Cisco Unified Presence is a Linux-based server platform using the Cisco flavor of Linux, much like Communications Manager server runs on. And this server can give us a wide variety of features. We're going to be able to see if our co-workers are available to participate in a call, we can see their presence information – in other words this presence information might come from their Microsoft Outlook calendar as an example. They could set their presence information as being busy, much like they might do it in instant messaging client. In fact there's an application that goes with Cisco Unified Presence and that application does give us an interface to instant messaging.
We can have a group chat as well, we can have a history of our IM chats, and the pieces and parts that make up this presence solution include not just the presence server, which is going to be the place where presence information is aggregated on a server and this information can be communicated out using standards-based approaches. For example using SIP or SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extension called Simple and Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol, the XMPP protocol it supports that interface. But in addition to Cisco Unified Presence, Cisco Unified Communications Manager the device with which our Cisco IP phones have registered that's going to play an integral role. In fact Cisco Unified Communications Manager has a native presence feature built-in, which allows one phone through the use of a busy lamp field speed dial or a call history list to see presence information about a watched phone. But in addition to these server pieces that make up the puzzle, we also have the desktop application we mentioned and it's called the Cisco Unified Personal Communicator.
Cisco Unified Personal Communicator Product Overview
Let's think a bit more about the Cisco Unified Personal Communicator. This is a client application that runs on a PC or a Mac, and with this communicator we can place video calls, we can place audio calls. And when we're placing a call we can place a call using our existing desk phone or hardware-based phone, or we could have this Cisco Unified Personal Communicator register as a softphone. This softphone interface allows us to maybe put on a USB headset and plug that into our computer and have our voice or video call controlled by that software-based phone.
This application also supports a contact list where you might be able to view the presence, the availability, of your contacts to be contacted at the moment – are they busy and this busyness could be reflected directly by them, they could set themselves as being busy or away or it might come from their Microsoft Outlook calendar even.
There is a chat interface that's built-it and it's based on the Jabber Extension Communications Platform or XCP and that uses another protocol that we've already mentioned. And that's XMPP, the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol, and this XCP it supports chatting directly between two participants or we could have multiple users participating in this chat. And by a chat we're not just talking about video, we have IM-like texting going back and forth as well.
Personal Communicator Operation Modes
We mentioned that the Cisco Unified Personal Communicator could either control a phone, a desk phone, or it could operate as a phone itself. In deskphone mode this application running on our computer is going to use the Computer Telephony Integration Quick Buffer Encoding or the CTIQBE protocol to control a designated IP phone. If you have a user that's logged in and they are using the Cisco Unified Personal Communicator, they can be associated with one or more IP phones. And when they log in they can select which IP phone they want to control via this deskphone mode.
In the softphone mode the Cisco Unified Personal Communicator software itself acts as a phone and it's based on the Cisco Unified Client Services Framework or CSF, and this phone is going to register with Cisco Communications Manager and it's going to appear as a SIP speaking device.
Enterprise Instant Messaging
Much like we have instant messenger chat clients, the Cisco Unified Personal Communicator can also support instant messaging. This instant messaging supports point-to-point communication between two SIP clients. And if someone is off-line, off-line instant messaging is supported where the message that someone doesn't get right now it's stored and when they come back online they'll be able to see that message. And the message is stored on the Cisco Unified Presence Informix Dynamic Server or the IDS database. And messages sent by Cisco Unified Personal Communicator can be sent securely over a TLS (Transport Layer Security tunnel), between the server and the client. And let's say that I'm trying to message someone and, the end user that I'm trying to message, they're logged in at more than one device. They're logged in multiple IM clients. What's going to happen? Well there's a process called forking. My message will fork and go out to all of those locations to which this person has logged in, but then when they respond from one of those locations I now know where they are and this forking will stop and my message will now be directed to just that one location where they are logged in from which they responded.
We can also use the Cisco Unified Personal Communicator for voice calls or audio calls. We said that in addition to controlling a desk phone this software could be its own phone in softphone mode, and it's interesting that in softphone mode it supports operation in SRST. So if this software is installed at a PC at a remote location, the WAN goes down and we lose connectivity with our Communications Manager server, we're still going to be able to function in SRST mode by registering with the local router at that site. If we're using the softphone mode we're going to be able to support a variety of codecs, like:
- G.711 a-law, mu-law
- G.722 wideband
- G.729A, G.729AB
- Internet Low Bitrate Codec (iLBC)
- Internet Speech Audio Codec (iSAC)
If you're in deskphone mode, you're controlling a physical IP phone, the codecs that are going to be supported are of course dependent on that phone. And the signaling protocol for a desk phone that you're controlling, it can be either Skinny or SIP.
In addition to audio calls, Cisco Unified Personal Communicator also supports video. So we can have video conference calls set up, this could be done in either the softphone mode or the deskphone mode. And if we're in the deskphone mode, we're going to be using CTI to control the IP phone and that phone has to be pre-configured with video capabilities – we have to configure that in the phone configuration page. And if we're operating in deskphone mode, the desk phone is going to use a different protocol for its signaling. To set up this video call it's called CAST, the Cisco Audio Session Tunnel. Now the Communications Manager server does not speak CAST, but the Cisco IP phone does and the Cisco IP phone can translate between Skinny messages and CAST messages and send those CAST messages to our video client software running on the PC.
In softphone mode the softphone device is by default going to be enabled for video capabilities. And if we're setting up a video conference we need to make sure that the physical IP phone that we're controlling or the softphone that has registered with Cisco Unified Communications Manager, we need to make sure that phone has associated with it a media resource group, which contains a media resource group list, which contains a conferencing media resource that's going to support the video conference.
The Cisco Unified Personal Communicator can be integrated with additional Cisco products besides Cisco Unified Presence. For example, we can integrate Cisco Unified Personal Communicator with Cisco Unity, Cisco Unity Connection and this is going to allow the user using this application to retrieve voicemail to use visual voicemail from their Unified Personal Communicator, so they see the list of voicemail messages that they have. They can control their mailbox from the Cisco Unified Personal Communicator, they can listen to messages, they can send messages, they can delete messages and the Cisco Unified Personal Communicator can also integrate with applications such as Microsoft Outlook and support the click-to-call feature. So if someone is looking at an Outlook contact and they want to call them they could call them directly from within Outlook using the Cisco Unified Personal Communicator to initiate that call.
They could integrate with Cisco Unified Meeting Place where the user could take an active call and escalate that to a conference session, and there is also support to interconnect Cisco Unified Personal Communicator to an external compliance server or an external database.
Cisco Unified Personal Communicator Requirements
On the following image we see the technical requirements of a Microsoft Windows based machine to run Version 8 of Cisco Unified Personal Communicator.
Earlier we mentioned that Cisco Unified Personal Communicator is supported on Macintosh environments, well, that has been the case in the past, however, with version 8.0 Cisco Unified Personal Communicator, currently Macintosh environments are not supported with this version and you can take a look and read through the different bullets on screen about the technical requirements of a Windows machine. Interestingly it is supported with Windows 7 and 8, Windows Vista, Windows XP and this is assuming that those versions are running an appropriate service back or they're an appropriate version but this application does run on recent versions of Windows. We need to have plenty of memory to support this and keep in mind that the list of requirements given here, this is a minimal set of requirements to run Cisco Unified Personal Communicator. If you have a PC that just barely meets this minimum set of requirements it might not be able to support all features of Cisco Unified Personal Communicator, for example it might not be able to do the high-definition video.
Cisco Unified Client Services Framework
Earlier we mentioned the Cisco Unified Client Services Framework. This framework is used not just for Cisco Unified Personal Communicator. For example, this framework is used to integrate Cisco Unified Communications with Microsoft Office and Cisco WebEx Connect. This framework offers functions such as voice and video, secure communications with a Cisco Communications Manager server, communication with text conferencing servers such as Cisco Unified Presence. And this framework can help manage things like visual voicemail, it can help provide call history management and it can help manage audio and video call controls.
Another service we should be aware of is the Cisco Unified Communications Manager IP Phone Service or the CCMCIP service. This service can help with directory service use, it can help with authentication and it's also used when an end user presses the services button on their phone.
But in this context we're seeing how this service, this CCMCIP service, is being leveraged by the CSF, the Cisco Unified Client Services Framework, specifically the Client Services Framework is going to use CCMCIP to get a list of devices that a user is associated with.
Cisco Unified IP Phone Messenger Interface
One of the applications that comes with Cisco Unified Presence is the Cisco IP Phone Messenger application. This is going to allow the user to create a contact list that they might want to watch. They can exchange instant messages with those contacts and this application even comes with pre-configured instant messages, which could be customized by the administrator by the way. And this application also allows an end user to change their presence status in the Cisco IP Phone Messenger user interface, to perhaps indicate that they are away on vacation.
Cisco Unified IP Phone Messenger Characteristics
Let's take a closer look at the Cisco IP Phone Messenger. This application is going to use the Extensible Markup Language XML being sent over HTTP when it communicates with a Cisco Unified Presence server. In fact it translates between HTTP and SIP messages. Specifically it can communicate with Cisco Unified IP phones using XML again over HTTP, and it can simultaneously communicate with a SIP proxy or a SIP registrar server using SIP. And the phone itself can be used to navigate through the Cisco IP Phone Messenger application because the phone can act as an XML web browser. And also we've got a couple of different phones that might have the same directory number but they're in different partitions. The Cisco IP Phone Messenger can distinguish between those two and it can also recognize a user or recognize a phone number when a user logs in via Extension Mobility.