CUCIMOC was officially released to the public on the 15th July as part of the Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) 7.1 launch; but has been in private Beta for several months and was first shown to the public at VoiceCon Orlando ‘09.
CUCIMOC stands for Cisco UC Integration for Microsoft Office Communicator and is part of the Cisco Strategy to allow customers to embrace Microsoft OCS for Instant Messaging and Presence while allowing Cisco to continue to own the End to End Voice Estate.
So the question that has been asked over and over again is why did Cisco release CUCIMOC when they already have a method of integrating with OCS. The following is my view on this which is hopefully not biased in either direction (Cisco or Microsoft).
Prior to the release of CUCIMOC the only way to integrate between OCS and the CUCM was to utilise the Dual Forking and Remote Call Control (RCC) functionality within OCS; with Remote Call Control requiring the addition of the Cisco Unified Presence Server (CUPS).
For Cisco there are a number of issues here, firstly it requires the addition of the CUPS Server for RCC, for most customers the requirement to add an additional Server purely for integrating with OCS causes many issues, such as:
- Cost to deploy the additional server
- Administration overhead and cost
- Licensing Costs
CUPS becomes even more expensive if you start to look at High Availability which requires the addition of a second CUPS Server and a pair of Load Balancers. For the Dual Forking side additional configuration is required on the CUCM to support this along with the OCS Mediation Server.
The other element for Cisco is that for Dual Forking, Microsoft own the Voice Path once the call hits the Mediation Server. Microsoft Voice is an engineering change to Cisco and makes the deployment more complex; in addition there is the requirement to configure all of the Voice aspects in OCS.
Finally for the Cisco aspect we need to consider what they lost to Microsoft and what they are trying to take back. With the Dual Forking and RCC route they lose both the Presence and Voice aspects. By moving to CUCIMOC they take back the Voice which for Cisco should be the preferred over presence.
For Microsoft there are also a number of issues, firstly they have made it no secret that they are not going to continue to develop the RCC aspects of OCS; so there is always a chance that either RCC will be removed or there will be a point were it will no long be viable for either Cisco or Microsoft to maintain the interoperability. Then there is the Dual Forking aspect while I do not envisage Microsoft removing this functionality it does not tie in with their plans for OCS to be a fully functional PBX replacement.
Getting the focus back to CUCIMOC the answer to the question of why did Cisco release this appears to be that Cisco did not want to be reliant on the Microsoft offered integration methods or be caught out if they were removed or deemphasized. It also allows Cisco to continue to own the End to End Telephony of a company.
Before focusing on what CUCIMOC offers in terms of functionality I just want to review the why they choose to offer CUCIMOC instead of pushing CUPS\CUPC (Cisco Unified Presence Client).
It would appear that the Cisco party line tends to be if the customer has OCS or wants to go OCS then it is better to support this decision and offer integration than offer nothing at all; this has been seen with Exchange Unified Messaging verse Cisco Unity.
If someone has not made a decision as to using OCS or another platform then Cisco will offer CUPS\CUPC as a possible solution.
So rather than as some say CUCIMOC it Cisco’s way to show the end of CUPS\CUPC it is more Cisco ensuring that no matter what route a customer takes Cisco has a solution for them.
So lets start to look at what CUCIMOC has to offer. CUCIMOC integrates with OCS through using the Tab functionality within Communicator; this functionality has been around since LCS (and incidentally was how Avaya “bolted” their Softphone into Communicator) and allows for a Web Page to be displayed and interacted with. This can be seen below (CUCIMOC is shown within the Red Box):
So what does CUCIMOC have to offer; well the functionality is similar to that of if the RCC and Dual Forking route was taken.
The functionality includes:
- Control of a Cisco IP Phone
- Using the PC\Laptop as a Softphone (Cisco IP Communicator is not required)
- Notification of incoming calls via a Toast Popup
- Dialling from applications such as Internet Explorer
- Dial Pad for Dialling
- Call History
- Calling Buddy List Contacts (Slightly different than the RCC and Dual Forking route)
In another post I will go into this in more detail (This post can be found here).
I should also point out what CUCIMOC takes away or at least what Cisco suggests you take away.
The Installation Guide asks the implementer to configure OCS for Instant Messaging and Presence Only; disabling all Voice and Video functionality within OCS. Cisco list 3 reasons for doing this:
- Single User Experience
- Inconsistent Voice Traffic
- Mixed Configuration is harder to manage and monitor
While all of these are valid reasons the one thing that always springs to the top of my mind is if OCS is only used for IM and Presence then only the Standard OCS CAL is required.
The one thing they do not mention disabling is Web Conferencing AKA On Premise LiveMeeting to comply with the Standard CAL requirements you would also have to disable this.
The problem with disabling this functionality is that CUCIMOC only replaces the Voice Aspect there is no support for Video or Web Conferencing.
This functionality is available within the Cisco Portfolio using products such as WebEx for Web Conferencing and Cisco Unified Video Advantage for Video.
So the question is will we see these being tied into a future CUCIMOC release; for the Video aspect I would hope so as it is a natural progression. WebEx I am not sure as it is a hosted subscription based service.
The last thing to touch on is the Remote Access and Federation abilities of OCS. Firstly Federation from a Voice (and Video) point of view allows federated OCS systems to easily communicate. By disabling all but IM and Presence this functionality is removed; users in other organisations receive messages informing them that the functionality is disabled if they attempt a Voice or Video call.
For some this loss of this functionality is a major issue for others it is more an annoyance depending on the usage of this functionality within their organisation. Currently I do not see how Cisco can work around this and provide the functionality within CUCIMOC.
For Remote Access users OCS has the ability to use Voice (and Video) remotely through the Edge Servers; this is something that CUCIMOC does not currently offer.
Within the Cisco Telephony Portfolio it is possible to use Cisco IP Phones without a VPN through using the Cisco ASA Phone Proxy. It will be natural extension for CUCIMOC to utilise this functionality to provide Voice without needing a VPN.
So in conclusion CUCIMOC is a good start towards Cisco building Voice into the Communicator Client without relying on Microsoft to continue to provide functionality such as Remote Call Control and Dual Forking. Like any new software release; the first release is usually a public statement of intent with further releases building on this to provide the functionality that customers require.
Hopefully within the next few releases things like Video Support and Voice (and Video) without a VPN will be added allowing customer to not lose functionality if they choose to use CUCMOC.