 2013

Unity Connection Design Guide Drops 90ms from Latency Budget

This is just a quick note concerning a documentation change in the Unity Connection Design Guides. A few days ago one of my teammates was working on a Unity Connection design for a customer and came across a change in the network requirements for clustering Unity Connection over the WAN. Apparently, Cisco modified the clustering requirements section in the Unity Connection Release 8x and Release 9x design guides. 

The bandwidth requirements remain the same as they were when 8x was released. However, the round trip time (RTT) requirements have changed from 150 ms to 60 ms. Which is quite a big jump. It looks like this change was made on August 29, 2013.

This is more than a little disconcerting because I was looking at the design guide in July and made design recommendations based on the previous RTT requirement. Fortunately, my customer's network can still accommodate the updated budget. But what if that wasn't the case and I had to make a major design change in the middle of the project? Or worse, what if I didn't go back to re-read the design guide and the customer ran into an issue? 

Basically, I would have been screwed. Again, I am fortunate that we are still within budget and that I generally pick the lowest common denominator for clustering over the WAN designs. Which, prior to August 29, 2013, was 80 ms RTT for CUCM clustering. Interestingly enough, UCCX clustering also has a 80 ms RTT budget. It is odd (to me) that Unity would drop below the 80 ms threshold. 

Last point of interest. The UC 9x SRND still states that the maximum Round Trip Time (RTT) budget is 150 ms. That is probably still there to keep things interesting for the operators in the field! Obviously, it is best to err on the side of caution and assume the SRND recommendation is no longer valid.

I tried to find more information to see why the sudden drop in RTT budget. I suspect there may be a defect or some other revelation. If anyone has more information please post a comment. I am genuinely curious.

Thanks for reading. If you have time, post a comment!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Provisioning Synology NAS to Support Multiple VLANs/Subnets

A few weeks ago, I decided to purchase the Synology DS1513+ as my home office NAS solution. Even before receiving the gear, I was sketching out how I would integrate the solution with my existing home network. I had a clear need to support multiple subnets/VLANs. 

Synology is supposed to support 802.1q vlan tagging but I found out that the implementation is somewhat limited and I had to come up with a workaround. I was able to gracefully solve the problem and I figured I would share the information with others. I didn't invent either solution presented in this article. I pieced it together by putting in a few hours of research.

I found a lot of inspiration from the Synology forums:

Checking Peer Firmware Sharing using SQL

For this installment of the SQL Query Series I am going to keep it short and sweet. I was recently doing implementation planning for a project where we need to update the firmware on a few thousand phones. One of the things we like to do is leverage Peer Firmware Sharing to shorten the time needed to push out firmware upgrades. 

One of the pre-requisites to leverage Peer Firmware Sharing is to actually verify it is enabled. This is the perfect job for SQL.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Finding Orphaned User Device Profiles for EM

This installment of the SQL query series is a response to a question posed by a reader. The reader posted a comment on the blog entry: Using SQL to Validate CUCM Extension Mobility. The reader asked if it was possible to find "orphaned" extension mobility profiles using SQL? 

This is definitely possible and is actually pretty straightforward. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Enabling Local IP Address Dialing on a Cisco VCS Control

I recently fielded a question about IP address dialing and the Cisco Video Communications Server (VCS). It reminded me of a video design I put together a while ago and I have been meaning to put some more video / telepresence content on the blog. To that end, I figured I would share my approach to enabling IP address dialing with the Cisco VCS. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

CUCM 9.1(2) and the Jump Upgrade

As we move further down the road with Cisco UCM releases we are gifted with more and more "upgrade" variants. First came the Bridge Upgrade, followed by the Refresh Upgrade and it's counterpart the L2 Upgrade. Now we have the Jump Upgrade. These "Upgrades" are breeding like crazy but I guess variety is the spice of life. 

All of these upgrade methods serve a function and while I think Cisco's upgrade methodologies are overly clunky, the Jump Upgrade is a step (not a leap) in the right direction.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

CUCM SQL Queries: Finding that CSS Dependency

Sometime in May (or was it April?) I was working on a project to migrate a customer's dial plan from their legacy design to a new "normalized" (my flavor of Cisco's "globalized") dial plan. I did most of the conversion leveraging AXL/SOAP and SQL queries. One of the "interesting" issues I came across was during the clean up process. 

There was this one CSS that just didn't want to leave the party. The CUCM barked at me and said the CSS was in use. However, the Dependency Records report said it wasn't. Why? Well, the CSS table is one of the cool kids on campus. It is heavily referenced by other tables in the database. It may even be more popular than the device table. The core issue is that the dependency report is not checking every table reference.  

Apparently, I am not the only one to stumble across this issue. One of the readers of my blog posed a similar question. I figured that instead of burying my response in an obscure comment I'd post it as a new entry. I needed to add something to blog anyway. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The CCIE WINS its Voice Back!

As noted in my blog entry "Cisco Needs Its Voice Back", Cisco announced the new CCIE Collaboration track blueprint on May 29th. The community of engineers that live and breath the Cisco UC/Collaboration portfolio were happy to see the CCIE Voice track evolve to the next level. This was welcome news because we (the engineers) have been doing UC/Collaboration for years and have been waiting for the IE track to catch up. 

Of course, the news came with a huge downside. The CCIE Voice certification was being retired and not renamed. IOW, all of the engineers who make the Cisco's UC/Collaboration solution what it is would be left behind.

Starting the day of the announcement, the CCIE Voice community and our supporters started to speak out against the change. We leveraged social media and Cisco's community portals to make our opinion heard. We started a petition to centrally document our position. Folks at the Cisco Partner Summit in Boston and the Cisco Collaboration 10 PBT in San Jose spoke out and gave our movement a face (or many faces?).

Today, Cisco demonstrated an outstanding level of integrity and commitment to their brand and our community. The official announcement is not out yet but Jim Duffy from Network World has reported that Cisco will be providing CCIE Voice engineers a reasonable migration path.  

Cisco's official statement:

We are listening to the feedback from our valued CCIE community, and will be adjusting the CCIE Collaboration requirements. As a quick preview of the evolution of the CCIE Collaboration certification, a current holder of the CCIE Voice designation will now be able to migrate to a CCIE Collaboration credential by taking the CCIE Collaboration written exam only. We appreciate all of the great feedback and patience of the community while we update our webpages to reflect this change. We will be communicating further details about this modification as soon as possible.
This is outstanding news for the CCIE Voice community.

Color Me Impressed

The original announcement came out on May 29th and within 24 hours we bore witness to the power of social media. When we started to push back I had no idea that we would get over 1,000 names on the petition. I was floored to see a discussion thread on the topic in the PBT community reach 9,700 views (in a little over 48 hours). 

I am impressed by the fact that our community rallied behind a core message, kept things civil, and used positivity to move our message up the management chain within Cisco. Honestly, right now, at this moment I am pretty damn proud to be part of a community that refused to roll over, made a stand, and combined efforts to make sure our VOICE was heard.

I'd like to extend my humble appreciation and my respect to each and everyone of you who helped put this change into effect. I'd also like to give a nod to Cisco Systems for listening to their user and partner community. The level of integrity you have demonstrated here is inspirational. You have successfully reinforced my brand loyalty.

Thanks for reading. If you have time, post a comment!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Where's The Video In the "New" CCIE Collaboration?

As noted in my blog entry "CCIE Needs Its Voice Back", Cisco recently announced a new CCIE track: CCIE Collaboration AND they announced they would be retiring the CCIE Voice. This means that all certified Voice IEs are also retired.

Over the past week, the Voice IE community has stepped up and made their "VOICE" heard. We have been active in Twitter, Facebook, the Learning Network, and several Cisco online communities. I have been wading through the various threads and noted that there is a common misconception from those that support the retirement of the Voice IE. That misconception takes various forms of the argument: CCIE Voice is just voice and the new exam is much more. One of the commonly quoted "NEW" technologies is video.

There are several people who have said that the new IE is more than voice because it adds video and this creates a whole new paradigm. I see this response and I am honestly a little confused. I look at the new blueprint and the new equipment list and I have to ask: "Where is the video?"

Friday, May 31, 2013

CCIE Needs its Voice Back

May 29, 2013 marks the day that Cisco announced the new CCIE Collaboration track. For many existing voice CCIEs, this was a welcome change to the blue print as it lined up with what we really do. We were excited about the blue print change and then we read the catch: 

"CCIE Voice will be retiring and the new CCIE Collaboration will become the standard for telecom, unified communications, and video professionals". 

What does this mean? It means that if you have a CCIE Voice, you will remain a CCIE Voice and if you want to be recognized as a CCIE Collaboration you have to go through the whole lab process again. 

Needless to say people will pitch a fit over such news. I don't think anyone (especially Cisco) is surprised by that. There are a lot of unhappy campers in the Cisco "Collaboration" world today. I can't speak for all of them but I can lay out my argument for why I believe Cisco made the wrong decision.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

CCIE Voice Tactics: Dealing with IOS DHCP

To complement the CCIE-V Strategy Series I am going through the process of parsing my IE voice notes and pulling out the more interesting bits. As with the other series hosted on this blog, I base my topic choices on perceived (subjective) interest, requests via comments, and the common questions I see on various forums.

For this installment, I am going to walk through some of the tactics around DHCP.

Installing Cisco RTMT for CUCM 8.6 on Mac OS X

This is a follow up to a blog entry I added a while back covering the installation of Cisco RTMT on Mac OS X. This original blog was just a quick blurb highlighting the work done by @ciscomonkey. The original article is still alive and well. Most of the information provided is still valid. However, I recently discovered that there is an issue when installing the RTMT plugin from a CUCM 8.6 or later system on a Mac OS X (Snow Leopard or Mountain Lion). 

I received a handful of comments from readers that they were running into problems with the installer. Well after some research I think I figured out what has happened and how to fix it. Applying this fix should help people get pass the installer issue that has been reported with RTMT plugin version 8.91. I believe it is likely that this issue exists in CUCM 9.x RTMT installers, too. I have not tested that yet (I need to rebuild my 9.1 VM).

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

CCIE Voice Blue Print Change and a New Name: CCIE Collaboration

Today I was happily plodding my way through developing a Jabber Deployment Guide for one of my customers and my Mac starts a buzz'n with new information concerning the CCIE Voice track. As folks pursuing the CCIE Voice know the current blue print (v.3.0) has been around for a  long time. IE voice candidates have been waiting with anticipation for the next blue print announcement. 

Today (about 20 min ago) I heard a rumor that our wait is over. I don't have details yet but what I have heard from two reliable sources is that the CCIE Voice is going to be renamed to CCIE Collaboration. This updated CCIE track will be available starting November 13, 2013.

Details are sparse at the present moment. A quote on the INE blog site says that the new blueprint will include voice, video, and IM/Presence. I'd expect SIP will be a central theme and I sure as hell hope that Frame-Relay gets dropped (I'd be surprised if it didn't). 

Traditionally, Cisco offers lab seats for 6 months under a newly retired blue print. I assume this policy will continue with the new CCIE Voice, errh Collaboration blue print coming to light. My advice? Don't freak and if you have been putting off picking a date for your IE voice exam, schedule it. Then get back to focusing on doing the job you set out to do. Don't let this throw you off your game.

Update (5/29/2013):

The rumor was confirmed and there is a new CCIE Collaboration track. The CCIE Voice track has been expired and any existing Voice IE remains a Voice IE. Cisco's current position is they will not rename the IE. You can get the full program information here.

Timeline for Exam Changes

CCIE Voice
The last day to take the CCIE Voice Written exam is November 20, 2013.
The last day to take the CCIE Voice Lab exam is February 13, 2014.

CCIE Collaboration
The CCIE Collaboration Written exam availability begins November 21, 2013.
The CCIE Collaboration Lab exam availability begins February 14, 2014.

Does My IE Voice Become an IE Collaboration?

No. Your IE Voice remains active and you can keep renewing your certification using Cisco's standard process. But the voice is retired. I don't agree with Cisco's decision to simply retire the IE voice. I believe it should have been a simple rename akin to how they handled the CCIE Communications and Services to CCIE Service Provider. My argument can be found here.

Thanks for reading. If you have time, post a comment!

Monday, May 6, 2013

CCIE Voice Lab Strategy Part 5 - Bringing it Home

Time to bring this series to a close. This series started with a background of strategies I used as reference points to build my own strategy. Next, I covered my process for reading through the exam and getting my ducks in a row. Part 3 continues the planning discussion and dives into the first configuration phase. The last installment covers the configuration phases that I try to nail down before lunch. So, what's next? Well,  I am going to wind this down and talk about the afternoon activities.

Friday, May 3, 2013

CCIE Voice Lab Strategy Part 4 - Morning Configuration Strategy

In a previous installment of this series I went over planning a configuration strategy and the first configuration phase of my lab approach. Including the read through, I would be somewhere around 2 hours into the lab at this point. IMO, these are the most critical minutes of your exam day (followed by the first 30 minutes after lunch). 

It is during this first 120 minutes where you establish a good rhythm and you should be firing on all cylinders. You don't want to lose this rhythm as move into the next configuration phase, which is CUCM provisioning.

In this installment I will cover the CUCM provisioning and move on through the configurations I try to nail down before lunch. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

CCIE Voice Lab Strategy Part 3 - Planning and Starting the Configuration

This is the third installment of a blog series on my CCIE Voice lab strategy. Part 1: Formulating a Strategy provided some information on strategies I came across when I started down the CCIE trail. These strategies helped me formulate my own specific approach. In Part 2: The Read Through, I went through the "boot strap" process (if you will) of my lab approach. In this third installment, I will begin a walk through of my approach to the lab.  

The Cisco MCS Days are Numbered

This is probably not new news for Cisco UC/Collaboration partners. Especially those that are even remotely active in the Collaboration Community. Cisco recently announced the End of Sale / End of Life for Cisco 7800 series Media Convergence Servers (MCS). Originally, Cisco was planning to have the End of Sale (EoS) date milestone occur December 2013. However, Cisco has moved this milestone up to October 2013 as customers (and I assume distributors) have been stocking up. 

It is even possible that Cisco will sell out of all the MCS servers prior to the October EoS milestone. It is reminiscent of ticket scalping in the real world and stocking up on bottled water in a post-apocalyptic fictional drama. Makes me wonder if MCS server prices from certain distributors will sky rocket after October. I guess it doesn't matter. 

What does matter is that there won't be another generation of MCS servers. The migration plan is to go to virtual machines. After the EoS milestone, new purchases of UCM 8.x/9.x must go one of several virtualization paths. This can make things interesting for integrators and customers starting after Cisco Live in June (where I expect there will be some more announcements that lay out the 12-18 month roadmap).

Most of my customers are already going the virtual route and my team and I have been doing UC VMs for years now. However, I do have a couple of customers that have organizational obstacles which puts them in a position of saying they won't virtualize their UC environment. Fortunately, they are in the minority but every customer is important and this recent Cisco announcement should make for some interesting conversations. Still, I think this is right path for Cisco and I am actually looking forward to saying bye-bye to the MCS platform. Of course, that won't happen over night. Unfortunately. 

Thanks for reading. If you have time, post a comment!

Friday, April 19, 2013

CCIE Voice Lab Strategy Part 2 - The Read Through

What started as a single blog entry quickly became two and after finishing Part 2, I am fairly certain there will be one or two more entries to round out this "thought". Before diving into this entry, I'd recommend taking a look at Part 1: Formulate Your Strategy

In Part 2, I am going to talk about my personal strategy a little more and focus on the Read Through phase of taking the lab exam. Not because I think my Read Through is all that fascinating. I just feel that by talking about the Read Through I can further illustrate my actual strategy. 

CCIE-V Lab Strategy Part 1 - Formulate Your Strategy

I know what you are thinking, yet another blog on CCIE-V test taking strategy. Well, of course I would do that. It is almost a right of passage. An obligatory first step for any who have passed the exam. It is a glorious sign that you have arrived! Right? Not really. It is actually a sign that you have nothing better to do and are struggling with how to burn through the huge amount of free time that now lay in front of you! 

So, yes I am going to talk about test taking strategy. This started as just a single blog entry and then I realized it was becoming a little too long for just one blog. I wouldn't really go as far as saying this will be a series but it is certainly going to be more than one entry. 

For part 1, I wanted to walk through a couple strategies I came across as I was trying to determine my own path. I also want to discuss some of the factors you should account for when coming up with your own, personal strategy. You see, I believe that a well-prepared candidate will have a strategy that is unique to them. Even if that strategy borrows heavily from other approaches. You don't want to blindly follow someone else's strategy just because they appear to know what they are talking about. Listen, learn, and form your own opinion. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Using SQL to Look at EM Profile MOH Sources

In this installment of the SQL query series I wanted to actually explore a request that came by way of the Cisco Support Community. The scenario/question:
What would the query be to obtain the MOH source for DN's that are assigned to EM Profiles?
The individual posing the question was primarily interested in listing MOH sources for directory numbers associated with Extension Mobility profiles. The query to grab this data is a simple variation on a query I presented a few months ago in the blog entry: Using SQL to Look at MOH Source Configurations.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Read the News Today, Oh Boy! I Passed the CCIE in Cisco RTP

Yesterday, I sat for the CCIE Voice lab in RTP.  At 0300 EDT my mailbox received the grade notice. A few hours later I actually opened the email and followed the link to get my exam report. 

For some reason I stared at the screen for what seemed forever before it sunk in that I passed this beast. Though, in a way I am still numb. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Multi-Step Upgrade: DRS Tip

I am in the process of doing a multi-step upgrade from 6.1 to 8.6 and I figured that while my DRS restore was chugging along I'd take a quick moment to post a tip to the ol' blog. On this particular project we are pulling a DRS backup from the production system and taking it off site to one of our labs. From there, I am doing a restore to a MCS host I have in the lab and stepping the UCM publisher through the upgrade process. 

There is a teeny weeny hurdle you could run into during this process. Particularly when you are creating a DRS backup device to take the newly upgrade image back to the production environment. 

If you are doing something like what I describe above and are seeing an error message on the DRS Backup Device page that says something like <spicolivoice> "Duuude, I'd like to help ya out brah but the Local Agent has bailed on us...." </spicolivoice> then I may have the fix you need.

Monday, February 18, 2013

CCIE-V "I Shoulda' Checked That" Tip #5: Dial-Peer Zero is Bad Like Vad

This is the fifth installment in what I am calling the "I Shoulda' Checked That" series. The inspiration for this series is covered in the first installment. To save readers some time, I am going to jump right into things. On this go around, I am going to discuss the fifth tip of the series: Don't Forget Dial-Peer 0. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Cisco UC Apps Native Prompt Recording - CCIE-V

There are several applications that are in the CCIE-V blueprint that may require a candidate to create a custom recording or prompt. Unity Connection, Unified Contact Center Express, BACD, and Unity Express all leverage prompts in some way. All of these applications, save BACD, also have the ability to record prompts. So, the question becomes what approach (or approaches) do you apply when sitting for the exam? 

In the "real" world you probably have tools that you have grown accustom to using. I have a set that I discuss in a UC Toolkit series hosted on the NetCraftsmen site. Unfortunately, you won't have access to 3rd party tools and will need to make do with the inherent capabilities of the UC applications in the blueprint. 

There are a variety of ways to address the need. I have played around with a few options and I figured I would share my approach. Just in case someone else may find it useful. 

Unlocking Jabber Video Sign-In Preferences for

Recently, I was doing some testing with the Jabber Video for TelePresence (Movi) client. I was all set to go. I had my Jabber client loaded on my iPad, my VCS up and humming (loudly, I might add), and the Jabber Video client running on my MBP. I wanted to add another client to the mix, so I figured I would use the Jabber Video client on my iMac. This client was configured to use the free Jabber service ( and I found out that I was unable to edit the server configuration. 

I found an easy (albeit unsupported) fix to the problem and I figured it was worth sharing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Using SQL to Look at MOH Source Configurations

In this installment of the SQL query series I wanted to actually explore a request that came from one of my customers. The scenario/question:
Is there a query that could show me the music on hold audio source configurations for phones?

The driver behind the question is that my customer has been adding a lot of phones to his Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) environment. He has a very specific MoH configuration and lately has "heard" (sometimes, literally) issues with the MoH that is being played out. So, he wants to dump some data to look for inconsistencies.  

This is pretty straightforward and may be handy to other readers. So, in the words of Ben Grimm: "It's clobberin' time" (yeah, I'm a dork).

Friday, January 11, 2013

Congratulations to the Cisco Designated VIPs 2013

I just wanted to take a moment to recognize some folks who work hard to help their fellow IT professionals out of some interesting jams. The Cisco Support Community (CSC, formerly NetPro) recently announced the 2013 Cisco Designated VIPs.

The Cisco Designated VIP program recognizes the top external individual contributors in Cisco's online communities, including the Cisco Learning Network (CLN), the Cisco Support Community (CSC), and the Cisco Developers Network (CDN). Cisco Designated VIPs are recognized by their peers for their expertise and tireless contributions. Cisco Designated VIPs are generous, credible, and accessible to their peers and their abundant participation is vital to community success.  With the Cisco Designated VIP program, Cisco formally recognizes the positive, valuable influence our top individual members exert on the communities overall.

This is the third year for this program and I am happy to see the Cisco team that runs the program keeping it alive an well. The CSC is, without a doubt, the best online resource for getting support and information on Cisco technologies. 

Of course, this is the first year that I am not on the VIP list. I guess we'll have to remediate that oversight next year! To Dan Bruhn, Litsa Pitsillidou, and all of the other Cisco folks that keep the community alive (sorry if I don't mention you by name) -- keep up the outstanding work! I may still see you at Cisco Live and I will still want a shirt ;-)

Thanks for reading. If you have time, post a comment!