10 Cisco/Microsoft Hybrid UC Deployment Options
You've deployed Cisco voice or video and Microsoft Skype for Business... now how do you make them interoperate?
If your organization is like many others, you've got a mix of Cisco and Microsoft unified communications tools in use -- and that can mean interoperability challenges ahead.
Market statistics indicate that 70% to 75% of enterprises in the U.S. has deployed Cisco networking equipment and 25% to 35% uses Cisco voice solutions, while 60% to 65% of enterprises has implemented Microsoft's Skype for Business UC platform (a global integrator has validated these figures, with 21% of its customers having deployed Cisco Voice and Skype for Business). Furthermore, approximately one third of respondents in a recent No Jitter survey indicate use of UC capabilities from each vendor.
Based on these statistics, we estimate that roughly 20% of the market has deployed both Cisco Voice and Microsoft Skype for Business.
If your organization is one of the many that has deployed Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) for voice and Microsoft Skype for Business for IM/presence and/or some conferencing, what can you do to unify these disparate communications and collaboration environments? In this article, I'll share 10 ways to integrate Cisco telephony and Microsoft UC platforms, along with the pros and cons of each.
Before discussing these hybrid options, however, I must point out that if you truly want a unified communications experience, one in which users can seamlessly escalate IM to voice to conferencing to video, you will need to eliminate one of the vendors. The same is true if you would like to use any combination of communications modalities in an ad hoc, as-needed fashion. However, some hybrid options do provide a good user experience while obviating the need to eliminate one of the vendors.
Option 1 – Jabber-Skype for Business Federation Using Cisco Expressway and Cisco UC ManagerIn this scenario, Cisco Expressway and CUCM enable a shared corporate directory between Jabber and Skype for Business as well as federate IM, presence, voice, and video between them. The implication here is that some users would be relying on Cisco voice and Jabber UC while others would be using Skype for Business. This deployment model is really intended to allow Jabber and Skype for Business clients to interact with one another primarily in a point-to-point fashion, although multipoint interaction is also possible.
Here's how this integration works:
1. An Expressway gateway sitting between Skype for Business and Jabber clients uses an internal "SIP broker" to distinguish between IM/presence streams and voice/video streams.
2. For IM and presence between Jabber and Skype for Business, Expressway detects the Microsoft IM/presence messaging stream and forwards it to an IM/presence node in the CUCM cluster that provides a translation between Jabber IM/presence and Sype for Business IM/presence.
3. For voice and video, Expressway converts Skype for Business' audio and video into Cisco's audio and video formats, and then routes these streams to CUCM. In this way, Skype for Business users can interact via audio and video with people who are using Jabber and other Cisco video endpoints.
4. For content sharing, there are two scenarios:
- - When a Skype for Business client shares content, this content is encapsulated in Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and transmitted to an Expressway device. Expressway converts the packets to a Binary Floor Control Protocol (BFCP) stream, which Cisco uses for content sharing, and then routes the BFCP packets to the endpoints in a particular session.
- When a Cisco endpoint shares content, and Skype for Business users are participating, the content is converted into a video stream, which is then sent via Expressway, which does a video protocol conversion, to the Microsoft Skype for Business clients. Note: This is a video stream, not a Microsoft RDP stream -- there is no transcoding between Cisco BFCP and Microsoft RDP in this instance. The content may be full-screen video or, depending on the Cisco endpoint in use (telepresence server and a few other endpoints), it may be a composite video stream containing the sharing party's image and content.
- This deployment is relatively straightforward to implement. It really is intended to bring Jabber and Skype for Business together.
- Skype for Business users only need a Skype for Business standard client access license (CAL) for this solution to work (no Enterprise or Plus CALs are required).
- Enterprises with a Skype for Business Plus CAL can set up a SIP trunk between the Microsoft Mediation Server and CUCM so that users can dial out to the PSTN (via CUCM, which effectively becomes a PSTN gateway).
- Content sharing is not as rich going from a Cisco endpoint to a Skype for Business client as it is going from a Skype for Business client to a Cisco endpoint.
- This simple hybrid solution doesn't enable Web conferencing directly between Jabber and Skype for Business (as a workaround, see Option 2 below; alternatively, see Option 5).
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