Back to the Future Part II Predicted Video in the Home

That’s right folks. Well before Cisco decided video was the new voice Back to the Future Part II was already telling us home video calling was the way to go.

Just stumbled across it this week as cable has all three episodes of BTTF movies on back to back every night. How did Hollywood know back in 1989 that video would be in every lounge room?


What's your favorite classic movie prediction that’s come true?

Happy New Year.


Device Review: Jabra SPEAK 410

Since I listed it in my favorite things for 2010 it seems more than appropriate to have a review of this neat speaker phone. The Jabra SPEAK 410 has two great things going for it that I really like:

  1. Its compact and portable with a soft protective case
  2. It has some great visual indicators on it to show volume, mute, on hook and off hook.

As with all certified devices Lync picked up the device straight away and I was able to select it as my default audio device and begin using it. Super easy. The touch surface on the edge of the device is pretty responsive and works well even with my super dry hands which I sometimes have trouble with on touch devices. The 360 degree microphone works great and from everyone I know that is using this device no issues with dead spots with the microphone setup.

Time for some pictures. Below is the device after just being plugged in. The LED down the bottom shows it’s up and functional.


Next we have in a call.


My favorite, mute. Most other USB conference devices have a flashing indicator but this has a full set of red LEDs to indicate your on mute and the mute button is clearly indicated.


Lastly, changing the volume. This is really cool as well as most devices usually only have an up and down volume with no indicator of what the volume is. The SPEAK 410 lights up all the way around the device as the volume goes up. Very handy.


The only negative is the LEDs used as indicators could have been a little bit bigger but I am getting really picky since I found no other fault with this device.

As you have probably guessed by now I am a bit of a device freak and am constantly changing out the gear in my laptop bag. This one is definitely a keeper, well until something else perks my interest anyway.

Comments welcomed.


My Favorite Things for 2010

Just like Oprah, I to have a list of my favorite things. There are a few exceptions, I don’t have a screaming manic audience and I am not going to give away everything in my list. Last year about his time I came out with my favorite OC compatible devices. This year I am going to expand my list a little beyond Lync certified devices.

CX600 – Although Polycom and Aastra have comparable products I still have an inkling towards Polycom because of other areas they have to offer along with the CX range of devices. Not to say that Aastra hasn’t got a good product with 6725ip which it has, my personal preference is the CX600. One thing that has worked well in my opinion with the integration to Lync is USB tethering for both vendors. In reality I can live without a desk phone, but now that I have one (several actually) I really like the ability to use it integrated with Lync.

CX300 – Polycom hit a home run with this device which was also available from Plantronics. So not only a great USB device but some choice on where to get it. A great option for users that want a USB handset device to get more comfortable with Lync. Polycom got the nod this time just for being the first to offer it and a big involvement in the development.

Kinect – Not really a UC product (yet) but I love my Kinect all the same. Two things I am waiting on though are more game titles and the release of the Xbox 360 interoperability with Lync. The future of Kinect seems endless with what’s coming out of the open source community right now and whether Microsoft likes it or not it’s already gone way beyond the Xbox.

Polycom HDX – In my opinion the HDX has by far one of the best Lync interoperability stories for a video end device on the market right now. Mike talks about the HDX interop here with ICE/STUN and TURN which if you don’t already know about you need to talk with Polycom on why this is so important. It opens up so many opportunities for expanding collaboration not just to Lync clients but also other HDX end devices that it’s worth the time and effort to look.

Plantonics Blackwire 420 – One of the best Lync compatible wired headset available right now. It’s a solid headset that travels great and gives great sound quality. Has a soft travel case to boot.

Jabra Speak 410 – New to the market, this is a neat USB speaker phone. A compact unit which comes with a soft travel case, finally. ***Note to vendors*** -- if it’s meant to be portable no matter what the USB device have it come with a soft travel cover.

Ebeam Edge – As you probably saw in my last post this is a great collaboration whiteboard tool that can be paired with Lync. Although there is no current direct integration it doesn’t really need it to be effectively used with Lync.

UGG Slippers – What can I say, they are really comfortable and I agree with Oprah, they are great. Yes, I am recommending slippers, got a problem with that? I told you I was going beyond certified devices.

Things that didn’t make the list but expect to be there in 2011:

Windows 7 Phone – I haven’t got mine yet but will in the coming year. Plenty of my work peers have it and love it, even a few iPhone converts. Looking forward to Lync integration as well.

Calisto 825 – A new USB speaker phone from Plantronics. Even has a lapel microphone. Sweet.

What’s your favorite or not so favorite device for 2010?


Device Review: eBeam

I was lucky enough to come across this device a few months ago. The eBeam is one of those devices that you go “wow, I want one”. Even more so the case when you send a lot of time in front of a whiteboard like I do. When I first got a demo of the eBeam I was very impressed. It does have its own software suite of tools which has some overlap with Lync features but it can also be a great add on to Lync.

When you see most white boarding technology or smart boards it all looks great and works great but there is one big thing that will stop you in your tracks. Sticker shock. Usually whiteboard systems are expensive but this is where eBeam has a big advantage over most of its competitors. At around $900 (USB version) its price turns it into a commodity device rather than a capital purchase that most of these technologies require.

The eBeam comes with two options. First is a stylus option that can be used with a projected image. The second option is whiteboard markers with eraser that allows it to be used with any standard white board. Pictured below is the complete kit. Not very big and extremely portable.


The eBeam sensor and stylus shown below is used with a projected image of your desktop and basically turns the projected image into an interactive workspace. This is great for working with the white boarding feature of Lync. It also works really well with annotating PowerPoint slides .Further down you will see a picture of me working with a PowerPoint presentation shared with Lync and the eBeam Stylus. The stylus can also perform mouse functions with a button on the side.



The picture below show the whiteboard markers and eraser. To use the white board markers requires the use of eBeam Capture software, which when used with Lync can be shared as an application and works well.


How the eBeam works:

eBeam works by means of a combination of Infra-red and ultrasonic technology embedded into the pens, and an eBeam receiver to translate the movements of these signals and convert them into mouse strokes on a PC or Mac.

When an eBeam pen first touches the board it emits a flash of infra-red which is picked up on a sensor in the center of the eBeam receiver. The pen when being used then emits a series of ultrasonic signals which can be heard as a slight ‘buzzing sound’; this signal is received on the poles of the receiver. The eBeam unit then calculates the difference in time between the two signals and triangulates the position of the stylus or marker sleeve on the pre-calibrated area. The principle is not too dissimilar to that of a child counting the difference in time between lightening and thunder to locate the center of a storm. (Source)

I like to use the eBeam inside of a Lync session when doing presentations. Although the whiteboard features with the markers is handy I find the stylus with a projected desktop image using the inbuilt features of Lync to be the best combination. I mentioned some overlap with Lync earlier. The eBeam software does come with its own sharing and recording functions. I haven’t tried this out; I prefer to use Lync for sharing and collaboration because the eBeam software is focused mainly on the whiteboard experience which may present some limitations in a corporate environment. As an example it lacks dial in PSTN capabilities and video.

Combining eBeam white boarding capabilities with Lync makes for a unique experience which can also include video & audio conferencing, IM, presence and web collaboration. It also means if you have an existing Lync infrastructure there is no need to stand up a second eBeam infrastructure to get the advantages of eBeam.

As far as UC is concerned the whiteboard is the forgotten legacy platform. I often hear that UC is hard to define and it means different things to different people but I see no reason to leave the whiteboard out of the collaboration experience. People use whiteboards every day and I am sure that nearly every conference room you walk into has one. So think about how much lost data has been on that whiteboard. At $900, the eBeam certainly makes better utilization of the whiteboard a far more attainable proposition.

Here are some reviews:

Short preview of some of the capabilities
Longer review, steps through setup and use

Comments welcomed.


Lync Inbound Normalization Rules

Back in OCS R2 it was possible to apply a Location Profile with a specific set of Normalization Rules to a Mediation Server for inbound normalization. Why do we need to do this? To get inbound calls into E.164 format for reverse lookups against users Tel URI’s.

The same configuration is still possible but in a slightly different way in Lync. As everyone probably knows by now the Mediation Server went through a number of changes with Lync along with the ability to talk to multiple gateways at the same time. This means that instead of applying a Location Profile to a Mediation Server, we now apply a Dial Plan to a Gateway in Lync. Of course you do not need to go this granular but if you have a multiple site deployment you may require different normalization rules on different gateways. This might occur when you are sending four digit extensions to Lync and you have an overlapping dial plan on two different PBX’s connected to two different gateways.

Figure 1. Dial plan


As you can see in figure 1 I already have two dial plans with normalization rules but I still want a dial plan for inbound normalization for my gateway.

Figure 2. Selecting Pool dial plan


I think the new ability to define the different normalization rules really has some great advantages. I no longer have to go to each individual Mediation Server to apply a Location Profile any more for inbound normalization. I can see it all in one place. Here I am going to select Pool dial plan. I can also apply a rule that will affect my entire site rather than on a pool or gateway which is fine if you do not need to be so granular.

Figure 3. Gateway selection


Here I have selected my gateway. I could have also selected a Pool or SBA to have the same effect but this is not as granular as the gateway.

Figure 4. Create dial plan and normalization rules


I have kept my normalization rule pretty simple. Basically this rule adds a + to any inbound 11 digit number. If I had a PBX that only sent the last 4 digits of a number I could have appended the rest of the number in a different rule or altered the inherited rule.

Figure 5. Saved uncommitted dial plan


I have saved my dial plan just not committed it.

Figure 6. Dial plan committed


Final step I have now committed my dial plan and I am done. Pretty simple really.

Comments welcomed.


Kinect Hacks

Now, this isn’t exactly Microsoft endorsed but the KinectHacks website is interesting. It’s the beginning of an open source movement to take advantage of the Kinect any way they can. From sign language interpretation to other less upstanding activities for game interfaces (pretty sure I don’t need to spell it out) it has some great examples of what the open source community is doing to take advantage of the Kinect. One of the most interesting videos currently on the site is the story around the initial work done for Kinect divers. It took just 6 days for drivers to become available on Linux for the Kinect. Amazing stuff.

As far as UC related possibilities, the most interesting so far is the two Kinects working together rending 3D images. If you can imagine a conference room with a Kinect on each wall you could render a full 3D conference room and as some of the other videos show, you could potentially project yourself into the room. Very cool.

If you’re into technology then you are really going enjoy Kinect Hacks.

Comments welcomed.


Microsoft UC Holiday Spirit Integration

I thought I had seen some pretty cool stuff when it comes to integrating UC in to applications but this takes the cake.

LED Christmas Lights as IM presence indicators from Andrej Kyselica on Vimeo.

This example may not improve your business processes but it is a very cool way to show what you can do with a bit of imagination and Lync API's.

Now where are those Christmas lights, I got some presence to show:)


Cisco and Microsoft Lync Interoperability

So far there has not been an official release on Cisco and Microsoft Lync interoperability from either company. As things get spun up in the labs and official testing begins there has been some talk at TechEd and other events on what this could look like. I have also been working with customers and partners that have set up integration in their labs. In this post I am going to describe some scenarios and currently unsupported configurations that people could stand up in their labs to start testing. Even though the scenarios I am going to outline do in fact work, no support statement or interoperability documentation is available yet but I expect to see it in the coming months.

Similar to OCS R2 interoperability with Cisco Unified Communications Manager for direct SIP, Lync will still require MTP’s (media termination points). Sometime ago I wrote about using OCS R2 with Cisco deployments utilizing MTP resources. This really wont change all that much. You will more than likely need MTP’s for direct SIP. If you have a mixed environment it’s going to make sense to still have local MTP resources at the branch but there will be some things that you can do that will lower their use and improve media flows. The reason that this is possible is because the Mediation Server role now allows media bypass teamed with a 1:many ratio for Mediation Servers and PSTN gateways (Cisco ISR).

The Survivable Branch Appliance/ Server is a really handy device. Beyond just survivability for Lync clients in the branch its now opens up a great deal of options for trunking between your Cisco and Microsoft environments. The SBA/SBS is a enhanced SIP registrar along with a Mediation server. So along with survivability it now has new trunking abilities which make it a very flexible device both in the appliance and server format.

Many large enterprises have investments in Cisco for their enterprise voice gateway platform. So making a change to one of the supported SBA partners for Lync is not somewhere that all enterprises are willing to go. Fair enough, but what options can be achieved. What I have seen to date is (even though it is not certified) Lync can use a Cisco gateway as a voice gateway but with some caveats around SRTP, Media Bypass and MGCP.

-SRTP between Lync and Cisco’s ISR platform is not compatible. Even if it were, loading certificates and setting up an ISR to do SRTP is not what I call simple the first time around and a lot of enterprises may not care about using SRTP anyway. In fact most organizations do not use encryption in there CUCM deployments so this probably isn't a big deal.

-Media bypass requires changes to set the Lync client from required encryption to support when using the Cisco ISR platform. This can be done with PowerShell CMD that I have previously documented here and it’s a one line command. Pretty simple.

-MGCP. Since the signaling traffic is backhauled to the CUCM subscriber the router loses its ability to segment a T1 and provide the ability to breakout traffic at the router. So once you enable a T1 for MGCP you will need an alternate way to get your traffic to your Lync users via a SIP trunk from the subscriber. Using SIP you could potential send inbound calls directly to the SBS and eliminate some complex routing and lower MTP use. MGCP has its pluses and minus. In a mixed environment where you may want direct trunking to your Cisco voice gateways from the SBS it limits your choices. Lucky when a WAN failure takes place the router fails back to SRST and h323 by default freeing MGCP’s grip on the routers resources, so that may bring some solace.

That being said, dual environments usually come about because of a preexisting Cisco IPT environment and introducing Lync on top of it to add UC. This is very common. Below I have outlined what this could look like with Lync. This deployment example is about maximum use of resources with multiple routes for fail over between the two environments. This setup will allow Lync to be used for conferencing and softphone (or IP standalone hard phone if your plan is to eventually replace Cisco) deployments alongside you existing Cisco environment. Now you could make this deployment much simpler and sometimes simpler is better but this diagram is about showing you full options.

Figure 1: The Setup


I think it’s important to point out a few differences between the SBA and SRST. Cisco and Microsoft have different approaches here and I am not saying one is better than another; they are just inherently different in the way that the branch is designed which is important to understand. Firstly the SBA is the primary registrar for remote clients in Lync. SRST on the other hand functions in the opposite way with the Cisco SRST router being more of the secondary registrar only being used in the case of a WAN failure. This means all signaling traffic for a SCCP or SIP Cisco IP phone flows back to the central site when the WAN is available. The SBA/SBS on the other hand can handle call routing locally when the WAN is or is not available. The SBA dial plan is also centrally managed, SRST on the other hand requires some configuration on the router for failback mode whether your phones are using SCCP or SIP. Even though I have shown my diagram using SCCP for the phone signaling it could just as easily be SIP.

Cisco is not a SBA partner and does not currently support the SBA in their Cisco router platform. Therefore it does require a separate SBS server to accommodate remote Lync clients in the branch if disaster recovery is a requirement when using Cisco ISR gateways. If DR is not required you can do away with having any device or appliance in the branch and just have a Cisco gateway.

With that said, I have drawn the CUCM cluster with a SIP trunk to the SBS in the branch along with a direct SIP trunk from the SBA to the gateway. This adds some redundancy and efficiencies which I will get to in following diagrams.

Figure 2: Local inbound and outbound Lync calling- Direct to Cisco gateway


Figure 2 is one of the efficiencies I was talking about. Combining the ability to do Media-Bypass, Enhanced Registrar and the Mediation Server role of the SBS direct routing to the Cisco Gateway is greatly simplified. As well as the ability to do translations on the Mediation server in case E.164 is not part of your current Cisco design. In this case direct inbound and outbound calls from Lync Clients registered with the SBS can go directly to the Cisco router using G.711. This is a key scenario if you desire local DID access for Lync clients at remote sites.

Figure 3: Local inbound and outbound Lync calling- Remote Lync Client to Remote Cisco IP phone


Figure 3 shows how using a direct SIP trunk from the CUCM to the SBS makes a lot of sense. In this scenario I am able to dedicate MTP resources just for the purposes of SIP trunking between the two environments. Ideally you want local MTP resources to remove the need to trombone media streams over the WAN. You will also notice the media stream is direct between the Lync client and the MTP using G.711. Unlike the SBS the SRST router is not actively processing calls until a WAN outage so the Cisco IP phone will ship call signaling back to the CUCM subscriber.

Figure 4: Local inbound and outbound Lync calling- Central Lync Client to Central Cisco IP phone


Figure 4 is really pretty simple. Using the collocated Mediation Server on the SE or EE Pool we can have direct media between the MTP and Lync client using G.711 codec and Sip trunking between the two environments. Any number translations required could occur on the collocated Mediation Server before entering the Cisco environment.

Figure 5: Remote Lync Client to Central Cisco IP phone with no Media Bypass


Figure 5 now becomes a little tricky depending on call routing for Remote users. You obviously have two options for call routing. Firstly you could route locally across the SIP trunk between the SBS and the CUCM deployment but I have chosen to take a slightly different route utilizing central resources and using RTAudio over the WAN with CAC and to conserve bandwidth with RTAudio back to the central site. I could use Media Bypass for PSTN/Cisco calls but this would limit CAC and reroute over the PSTN options should my WAN overloaded.

Figure 6: Remote Lync Client to Remote Cisco IP phone with Media Bypass During WAN outage


Figure 6 is an untested theory I have about the ability to have the two environments talk to one another during a WAN outage. The Cisco router along with providing registration when in SRST mode for Cisco IP phones should also be able to make SIP-SIP or SIP-H323 functionality enabling the isolated branch to continue processing internal calls. The only caveat I would consider is that this will require media to flow through the Cisco ISR. Like I said this is an untested theory. Feel free to give it a try.

Comments welcomed.


Survivable Branch Appliance Failover Mode: Client Experience

Lync’s new Survivable Branch Appliance is a hot topic and while I am not going to cover the entire solution in one post I just wanted to touch on one area. What happens to the client experience when the WAN goes down? By far the most common question I get around SBA functionality.


Firstly, the most obvious is the big red banner across the client. Although these screen shots are from the beta, the behavior and look for this feature is still the same with RTM. The end user has a clear indicator that there is something going on. Secondly contacts and presence have disappeared. The example screen shot shows that once in failover mode even though contacts are gone you can still search the address book. In this case if Marcos is registered with the same SBA device, Mark can still do peer to peer IM/Presence, audio, video etc. though the Lync client. If Marcos is registered elsewhere Mark can still make outbound calls from Lync through the default PSTN gateway that is configured on the SBA. So voice is still available for PSTN calls.


Above is a great breakdown of what is and is not available during a WAN outage. The most critical feature that is maintained is voice. The user can also still reach and host conference calls through the PSTN although the interface to control the conference will be through the DTMF interface.

Comments welcomed.


Device Review: Kinect for Xbox 360

I don’t usually review gaming console attachments but I think Kinect has big potential in the UC space and in conjunction with Lync has a long future beyond gaming. I have had a Kinect about three weeks now and it is an exciting product for a number of reasons. Besides from playing the initial launch games I have had a chance to tryout the current video offering with Live Messenger which has some interesting features.

First and foremost for now the Kinect is a gaming console attachment. The marketing line “You are the controller” is precisely what it is. Although the ability to control the console outside the bound of the Kinect Hub is limited, both the voice and movement controls work fairly well. What I like is that I don’t have to go looking for a controller once I am in there. I can just put it down and forget about it.

The games so far are more aimed at the casual gamer. The best title around at the moment is Dance Central. It really is a lot of fun and surprisingly very accurate for scoring your moves. Obviously as you go from easy to hard settings you need to be more precise with your moves but it is never so picky that it takes away from the fun of the game. If you’re a spectator watching someone else play its easy just to watch the screen and miss what the person playing is doing, which is way more entertaining than the screen. Having held our first Kinect neighborhood block party last weekend Dance Central got the big thumbs up among the 10 adults that played it. 2 people at the party went out the next day to get a Kinect just for Dance Central.

I have managed to try a fair swag of the available titles and to be honest some won’t hold you attention very long if your older than 12. One of the most underrated games though is Fighters Uncaged. I really like this game but it does have some feature limitations around multiplayer capability. There is none. It can get a little repetitive having to fight the same fighters but it’s a great workout and still a lot of fun. Not great for a party as it gets boring for everyone watching pretty quick but great for the one person duke outs.

Kinect Video is really pretty cool. I like the ability for the platform to automatically zoom out as more people come into the picture. It’s a great extension that has a lot of potential applications for organizations trying to better interact with consumers. To me, its inexpensive innovations like this that will really take video to the next level by embedding it into your life style. Combine that with the ability to reach into the enterprise and its taking video on a new level.

There is already a lot of speculation around on the internet about the use of Kinect with Windows and some developers have already started down that path without Microsoft. Microsoft purposefully left the USB interface to Kinect open so that developers could see what they could do and there are a couple of simple demos out there of people that have already started doing some simple stuff and developing drivers for Windows 7.


Lync interoperability was demoed at the Lync World Wide Launch but as yet there is no date for the Xbox upgrade that will allow it. I expect it to be pretty soon. Although the idea of having Kinect video through Xbox to Lync is very cool, I think native integration to Windows and having Kinect as a video endpoint (similar to a webcam) for Lync is much more interesting. Things like automatic video adjustment of how many people in the room, voice control of Lync, automatic face recognition etc. Once the drivers are more commonly available for Windows I am sure this will follow and it’s a great opportunity for partners to do some really cool integration and development.


This is an important piece of technology that takes a complex, once expensive piece of hardware and brings it to the masses. Although the hardcore gaming fans are probably not that impressed yet with the game titles available I think that will change. As the more hardcore titles appear I think the real potential of the gaming platform will be unlocked and Kinect will be the motion based controller to beat, if its not already. On the UC front we have only seen a glimpse what Kinect can do with Live and Lync video interoperability. The bigger and grander UC vision for Kinect will only be limited by the developers working on the platform once the drivers for Windows are available.

Other content on Kinect

Kinect for Xbox 360 versus Cisco Umi

Lync 2010 Media Bypass and CAC Part 3: Call Admission Control

In this post I will stay at the 100 level because I don’t think I could cover Call Admission Control (CAC) in just one post in any great depth. When you first look at the configuration for CAC it may start to get a little confusing. But the most important thing you can do with CAC is to plan, plan, plan. I could say it again but I think you get the message. Outlining your complete network is going to be critical to establish the correct admission control requirements. You will also need to either use a combination of the Control Panel with PowerShell or just use PowerShell to make a successful CAC configuration.

More about regions, sites and subnets with CAC

While my opening post helped open the conversation about Regions, Sites and subnets it was a high level view that wasn’t focused on CAC. Now we are here lets dive a little deeper in relation to CAC. For information from Technet on this topic see here.

Example diagram taken from Planning for Enterprise Voice In Microsoft Lync Server 2010


Network Regions – Network hub or backbone. Every network site must be associated with a network region. This concept seems a little odd when looking at the above diagram. Here is why. The sites drawn inside the circle are highly connected and CAC is not required. Those outside the green region circles require a bandwidth policy applied to their links although. This diagram is taken directly from the CAC planning guide and it really doesn’t explain that part. Just know that every site must be associated with a region and that remote sites like Portland in the example also require a bandwidth policy to enable CAC.

Central site – This is where you Lync pool resources are located and must be associated with a network region. Every network region is owned by a central site.

Network site – Can be a remote location, campus or a set of buildings. Basically it’s a set of IP subnets that have that are highly connected. In the example diagram Reno and New York are examples of a network sites. The difference between these two sites is New York is a highly connected site that does not require CAC policy applied to it. So if someone in Chicago is calling someone in New York there would be no restrictions. Reno on the other hand is bandwidth limited and does require the use of CAC. So if someone in Reno makes or received a call from any other sites in the North American region CAC would be applied.

Network Links - In the example there are a number of different link scenarios. They are Region to region (NA – EMEA), site to region (Portland –NA), site to site(inter-site) (Reno-Albuquerque). How you plan out your CAC requirements will largely come from your networking team who will have a vested interested in bandwidth usage. Not all sites require a bandwidth Policy applied directly to them. New York is a good example.

CAC planning

This is the most important stage in the process of deploying CAC. There is excellent guidance available in the Planning for Enterprise Voice Lync Server 2010 guide. So rather than belabor the point I will point to the guide on the best methods for planning.

How to configure CAC

This is a rough break down with the basic steps. As your network gets more complex as will your network mapping. First step is to enable CAC.


Figure 1 Enable CAC

Next, define a Central Site and associate it to a region. Central site is a site with Lync Server 2010 deployment or pool. In this case my central site is called home (my home lab).


Figure 2 Configure a region and central site


Figure 3 Define sites within region


Figure 4: Define a Bandwidth Policy


Figure 5 Define Links


Figure 6 Define Routes

Some network configuration tasks cannot be performed by using Lync Server Control Panel. For example, to create inter-site links, refer to the Lync Server 2010 Management Shell documentation for the New-CsNetworkIntersitePolicy.

The last screen shot is to highlight the ability to enable certain folks the ability to not be control by bandwidth restriction. This can be controlled through the voice policy so you can apply it to multiple users . See Jens blog for a more in-depth explanation of this feature


Benefits of CAC

Being able to define and control a roaming users use of WAN bandwidth is critical in some organizations. Unlike some systems that define CAC based on a single location for a device, Microsoft designed CAC with the roaming user in mind which is important as softphone technology becomes more prevalent.

  • No matter where a user is located CAC can be applied according to the sites policy without requiring any direct user or network configuration
  • Not only can you limit the number of audio and video calls you can also limit the amount of bandwidth those video or voice calls make per call
  • For calls that exceed the predefined max, they can be redirected to an alternate PSTN gateway or the internet if edge servers are in place.
  • Codec selection by the client can be maximized. The client will pick the codec that uses the least amount of bandwidth based on the max bandwidth allowed per call defined by the administrator. So potentially you could force all calls across a WAN link to default to G.722 if you set your max bandwidth per call below the threshold of RTAudio.

Points to keep in mind about CAC

1. The Mediation Server cannot enforce CAC when Media Bypass is in use which in any case the use of CAC should not be required.

2. CAC cannot be enforced on clients prior to Lync. So if you have Communicator 2007 R2 and lower registering to Lync Server during a migration period CAC will not work for those clients until they are migrated Lync.

3. Does not affect data. So this includes web conferencing and desktop sharing.

4. Better together with Quality of Service (QoS). You cannot achieve complete call quality relying solely on CAC. CAC is for bandwidth consumption control. It doesn’t not affect what happens on the wire. So if you configure CAC for a WAN link to a remote site other data can still affect your call quality over that link unless you deploy QoS. QoS is a big subject with a number of different ways to configure and maintain depending on your Enterprise QoS architecture. In saying that CAC is independent of QoS for the purposes of network configuration. Lync CAC does not require any specific network configuration nor is there any dependency on QoS.

5. Beware that if you are to deploy CAC anywhere in your network, all subnets need to be entered into Lync Server 2010. This is critical as the Bandwidth Policy Server coordinates bandwidth limitations based on your current location and not where you are homed which it cannot do unless you map your entire network. This sounds like a lot of work but it’s really not to bad as long you have a good list of where your subnets map to your network. Entering the subnets into Lync as a site will most likely be the easy bit. Gathering all the required network subnet information from your network will be the hard part. Hopefully you have a diligent network team that has documented all this information. If you have then its nothing more than transferring information to a csv file that can be uploaded via PowerShell script into Lync.

From the help file. How to assign subnets from a CSV file:

  1. Create a CSV file that includes all of the subnets you want to add. For example, create a file named subnet.csv with the following content:

IPAddress, mask, description, NetworkSiteID, 24, "NA:Subnet in Portland", Portland, 24, "NA:Subnet in Reno", Reno, 25, "EMEA:Subnet in Warsaw", Warsaw, 31, "EMEA:Subnet in Paris", Paris

  1. Start the Lync Server Management Shell: Click Start, click All Programs, click Microsoft Lync Server 2010, and then click Lync Server Management Shell.

Run the following cmdlet to import subnet.csv, and then store its contents in the Lync Server 2010 management store:


import-csv subnet.csv | foreach {New-CSNCSSubnet _.IPAddress -MaskBits $_.mask -Description $_.description -NetworkSiteID $_.NetworkSiteID}

Although this is not a complete guide to implementing CAC my hope was to cover the basics without having the need to read the planning guides before diving in.

Other posts in this series:

Regions, Sites and Subnets

Media Bypass

Comments welcomed.


Dialing Rule Optimizer on DR Rez

Its been an extremely busy few weeks and even though I am on vacation most this week I still managed to pump out a blog post,  just not on my own blog.

Thought I would give Ken the creator of the Dialing Rule Optimizer some free publicity. Check it out here.


Android for OCS 2007 R2

A third party developer has gone ahead and developed a Android client  for Office Communications Server called AndrOCS. Not to sure if its compatible with Lync but its currently in beta and downloadable from here. 



Just How Desperate are the Competitors to Learn about Lync?

Just when I thought the misinformation that competitors spreads about Lync/OCS was the tip of the iceberg to get a leg up in the UC race, they went a step further. Suspected full time employees of a competitor (who shall remain nameless, lets just call them vendor X) registered and attended Lync launch events by registering with false company names to get into invitation only customer events.

Now, I totally get the whole you do whatever you can to get a leg up on the competition type thing but this is a new low that I was unaware of. We have all done the thing at the trade shows where we watch a competitor do a demo of their product in an open and public forum. Maybe you went as far to turn your badge around or swapped badges to hide who you worked for, but actually submitting a false company name to get into an event,  really. Had it been an isolated case I probably wouldn’t have cared but it was by no means isolated to one city. The fact they think no one would notice is what really cracks me up. I am only aware of one large competitor doing this but time will tell. If you can’t guess who vendor X is yet your just not trying.

I am sure that vendor X would dispute this by saying it was the actions of “a few individuals” which it very well could have been but in the end Lync is a great product and it shows just how concerned “a few individuals” are.

Comments welcomed.


Polycom and Microsoft Moving Towards H.264 SVC

This is great interoperability news from two industry leaders. Looking forward to seeing what the outcome will be.

See Polycom’s announcement here.


Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360 Versus Cisco Umi

If you haven’t seen any of the press releases this last week around Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect launch the rock you are living under must have its own postcode. Seriously. Although I haven’t received my Kinect yet (its in the mail) I am looking forward to testing out the new video chat feature with Live Messenger 2011. I am a part time gamer but I also use my Xbox 360 for Netflix. So having a Xbox live subscription is something I already have. If you buy from Amazon you can get a Live Gold subscription for about $40 a year.

So when video chat was announced it made perfect sense. The fact you can connect with Windows Live Messenger 2011 made even more sense still. There are also some other scenarios that make sense that I am sure will come to light in the coming months.


Kinect Video and Live Messenger 2011

I can’t say the same for Cisco’s Umi. Even though it may have the leg up around video resolution with 1080p, the price tag is the least compelling piece of the Umi story. At close to $600 for the unit itself and $25 paid to Cisco a month to participate, it just doesn’t make sense from a consumer point of view. The fact that I can buy an Xbox 360 250Gb bundled with a Kinect ($399 at Amazon) and a yearly Xbox subscription ($40 at Amazon) for less than the price of the Umi may make Umi a nonstarter.



Subscription Fee

Video Res

Who Can You Talk To?

Other uses

Cisco ūmi


$24.99 monthly subscription


Google Talk users


Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360

$399.99 (Xbox 250 Gb + Kinect Bundle; $149.99 Kinect only)

Requires $49.99 per year Xbox LIVE Gold membership ($39 from Amazon)


Windows Live Messenger 2011

Gaming, Netflix streaming video, Messenger, ESPN

While Umi may be able to talk with Google Talk users I think the 330 million Windows Live users makes a much more compelling story. I was unable to find up to date numbers for Google which indicates to me that their overall market share is probably pretty low.

In the end, price and functionality are going to be the killer of Cisco Umi or any other at home Telepresence single function device for that matter. Video to other family members just isn’t that compelling from a consumer standpoint when there are free and low cost options such as Kinect, Live Messenger etc. Even the high end consumer is going to look pretty hard at what they are getting. I don’t think that there are that many reckless consumers in the market t that Umi is actually going to be around for very long in its current proposed format. Unless Cisco drastically change the startup or reoccurring cost I think their move into the consumer video market space is going to be a flop.

Video is certainly a big push at Cisco and for many companies video is seen as a cost saver and strategically important. But the consumer space is quite a different story with so many free options. The fact my Xbox will do video with Kinect is a bonus not something I specifically brought it for. Although I am excited about it, its not going to be the first thing I am going to try out. I think you get what I am talking about here.

In the end Kinect is just so much more compelling with sales expected to be in 2-5 million this Holiday season. Along with 40 million daily users of Windows Live and 34 million Xbox live subscribers there is already a large audience ready for Kinect Video. As for Umi, hmmm it does HD. Cool.

Comments welcomed.


Speaking 34 Languages Has Never Been so Easy

In an earlier post back in August I talked about a new SDK that will be released with Lync that allows the use of Bing Translator. Well after some more research I have actually found a second way to do a similar function. Although not as fancy as the extended window in Lync it still is a handy tool. Tbot is available to do translations if you have federated your Lync or OCS deployment with Live. All you need to do is add to your contacts and you can start translating. Tbot has been around for a while but its totally new to me.

Even though the screen shot below shows up as offline in Lync he can still IM translate 34 different languages. Once you invite is accepted he does show as online. You can also use Tbot with you Live account and after your invite is accepted he will show as online and you can begin use. As you can see below he has a set of commands you can see anytime by typing in Tbot.



Here are all the commands you can use with Tbot:
1 TBot lang - Show the current language pair
2 TBot change - Select translation languages
3 TBot stop - Stop translations
4 TBot start - Start translations again
5 TBot set - Set your preferred language
6 TBot detect - Detect the language of the text
7 TBot ? - Show this list of commands
See also: _

For more information about Tbot check out here.

Comments welcomed.


How Many Phones is to Many?


Even though most people have no need to have four phones registered to Lync on their desk at the same time I seem to have found it useful. Mainly for the purpose of demoing when remote over video with either Lync or Live Meeting. I currently have the Polycom CX600, Aastra 6725ip, SNOM 370 (only the 300 version is currently certified for OCS/Lync) and LG-Nortel 8540. Even thought he LG-Nortel version of the Tanjay is no longer with us the form factor is still available from Polycom as the CX700.  I have all these phones registered to Lync from my home back to Microsoft(no VPN required). All these phone models support STUN/TURN and ICE for traversing the Lync Edge. So other than an internet connection at my house I have no specific hardware deployed other than the phones and Lync Edge.

This really highlights two great areas. Multiple points of presence and the growing endpoint choices for Microsoft UC.  The fact I can setup a phone at home with no need to do anything other than plug it in and register to Lync is a powerful thing.

Expect to see more partner announcements coming with the world wide launch of Lync on November 17th.


Lync RTM’s, GA in Progress

A major milestone was reached by the Lync Engineering team today with Lync making release to manufacturing (RTM). Next stop is general availability for customers and also the official world wide launch on the 17th of November. Don’t just take my word for it, see it here.


OCS 2007 R2 Adoption Reporting Tool

This is a relatively recent tool release. This gives administrators the ability to track usage of OCS R2 in the enterprise.

There is also a blog post on Technet that walks through the tool via a video. The information collected is from the CDR records on the OCS R2 Monitoring Server. So if you haven’t gone to the trouble to create your own custom SQL queries this might be a great way to avoid doing that so that you can monitor adoption.


Microsoft UC Doers November Meeting

UC Doers - Where is LiveMeeting and OCS Online Going

Last time we met we talked a lot about what is going to by in the Lync product that will be out next month. As most of you may have heard, Office365 was just announced as the replacement for all things Microsoft Saas.

One thing you asked we find last time is someone from the product team to come talk about where LiveMeeting is going to go and how existing LiveMeeting customers will integrate with the new offerings in Office365.
Well, we've found a great resource - Mark Miller from the product team who is willing to come share the direction LiveMeeting and what that means for you if you are an existing LiveMeeting customer, if you are looking to rollout Lync, or if you are interested in moving towards Office365....

We're looking forward to seeing you there!!

UC Doers

411 108th Ave NE
Suite 2100
Bellevue, WA

November 30th, 2010, 4:30pm

Please register here.


Microsoft Unified Communications in a Ford ST, Say Whaaaatttt?

This is a very cool video from the guys at Dimension Data. Just how far can you take Communicator/Lync? After watching this video the possibilities seam endless. Now add in the ability to pinpoint location with Lync with a cloud mapping system like Bing Maps and there is a whole world of custom solutions that are just waiting to be developed.

Comments welcomed.


Does Twitter Make a Difference?

This week I thought I would change things up a bit. I usually talk about UC but as more and more social networking becomes in twined in our lives I thought I would talk a little bit about my experience with Twitter. In particular, what happened when I added Twitter into my blog.


This first graph is what I use to track page hits. This is readers who actually come to the blog and view a page. This does not include RSS feeds or any other reader traffic. You have to visit to show up here.

This timeline shows from the beginning of when I started recording hits on my blog. There is one slight discrepancy in there which is highlighted as a reporting error. Someone had copied some code from my page taking the StatCounter tracking code with it and pasted it into their own blog. Hence the dramatic jump there. I was really excited until I realized what was happening.

After the Holiday Season which showed a significant drop in traffic, for obvious reasons, I was reenergized and I started posting twice a week. I was determined to increase readership. Only posting once in a blue moon wasn’t cutting it. The first few weeks showed some promise. Although I wasn’t jumping out of my skin I was happy I had made some positive progress. This is a niche blog after all and I have to set my expectation to the right level.

Following the increased effort I also redesigned the look of the blog which showed a slight increase in readership but hardly noteworthy. Although I could also attribute growth to organic growth there was no one thing that was really standing to show significant growth. It looked like I was stuck with organic growth. This was at least better than the previous no growth at all.


About 8 weeks ago I added two important elements. The ability to subscribe via email and also automatic retweet of all blog posts. I had a Twitter account but wasn’t taking full advantage of it. Not that I have a big following but I have a few followers that do. Also my Live, LinkedIn and Facebook accounts are all interconnected so when I Tweet it also shows up in those other areas (although they account for 0 traffic, just thought I would mention it). This gave some interesting results. It was an immediate increase in traffic. It was somewhere in the range of 10-20%. Impressive. But I know that StatCounter had previously led me astray so I wanted more evidence.


Something else I did a while back was start using FeedBurner to collect subscriber stats. RSS Feeds etc. Previously I had tried forcing people to come to the blog by restricting what you could read in RSS but I got some negative feedback around that approach. People basically stopped reading. Lesson learned. This screen shot is taken over all time since I started using FeedBurner. It shows the immediate results of adding Twitter. Not only are people coming to the blog but they are also subscribing more. If I narrow in on just the last 30 days you can see a significant average increase. Although I haven’t hit 400 subscribers for a day I am pretty sure it’s not too far away.


So does Twitter make a difference? For me the answer was yes. Although its taken me a while to take advantage of the tools available, I can clearly see what's working and what's not. When I started blogging I had no clue what I was doing, so it’s been a work in progress. Is it perfect? No, but I only use free tools and other than time blogging has cost me nothing and I enjoy writing content.

My lessons learned around blogging are:

  • Take advantage of social networking.
  • Create good content.
  • Don’t do things that will piss people off (like restrict RSS feed views).
  • Use your stats to track when you get it right.

Comments welcomed.


Lync 2010 Media Bypass and CAC Part 2: Media Bypass

In part 1 we looked at the Regions, Sites and Subnet configuration that can be used across Media Bypass and CAC. This post I will take a closer look at how Media Bypass works and some of the things you will need to do to get it working.

Media Bypass is essential with Lync for two important reasons; firstly it increased the scalability of the Mediation Server which in turn lowered the need to have standalone Mediation Servers. In some circumstances you may still require a standalone mediation Server but in most cases it can now be collocated with the Front End or Stand Edition Servers. Secondly by having media bypass the Mediation Server you can now have a one to many gateways per Mediation Server. This in turn lowers the amount of mediation servers required. In OCS 2007 R2 it was a one to one relationship with media always flowing through the Mediation Server.

How it Works

Media Bypass is actually pretty simple. Its all about matching the bypass ID that is generated when you enable Media Bypass. A unique ID is generated per network Region and for all sites within the region that do not have CAC applied to them. For those sites with WAN links that are using CAC a unique ID is generated.

When a PSTN call is made the mediation server compares the Bypass ID of the clients subnet with that of the gateways subnet. If the two match you enable media bypass. If not, the media will flow through the mediation server. Now, if it is an inbound call the client will do the matching and if the ID’s match the media will flow directly from the gateway to the client. This has nothing to do with the subnet of the Mediation Server. Although it can play a role in the decision its own subnet doesn’t come into play.

There are two ways you can set media bypass. This is an extremely important concept. Always Bypass is used when you have no need to do CAC in your environment or you do not require or want to use RT Audio for PSTN calls through a gateway (even though RTAudio is transcoded to G.711 at the Mediation Server there are benefits to using it over you WAN etc.). This generates only one bypass ID for the deployment. A good example would be a single site deployment with no remote sites. Use Region and Site Information is used when either CAC or when controlled use of bypass is required.


There are two main places that Media Bypass is called out and needs to be enabled. The first is the global setting under the network configuration. In my case I am going to use the sites and regions configuration.


The next screen shot shows the second area we need to enable, under the Trunk configuration in the voice routing section.



For my lab environment I have one region and two sites. For the sake of clarity I have configured Use site and region configuration with Call Admission Control (CAC) which means I now have a separate site bypass id for each site. This concept is critical to understanding the different scenarios. The mediation server is collocated with the Survivable Branch Appliance (SBA) and the pool which I tried to call out by boxing my mediation servers. Hopefully this all makes sense when you look at the diagram. I have also made the assumption that my gateways and IP-PBX support SIP/TLS. You can configure Media Bypass with gateways that don’t support TLS but I will leave that till the end of this post.

I have created 9 scenarios with and without the SBA. Had I selected Always Bypass my scenarios would have been much simpler but where is the fun in that? I think in reality organizations will choose to do Media Bypass unless they have a WAN connection that is bandwidth constrained. Similar to the way G.729 is used by most organizations. Only when required. I think Always Bypass will be rarely used however as it is not granular enough even if in most situations you will be doing media bypass anyway. Its those exception like wireless subnet where you may want to turn off Media Bypass in favor of RTAudio that control will desired that Always Bypass won’t allow.

With my two sites the main Lync Pool is located in Seattle with Frontends and a Backend with the mediation Server collocated. New York is my remote site with a remote PBX to show how interoperability could potentially work with a remote site. The scenarios are very high level as the configuration of the IP-PBX depending on the vendor will vary greatly. This is more a high level overview.

Scenario 1

PSTN call, client and gateway within same local (Seattle) site. Pretty easy really. SIP/TLS signaling traverses the pool and the Mediation Server. Media goes directly to the PSTN Gateway using G.711 as its codec.


Scenario 2

PSTN call, remote (New York) client and local (Seattle) gateway. Again the SIP/TLS signaling traverses the pool and the collocated mediation server at our Seattle site. The media this time travels across our WAN as RT Audio and is transcoded by the mediation server collocated on the pool. Then it passes to our gateway using G.711. This is a common scenario when enterprises are employing tail end hop off to save money on PTSN LD charges. In this case the bypass id between our client and mediation server where different due to the being in two different sites.


Scenario 3

PSTN call, remote client to remote Gateway without SBA. This may seem strange that I have called out the missing SBA but there is a reason. This still all makes sense as the gateway and client are in the same subnet and therefor the same bypass ID. This is the exact scenario that could play out if you are using Cisco gateways that doesn’t support the SBA and you choose to not locate any other resources at the remote site. Not that there is anything wrong with this scenario but it looks a little different with a SBA.


Scenario 4

PSTN call, remote client to remote gateway with SBA. The SBA is comprised of two basic components; a SIP registrar and a Mediation Server. I have blown out the mediation server component for clarity similar to my pool. It does not require a separate server. This really doesn’t change to much in this scenario but it does change things in other cases.


Scenario 5

Internal PBX call local client and gateway with SBA. Very similar to our first scenario except substituting the gateway for a PBX.


Scenario 6

Internal PBX call, local client remote PBX without SBA. In this case we once again have centralized our mediation server deployment and not deployed the SBA. Our media traverses the WAN as G.711. Not ideal but still a workable scenario if you have QoS and enough bandwidth. You do loose the ability to control bandwidth usage with CAC though so something to be aware of.


Scenario 7

Internal PBX call, Local client remote PBX with SBA. This time we have RTAudio traversing our WAN and G.711 from the SBA to the PBX. Like I mentioned earlier the SBA has mediation server functionality so it has the ability to define multiple gateways just like the mediation server in our pool. In this case we could use the IP-PBX as a gateway and maintain CAC.


Scenario 8

Internal PBX call, remote client and remote PBX without SBA. Really pretty straight forward and very similar to the situation with the gateway without the SBA.


Scenario 9

Internal PBX call, remote client and remote PBX with SBA. We have an SBA in place and there is somewhat different SIP flow but the media is pretty much the same as the previous scenario without the SBA.


Configuration with Gateway that Do Not Support SRTP

For gateways that do not support SRTP you will need make a configuration change in the Lync Client through PowerShell to help support Media Bypass. If you do not change the encryption setting all calls will pass through the mediation server. You will also need to select the correct encryption level in the Trunk Configuration.This will mean that all PSTN media flowing to the gateway will be unencrypted. Something to keep in mind.

set-csmediaconfiguration –identity global –encryptionlevel supportencryption

For more information on the client setting see here:



This has been a really long post. My hope is that this post will help you plan not just for Media Bypass but also some insight into building out your remote sites with SBA/SBS (will cover these in more details in a later post). Getting the right resources in the right locations is critical to have media efficiencies. There are some great enhancements with the mediation server such as media bypass, translation patterns and collocation that when planned correctly can make a big difference in an enterprise environment. Although some enterprise won’t particular care about sending G.711 over the WAN others more bandwidth constrained will still want to use RTAudio. In the end it comes down to your requirements for WAN bandwidth and survivability in the branch.

Comments welcomed.


Zeus’s Shots at Microsoft

There has been some interesting activity on the blogosphere recently. It all started when Zeus Kerravala from the Yankee Group wrote a positive Cisco opinion piece on NoJitter. It was a review of Cisco’s upcoming strategy for 2011 but he also had some interesting comments on Microsoft in his post. Zeus’s Microsoft comments are below:

“Considering Microsoft has OCS (Lync) and Share Point, it is embarrassingly far behind in providing thought leadership around corporate social networking.”

“Microsoft has been adding an attendant console and branch survivability (oooh, that's exciting).”

“Its focus on video, social networking and cloud based UC can have the transitional effects Cisco looks for in markets, and Microsoft’s strategy in all three of these areas is weak to mediocre.”

I have no problem with Zeus offering an opinion on Cisco’s strategy over the next 12 months. Good for him for having one. But I feel that the Microsoft comments, besides not showing any analysis or research on what Microsoft is really doing, were uncalled for. Zeus, not content with the first shots at Microsoft in the post went on to comment that the original staff that developed OCS had been turned over in the comments section.

“So I understand your comments but in my mind, since its initial launch Microsoft has lacked the vision to capitalize on the opportunity it has. We'll see if things change with wave 14 but considering that much of the OCS team has been turned over, I'm maintaining some skepticism”

The more interesting part of the article actually ended up being in the comments section and some follow on posts based on this first post. There were 21 comments total with a couple of reply’s from Zeus.

If Zeus was only really interested in a reaction, he certainly got one. Not just from Microsoft Employees but also from a Cisco customer. But the story doesn’t end here. A few days later Brian Riggs defended Zeus’s article responding to comments made by discontent readers. While it was great to see Brian come to Zeus’s defense I think that a response from Zeus may have been more appropriate.

But just when you thought the story was ending, Moz Hussain made a reply to Zeus’s article in his blog. He expressed the passion and bias toward Microsoft you would expect from someone from Microsoft. No surprises there and as a fellow softie totally understand and agree with where he is coming from.

Had Zeus taken a more critical look at the market based on a true analysis rather than what I consider cheap shots two things would have happened. Firstly, there would have been next to no comments. When you make controversial open statements on the blogosphere, it has a habit of coming back to haunt you unless that is what you wanted. Secondly, preserving his position as an analyst. I think the kind of comments he presented without backing it up with a factually based analysis could result in damage to the ideals of an independent analyst. I may be way off base here but without the Microsoft comments the article stands up to be a decent opinion piece around Cisco’s strategy with interesting insights. I think the Microsoft comments overshadow the good content in that article.

I think independent analysts blogging have a lot to gain and lose from this medium. When you step into the realm of offering strategy comparisons you certainly need to be well versed in both sides of the equation. The fact that Zeus has a number of articles on NoJitter related to Cisco and none that I found directly related to Microsoft tells me he hasn’t spent much time covering Microsoft recently. Yet he has formed a strong opinion on their current releases and roadmap with this article. It may be just a blog but you still have to preserve your integrity along the way and baseless comments although easy to make are not always the smart thing to do.

So what do you think? Was Zeus chasing a reaction or was he making a valid argument?

Comments welcomed.