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Cisco's Telephony Recipe

CallManager Express and Unity Express is priced for autonomous branch offices already invested in Cisco routers.

Express Yourself

CCME is a licensed feature that is required for CUE. Customers can convert that license to an SRST (Survivable Remote Site Telephony) at no cost if they later choose to switch to a centrally managed telephony infrastructure. I tested CCME and CUE on a Cisco 3745 router. To deploy CCME, I upgraded the router and downloaded the CCME GUI to the router flash. After installing CCME, I used the built-in CLI (command-line interface) script to configure the basic IP phone parameters.

I tested CUE and CCME using an NM-HDA (high-density analog voice network module) and standard FXO and FXS ports on an NM-2V voice-carrier module. Standard Cisco voice modules are supported. IP-centric parts of the system can be configured from the Web GUI, but many features must be configured from the CLI, particularly analog lines for incoming and outgoing calls. I found this hodgepodge GUI-CLI approach frustrating; nontechnical office personnel will find it positively daunting.

After I configured the appropriate phone extensions from the GUI and the analog incoming and outgoing lines from the CLI, I installed the CUE module, which required knowledge of IOS CLI syntax and usage. CUE installs in a standard slot and connects via the internal backplane of the router. Although the CUE module has a Fast Ethernet port and compact Flash slot, these are not supported by the CUE network module.

CUE includes a dedicated 500-MHz Intel Pentium III processor and a 20-GB hard disk. It runs an embedded, security hardened Linux OS, but all Linux-like functionality has been hidden from the user, replaced with a standard IOS-like CLI interface. CUE can be accessed only through the router session command or the Web GUI, and it integrates with the CCME GUI to provide a single management GUI for administering phones and voicemail boxes. Once I configured the phone system to route incoming calls and handle analog extensions, no further command-line interaction with CUE was necessary.

Great Performances

I tested CUE-CCME for two weeks. They flawlessly performed the functions they were designed for, including call hold and transfer, group pickup, hunt groups, shared and multiline appearances, speed dial, music on hold, paging and intercom. I also tested class-of-restriction and call-blocking functions without a hitch.

But though some IP telephony features, such as sample XML Web services, worked perfectly, other features, such as TAPI functions (which provide desktop-phone integration), were limited. IP softphone support was nonexistent, and TAPI-driven apps could only send and receive dialing and dialed-party information.

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