User Group Updates

UC Doers (Pacific Northwest Unified Communication Users Group)

Thanks to everyone that attended the UC Doers meeting last night. For a detailed report please visit Josh Maher’s blog. Thanks to Josh Maher and Rob Herman for organizing, Microsoft for providing food,beverages and presentations and lastlyMcKinstry for the facilities. Great meeting, looking forward to the next one.

SEACUG (Seattle Cisco Users Group)

This maybe a new group to some of you. SEACUG is the Seattle Cisco Users Group. This group meets monthly at the Bellevue Cisco office and is aimed at Cisco networking. Well worth checking out if you are interested in Cisco certification or learning more about Cisco networking in general. Next meeting is set for the February 18, 2009 . Check out the website for more details.

Google Mobile in MOC Custom Tabs

While I was looking for new ways to utilize MOC custom tabs, I come across Google mobile search. It works pretty well inside of a MOC custom tab. Its light format and ability to fit the tab environment works well.

I am sure this application is not to everyone’s taste when you can just open a web browser to get the full thing. I was working on a demonstration for MOC custom tabs, and being the lazy sod that I am, I was looking for some readymade content. This fitted the bill nicely without too much effort. Below is the xml update you will require for the page to appear. I haven’t created an icon in a png format yet so that will have to wait.

< tab>
<image>Create your own icon.png</image>
<tooltip>Google Mobile</tooltip>

To make changes on the fly I host the xml file on my PC. Not a great way to deploy an enterprise but good for testing.

Using F5 Big-IP load balancer with OCS mediation server

One of the interesting things I have done recently is used a F5 Big-IP load balancer in conjunction with an OCS mediation server to load balance across multiple PSTN gateways. While this is a Microsoft unsupported configuration for OCS, it does indeed work and works very well. This configuration of course works only for outbound calls from the mediation to a gateway of some sort. In our configuration, we used it to alternate route outbound 911 across three gateways in a specific order. Something one mediation server is incapable of doing.

Using the F5, we created priority groups and placed one gateway in each one. At the mediation server, we pointed the PSTN gateway next hop to the F5 VIP for the priority groups. The F5 is capable of a SIP heartbeat check so it knows when one of the gateway goes down which then forces it to use the next priority group/gateway in the list. I am not sure what other applications this would be suitable for but with the current limitations surrounding the mediation servers ability to only contact one PSTN gateway I thought it was note worthy.

User Groups and Networking

For the last four years, I have been involved with the Cisco IP Telephony Users group. Not just attending the national conference, but also helping run a local chapter here in Seattle. It has been at times a frustrating experience but also very rewarding as I have been able to network and build friendships with people in other companies I would not have otherwise meet. Networking is really the heart of the user group experience no matter what technology your focus is. With the current economic climate, networking may also be the difference between a smooth job transitions after a layoff as well.

I mentioned frustrating because it is difficult to sustain a groups interest in attending user group meetings with so many things competing for peoples time and travel always a hassle. This year we decided the focus for the user group is to evolve much like the that of the company I work for. Less travel, more virtual collaboration. Will this make a difference in attendance levels I am not sure. This certainly give an avenue for those that are interested and not certain about attending in person a chance to experience what a user group has to offer. Eventually I hope this helps with increasing attendance to a more steady level.

Over the next 12 months, I plan to share more of my experience of being a member of the leadership team of our CIPTUG local chapter. The high and low points. What works and what doesn’t. I will also share agendas for the CIPTUG Northwest chapter and details how to get involved with various Microsoft and Cisco groups.

You may have noticed that the information I provide on this blog contains a good mix of information on both Cisco and Microsoft products. I work heavily with both technology vendors and in my honest opinion, the best solution for your business is what works for your business model. Working for a manufacturing company using both technologies gives me the flexibility to be an advocate for technology and not just one vendor’s solution. .

Please post a comment and remember to support your local user groups for which ever technology you use.

VoIPNorm’s top ten UC predictions for 2009

It’s that time of the year (okay, so maybe I am a little late) that everyone seems to be coming out with top ten predictions for 09 so I thought I would come up with a few of my own on the not so serious side.

Starting at number 10...

10. There will be more prediction lists for 2010 than 2009. With the economy on the down side predictions for 09 are way down.

9. Apple will launch a UC application called the iUC. No one will care what it does but you know everyone will want it.

8. The new US President will get to keep his Blackberry once he takes office even against advice from security personel.

7. Free Open Source software will be the only growth industry for anything as budgets tighten.

6. A company will somehow use an ATA, an analog phone and maybe some string to create the first UC enabled analog device.

5. Due to the downward economy the traditional PBX will make a comeback as a UC enabler.

4. Someone from Cisco will make the claim that Microsoft’s UC solution has to many servers and someone from Microsoft will claim Cisco’s UC solution has to many applications, all this will happen at VoiceCon.

3. Microsoft and Cisco UC divisions will put their differences behind them after VoiceCon.

2. A hardware vendor will make the claim they are a software company.

and finally number ...

1. Someone somewhere is going to create a UC application that has nothing to do with UC at all

If you have a not so serious top ten prediction please post a comment.

For a more serious look at the UC industry, Gurdeep Singh Pall from Microsoft has released his top ten predictions. I especially like his number one prediction. It certainly is time to take some of the marketing out of UC and leave only real UC products on the shelves.


While I am on the subject of user groups with the last blog, I thought I would mention the Cisco IP Telephony User Group. This is an independent user group, even though the name may suggest otherwise. There are a number of chapters spread throughout the US and a couple in other areas of the world. Over the last year or so, CIPTUG has seen a large increase in local user chapter participation and is well worth checking out in your local area. I will be posting the Seattle area meetings here on the website so stay tuned for updates.

For more information, please check out the website.

For information on Chapters in your area, check out:

UC Doers are Back

What a difference a few well placed emails can make. Seems The Pacific Northwest Unified Communications User Group isn’t dead after all. For anyone on the Seattle area interested in networking with your IT peers and learning something about Microsoft Unified Communications the next meeting is scheduled Wednesday January 28, 2009 from 4:00pm - 7:00pm. Please check out the link below for more details on where and how to get there.

E911 for OCS

Sorry for sounding a bit like a advertisement but I am sure for most this is the first time they have seen a E911 solution for OCS and without stealing the thunder from the vendor who provided this solution I have kept the information fairly brief. Not much point going to deep into a technical discussion when no one actually has the solution yet. As far as I know this is the only solution for E911 for OCS currently available.

Enhanced 911 solutions in general can be complex due to alternate(fallback) routing requirements. Redundant call paths are required at every possible place a failure can occur. 911 Enable has done a great job at providing a flexible solution that has passed all early testing phases for the Enterprise Voice deployment I am working on. The diagram below is a good example of what the typical environment may look like with the solution in place.

The whole idea of the E911 (Enhanced 911) is to provide acurate location information to a PSAP. With the 911 Enable solution, this is provided through the user configurable Remote Location Management service that appears as a Tab in MOC as pictured below. Users can input their current location, which is registered to 911 Enable through their on-premise Emergency Gateway shown in the network diagram as the two red boxes.

This information is not much use without a way to match this against a user when an outbound call to 911 is generated. This matching process uses the EPID that is provided by the front-end server on every generated call and is registered by the client to the Emergency Gateway (EGW) when the client first registers to OCS along with IP address and MAC. The EPID allows the Emergency gateway to match the user against registered information in the EGW database, which is then feed back to 911 Enable to allow routing to the correct PSAP. Calls that have been identifed to have a location are routed directly to 911 Enable over an IP connection via VPN. Unconfigured clients are routed to the 911 Emergency Response Center. Without a clear location routing to the wrong PSAP is avoided.

For the solution we are trialing we have one dedicated 911 mediation server that only handles outbound 911 calls. This could of course be multiple servers in a round robin configuration for outbound call processing of 911 calls. Due to the load balancer, inbound calls are not available through this server and call rejects from the EGW servers have to be routed locally and not passed back to the mediation server for processing. This is overcome by redundant calls paths from the EGW servers that allow fallback routing to the E911 Enable Emergency Response Center through the PSTN. In my case, I have chosen to use a Cisco Unified Communications Manager as the fallback device but it could just as easily been a SIP gateway such as Audio Codes Gateway.

This type of application shows the flexibility of OCS and the agility of third party vendors. This solution was designed in a short period of time by 911 Enable and depending on your environment should be an easy solution to configure. My congratulations goes out to the folks at 911 Enable for developing this solution, as I am sure this will overcome a road block for more than one Microsoft customers looking to move to OCS Enterprise Voice.

For more information on this solution, please contact 911 Enable directly.

Cool Communicator Gadgets for Vista

I am new to gadgets but I found these Communicator gadgets for Vista that I thought I would try out. The first is from CodePlex. It keeps track of you favorite contacts as well as your top 5. It also allows you to check voice mail if you are using Exchanges Unified Messaging. I like this one a lot. I have about 50 contacts in my buddy list but I really only use 4 or 5 regularly so it’s a really nice enhancement.

The second one I found, thanks to Jeff Schertz blog, is a gadget by Dmitry Polzin. This is a handy gadget for those that typically have a lot of simultaneous conversation windows open at the same time along with other clutter that is in the taskbar. This makes finding the conversation window you want a little easier. This is also a common complaint I get from users. Both seem to work fine with MOC 2007 R2 (RTM) also.

One thing I also like about this gadget is it can be dragged on to the desktop. At the moment I am trying both out to see which one is the more useful and will stay long term.

Exchange Unified Messaging for CME 4.1

For those that are unfamiliar, the following document link is Cisco’s offering for interoperability between Exchange UM and CME 4.1. Well worth a look if you are looking to make this integration work.

This document is part of the Cisco interoperability portal.

Death of a User Group

Seems as though The Pacific Northwest Unified Communications User Group has succumb to a short life span. The momentum was lost after the first successful meeting. If you’re in the Seattle area and are interested in seeing this group come back to life please place a comment here or on the NW UC website. If enough interest is sparked I think we can take another run at it.

Running a user group is hard without participation not just at a user level but also an organization level so if you want to help out getting it going again please comment as such.

Quality of Service for MOC

Even though Microsoft have played the card that network QoS is not a requirement for enterprise voice deployments for OCS I thought I would blog about some QoS settings that can be used in an enterprise environment to help improve MOC QoE. Of course, these settings are not much use if you do not support DSCP on your network. Vista and XP are somewhat different in the ways they support QoS. Vista offers a much more granular form of QoS and allows the administrator to use group policy to set specific rules on an application basis. The following is the registry changes required to enable and alter QoS setting in Vista for MOC:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


"Application Name"="communicator.exe"
"Local Port"="XXXX:XXXXX" (port range removed for security)
"Local IP"="*"
"Local IP Prefix Length"="*"
"Remote Port"="*"
"Remote IP"="*"
"Remote IP Prefix Length"="*"
"DSCP Value"="46"
"Throttle Rate"="-1"


As you can see through group policy in Vista we can target not only the application but also the port range. If we were to take it further, you could also specify IP subnets. This level of granularity is important for a number of reasons if your switch ports in your network do not trust QoS settings from PC’s. No one wants someone setting the priority on non-real time applications like email for instance. However, with this type of control on what applications get to set their QoS settings through group policy we could enable QoS to the PC and ensure rogue applications are not consuming valuable bandwidth set aside for real time application like voice.

Unfortunately, XP doesn’t have the same granularity as Vista and the registry settings look something like this:



This allows XP QoS to be enabled but with no strict granular controls other than limiting port ranges.

As mentioned earlier this is all depends on your network QoS supporting DSCP. Vista provides the best QoS configuration and is easily configured through group policy. Working in a hostile network environment which is pretty typical of most enterprise networks choosing to deploy some form of QoS for an OCS pilot if it is already deployed for IP phones is a great idea. Nothing kills a VoIP pilot quicker than poor voice quality and although some environments may exist quite well without it, large environment with WAN links and varying amounts of bandwidth capacity will certainly benefit from QoS even with the Microsoft RT Audio codec’s.

Failed Gateways and Failover Routing

One of the recent issues I have come across in an OCS Enterprise Voice deployment is the ability to alternate route after a gateway becomes unavailable.

In the October updates for the mediation server, KB957490 was resolved which provided a fix for redundant gateways and alternate routing when there is a gateway failure. Previously a failed gateway would just initiated a 500 response code but with this update, a 504 message is sent when a gateway become unreachable. This forces OCS to look for an alternate route. This update is critical if you are using redundant gateways connecting to different mediation servers.