VoIPNorm Updates and 2011 Year in Review

VoIPNorm Updates

In case you haven't noticed VoIPNorm has changed a little. After some issues with archived pages loading (thanks Google) I thought is was time to give the blog a good once over. Most of the changes are surface changes with no real operational differences to the blog. The background change, although its only a off the shelf Blogger background, really caught my attention. I really like the old school look and feel of English telephone boxes. I am not going to get philosophical or anything like that I just think they look cool and it fit the theme.

I think a refresh once a year is a good thing and there is no better time than right now. If you have any feedback on the blog or things that would help make the blog more accessible I am always open to suggestions. I always review all comments (and spam) and reply when I can.

VoIPNorm 2011 in Review

2011 was a big year for the blog. My gold standard for monitoring blog traffic has always been Statcounter.com. From as far as I can tell it’s the most accurate tool for measuring traffic. Below are some of the interesting stats I have pulled together from Statcounter and some other snippets.

Most viewed post of 2011. Obviously there is a great deal of interest around Avaya ACE and how it integrates into Lync. With over 65 comments and 100 tweets the post titled “What Avaya is not telling you about ACE” got a lot of coverage and hits (3700+). Its still averaging over 200+ hits a week.


Blog posts that disappointed. Overall I tried to mix it up this year and provide reviews of things I was doing or working on. Device reviews are generally not visited much. I am not sure if its because I suck at device reviews or people aren't  that interested. Insert sad face here Sad smile. For whatever the reason, suck or not, I will continue to review the latest Lync devices when I get them in 2012.

Most hits in one day. 926 hits and again it was the Avaya Ace post that was the cause of most of them. The comments seem to be the main reason people kept coming back. With Avaya execs, partners and customers all having their say it was an all in tech war. Even though it was a very short post it still managed to generate a lot of great discussion.

Greatest comments of 2011.

“A great bottle of white wine mixed with a wonderful bottle of red does not often yield even a drinkable rose.” – By Kevin Kieller

“I'm not sure why people are getting confused with what ACE actually is. It's not middleware” – By Joe Schurman (former Avaya exec)

“In my opinion there is currently no vendor in the marketplace today that can compete with Microsoft Lync on the desktop or Mac “ – By Joe Schurman (former Avaya exec)

Blog growth. The blog grew over 100% in popularity if hits is anything to measure that with. This is fantastic growth. I recently read another blogger complaining that Twitter did little to grow his blog traffic or his popularity. VoIPNorm’s blog growth was certainly aligned with my increased use of Twitter in 2011. The stats don’t lie. Along with multiple postings a week, Twitter helped see a surge in visitors to the blog.

The big spike at 4,046 was the Avaya ACE post.

Weekly traffic in 2011


Yearly view:


Thanks to everyone that read and commented this past year. I am sure 2012 will be filled with interesting stuff to blog about.


Adding CUCM Subscribers to Lync Topology Builder

I remember the OCS days when the Mediation Server would accept any inbound SIP session thrown at it. Those were the days. Okay, so maybe not really but it brings up an interesting item that I run across recently.

OCS and OCS R2 both had a similar restriction of, for every PSTN gateway you required a Mediation Server. There was a work around to this limitation though for inbound connections which was that the Mediation  Server would accept any inbound SIP connection on the gateway NIC. Although this wasn’t a supported work around I know many that took advantage of this loop hole.

Now why am I talking about this. Well if you where to configure a SIP trunk in Cisco’s Communications Manager to connect to OCS  you really only needed to define one of the CUCM subscribers in OCS as a outbound gateway (putting redundancy aside for a moment). Inbound all the CUCM subscribers that were a part of you CUCM group applied to your Device Pool for the trunk were able to send outbound connections to OCS and they would work. So basically you could kind of get away with only one Mediation Server and have some redundancy but only one way.

Fast forward to Lync 2010. The restriction of the one-to-one relationship of Mediation Server to PSTN Gateway is gone. So now you can have one-to-many but the work around of accepting inbound connections from random gateways is gone. This is a good thing. It greatly increases the security of Lync but at the same time means you must be aware of this when configuring your deployment to work with CUCM deployments.

When you configure CUCM for SIP trunking (direct SIP in Lync terms) you define a SIP trunk, including defining a Device Pool. The Device Pool sets up common resources for the trunk including the Communications Manager Group. The CUCM Group consists of up to three prioritized Communications Manager Servers. This is for failover, device registration etc. When registering devices this all makes sense and the server at the top of the list has all registered devices. SIP trunks on the other hand are a little different and outbound connections round robin between servers in the CUCM group. Basically the prioritization is not used in the case of SIP trunking, at least based on my experience.

Figure 1 : At the moment this device pool below is set at default but in a production configuration where you may have multiple CUCM groups a device pool specifically for you SIP trunk may be required.


For Lync this means that all CUCM servers in the Communications Manger group must be configured in your topology before Lync will accept inbound connections from each of the servers.  Whether you use FQDN or IP addresses really depends on your policies on what to use but all CUCM subscribers have to be added to your topology otherwise un-configured subscribers will be unable to connect inbound. How do you know when you have this issue? Either every other call will fail, or every third call will fail, or two out of three will fail, depending on how many Subscribers you have in your Group. Remember the max CUCM Servers is three. At least when you have this configuration issue your inbound call failure rate is consistent which makes it easy to diagnose. Basically the un-configured CUCM servers will never be able to establish a TCP connection to your Lync Mediation Server. CUCM RTMT tool will never show a SIP trace because the TCP connection never establishes.

Figure 2: Notice the three gateways added below correspond to CUCM subscribers in a group of three. Depending on your deployment this may only have two per CUCM group.


Figure 3:Virtually this is what you are setting up with a three subscriber CUCM group when configuring a SIP trunk to Lync.Although you may be only setting up one trunk all three servers take part in signaling to your Lync environment. Unless all three servers are part of your topology inbound signaling issues will occur.


I know this may sounds like Lync 101 but if you were used to OCS or new to Lync you may not be aware of this behavior.

Comments welcomed.


Device Review: Sennheisier DW Office

Well another year has come and gone and new devices keep appearing all the time. I have had Sennheiser DW Office for about 4-5 months now and it is my primary headset when I am at home( FYI my home is my official office, I have no desk at a MSTF office. I am classified as a remote worker. The only MSFT real estate I have is a mail slot). I have been a little slow in writing a review for this device because its just sits on my desk and works which means I really don’t think about it to much.

Like any well built German product this headset just works. No fusing, no messing just works and I like that a lot. Sennheiser has a long history of building audio equipment so it really is no surprise that this is a well built product with some interesting style lines for the base. I thought the base was kind of strange when I first used the device but I can imagine an executive thinking it looks cool on their desk, which it does. The base also has plenty of weight in it which makes knocking it over pretty hard to do even when grabbing for the headset with one hand.

As with all Lync certified devices this works right out of the box. No additional software. The sound quality and device functions are as one would expect for a DECT headset with the added advantage of 350ft range. Although the range isn't exceptional for DECT the battery life is, with up to 12hrs of talk time or 100 of standby the longest of any certified wireless device.

I did have some issue with the ear hooks with this device and decided on using the head band. This isn't new for me as I have had similar issues with other devices from different manufactures before. I have odd ears or can’t work out how to use the ear hooks I am not sure which it is. Either way don’t let that put you off this very solid device. I also have customers using/testing this device and they, like myself, really like how solid this device has been.

The only issue I can possibly think anyone would have with this device is the cost. At $349 list this is on the high end for a headset but to be fair it is comparable to their competitors with similar products and going by list prices comes in a little cheaper than most.

As always here are the photos from my WP7 of the device I tested. Excuse the dust but at least it shows I didn’t pull it straight out of the package and it got some real air timeSmile

Office DW

Office DW2




Ultimate Voice Online Webcasts Today

I am online all day today with the webcasts being broadcast as part of the Ultimate Voice Promotion. To join any of these sessions below please us the link below to register and join.


As part of the session I will also be on Twitter so please feel free to tweet me using @voipnorm.

Session # 2:

Subject:                               Lync Server 2010, More Than a PBX

Start Time:                          Friday, Jan 6, 2012 10:00 AM PST (1 hour)


Subject:                               Simple User Provisioning with Microsoft Lync 2010

Start Time:                          Friday, Jan 6, 2012 11:30 AM PST (1 hour)


Subject:                               Voice Resiliency with Lync Server 2010

Start Time:                          Friday, Jan 6, 2012 1:30 PM PST (1 hour)


Subject:                               Flexible Dial Plans with Lync Server 2010

Start Time:                          Friday, Jan 6, 2012 3:00 PM PST (1 hour)


My Favorite Things from 2011

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 things from 2011and just like last year I am going to expand my list this time way beyond Lync certified devices.

Kinect – Not really a UC product (yet) but I love my Kinect all the same. Still on the list 2 years running but still waiting for Xbox 360 interoperability with Lync. The future of Kinect seems endless with what’s coming out of the open source community now with full support from Microsoft, Kinect and any subsequent version have a long self life beyond just gaming.

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

Plantonics Blackwire 435-M – Plantronics once again make the list with a slight variation on the 420. Another great headset from a great company and wouldn’t you know it they made sure it has a travel cover. Nice.

Windows Phone 7.5– On the list last year as something I was looking forward to. Well this time around I have it with Mango and Lync Mobile. Truly a unique device in the market and something I couldn’t live without. Thing I love the most is Facebook integration for uploading photos. I currently have the LG Quantum (I have a thing for slider keyboards).

Sennheiser DW Office – Look for a review coming shortly on this device. It is my office headset of choice right now and it is solid, very solid.

Polycom CX7000 – If you have seen one of these units demoed you know what I am talking about. I think it is one of the break through video conferencing units for companies looking to expand their Lync video conferencing deployments.

SkyDrive – I am using my Windows Live SkyDrive more and more and with integration into iPhone and WP7 it is a great cloud service. The service solved a lot of issues for me this year hence it makes the list.

AMC’s The Walking Dead – Zombies in a post apocalyptic world, need I say more.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds – I love to grow vegetables at home and a great place to go and get you spring seeds is Baker Creek. All seeds are GMO free . This is a great family run company preserving the worlds gardening heritage.

What’s your favorite or not so favorite things from 2011?


Post Update: RIP Umi to Consumers

Update: Cisco kills UMI Consumer Sales

I wrote this blog post back in November 2010 predicting that Umi was going to be a flop on the consumer side unless the start up and reoccurring costs changed. Well here we are in 2012 and as predicted sales to consumers has now ended for the Umi service. Even though Cisco lowered their service cost to $10 a month it wasn’t enough to save this service on the consumer side. You can still buy Umi devices at Best Buy in a fire sale, although the devices are useless to consumers unless you already have a service contract with Cisco.

Goes to show how hard it is to compete with free services like Skype in the consumer world.


Post from 2010:

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.


Whitepaper: Running a Lync SBA on a Cisco ISR/SRE-V

I haven't seen to much chatter on Twitter about this whitepaper so I thought I would repost a link. I am sure there are companies that will consider this option but its not the most straight forward configuration.This makes me more inclined to recommend partners that have worked closely with Microsoft on their SBA design where implementation is going to be potentially easier. Anyway here is the link as promised: