Cisco's Telephony Recipe

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

October 10, 2003

7 Min Read
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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.

To test the CUE voicemail, I established delivery and retrieval to individual and group mailboxes, then tested admin functions such as adding/deleting users and changing passwords.

I also verified that the auto-attendant properly handled dial-by-name and dial-by-extension.

To hear a sample of the audio interaction with Cisco Unity Express and the Auto Attendant, go to

This first release of CUE lacks some standard features found on key systems, such as emergency and alternate auto-attendant greetings, voicemail distribution lists and broadcast messages, and subscriber features like pause, fast forward/reverse and message speed up/slow down. Although Cisco says it plans to include these features in future releases, their absence significantly degrades the end-user experience.

A Tough Call

With more than 85 percent of the router market share, Cisco has the home-field advantage when it comes to branch office IP telephony. But when compared with turnkey small-office solutions such as those from Vertical Networks, Cisco's offering is at a price and feature disadvantage. Competing solutions offer more telephony applications, better management and faster deployment. If you already use one of the supported Cisco routers, though, you can add IP telephony for less than a turnkey solution, and you'll gain the added benefit of having only a single device to manage for voice and data.

Joel Conover, formerly a senior technology editor at Network Computing, is a principal analyst at tactical competitive response solutions firm Current Analysis. Write to him at [email protected].

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Call Manager Express version 3.0 feature list (provided by Cisco):
Phone features:

  • 120 phones per system

  • 34 line appearances per phone

  • After-hours toll bar override

  • Analog Terminal Adapter 186/188 support

  • Attendant Console functionality using Cisco 7960 and 7914s IP phones

  • Fast transfer, busy lamp, direct station select, silent ringing options

  • Call fwd, busy, no answer, all

  • D

  • not disturb

  • Dual-line appearances per button

  • European date formats

  • Hook flash pass through across analog PSTN trunks

  • Idle URL: periodically push messages onto the screen of a Cisco 7940 or 7960 IP phone

  • IP phones support Cisco 7902G, 7905G, 7912G, 7910, 7914, 7920, 7940, 7960, 7935

  • Last number redial

  • Local directory lookup

  • On-hook dialing

  • Station speed dial

  • System speed dial

  • Speed-dial configuration changes from IP phone

  • Silent and feature ring options

  • Support for analog phones and fax machines

  • XML services on Cisco IP phones

Trunk features:

  • Analog-FXO, DID, E&M

  • BRI/PRI support-NI2, 4ESS, 5ESS, EuroISDN, DMS100, DMS250 and several other switch types currently supported in IOS

  • Caller ID, ANI, calling name

  • Digital trunk support (T1/E1)

  • Direct inward dial, direct outward dial

  • E1 R2 support

  • H323 trunks with H450 support

  • QSIG support

  • SIP trunks

System features:

  • Account codes and CDR field entry

  • Call back busy subscriber/camp-on within CME system

  • Call hold, pickup and retrieve

  • Call pickup explicit ringing phone

  • Call pickup local group ringing phone

  • Call pickup explicit group ringing phone

  • Call transfer-consultative and blind

  • Call waiting

  • Call conference

  • CTI integration with Outlook and Interact ACT using TAPI "Lite"

  • Directory services using XML

  • Graphical user interface customization for multiple levels of access

  • Hunt groups-sequential, circular, and parallel

  • Intercom built-in

  • International language support: Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish

  • Music on hold-internal or external source

  • Night service bell

  • Overlay extensions for enhanced call coverage

  • Paging built-in

  • Per-call caller ID blocking

  • Secondary dial tone

  • Standards-based network call transfer and call forwarding via H450.2 and H450.3

  • System speed dial option via XML service

  • Time of day, day of week, call blocking

Voicemail features:

  • Integrated VM solution-Cisco Unity Express (CUE)

  • Integration with Unity voicemail

  • Third-party voicemail integration (H323, SIP or DTMF)

  • Message waiting indicator

Manageability improvements:

  • Auto assignment of extensions to IP phones

  • CCME setup wizard

  • CUE setup wizard

  • Single GUI for CCME and CUE setup

  • Service provider-class centralized network management

  • Web-based GUI for moves, adds and changes

Cisco Unity Express features (provided by Cisco):

  • Directly integrated into full-service branch routers

  • Can be used on a variety of platforms, simplifies management, lowers TCO, leverages training

  • 100 hours of voicemail storage

  • Individualized capacity

Commonly used voicemail features:

  • Alternate greetings, message tagging, play-out options

  • Built-in auto attendant

  • Caller self-service

  • Inherent security

  • Embedded system accessible only through the CLI or GUI, passwords are encrypted and all packages are signed

  • Command line interface

  • Familiar to Cisco IOS users

  • Easy-to-use end-user tutorial for mailbox setup

  • Allows self-service on mailbox options

  • Intuitive Web-based GUI

  • Allows administrators and users easy access to manage the system and individual mailbox preferences and is shared with Cisco CallManager Express

  • Initialization wizard

  • Facilitates and expedites setup

  • Share Unity TUI prompts and commands

  • Consistency for the headquarters and branch users

Voicemail features

  • G.711 support for termination and msg store in G.711 _-law

  • Both end user and general delivery mailboxes

Subscriber features:

  • Envelope information

  • Record prompts: standard and alternate greeting, spoken name

  • Set/reset password

  • Playback message controls: replay, skip, save, delete

  • Local name confirmation on send

  • Message tagging: private

Caller features:

  • Message editing: rerecord, listen

  • Message tagging: urgent

  • Nondelivery notification

System features:

  • MWI for new messages

  • Mailbox full notification

  • Timed message archive

AA features:

  • Basic AA menu using GUI wizard

  • Dial-by-name, dial-by-extension

  • Return to operator

Management features

  • Web GUI provisioning

  • Integrated with CallManager Express systems

  • TUI for end user/subscriber

  • GUI for system administrators

  • User profiles: name, extension, set/reset passwords

  • General delivery mailboxes

  • Mailboxes: Max recording time, max length per msg, reset MWI

  • System stats on disk space use setting system defaults (disk space, max msg size)

  • Manual backup and restore

  • IOS-like CLI for admin, debug and troubleshooting

  • Remote management

  • HTTP for GUI

  • Console connection for CLI via IOS "session" command

The AA session is an auto attendent; it provides dial-by-name and dial-by-number.

The two other sessions are similar, they explore the functions of sending, retrieving, forwarding, and manipulating voicemail messages.



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