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!