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New CCIE Voice

The question is a good one. If you have been preparing for the elusive CCIE Voice exam for some time now, you are probably aware of what hardware and software versions are updated in the new blueprint. Are you aware, however, of what new scenarios and protocols they bring about with contrast to what you have been studying for some time now?

The Cisco CCIE Voice Lab Exam has been with us now since late 2003, and almost 3 years later – we are only just now about to see CallManager version 4.X appear in it, which candidly, I have been designing with this version in production networks for well over 2 years now, so it is surprising that it has taken this long to debut. Up until the switch on July 17, 2006, the lab has been of course testing version 3.3 – which while arguably very stable, lacked a great number of the newer features that we have come to depend on every day for enterprise deployments. So what all is new? Well if we simply follow the blueprints on CCO, we see the following:
•    CallManager will be upgraded from ver 3.3(x) to version 4.1(3) (latest service release).
•    Unity will be upgraded from a nebulous 4.0(x) to 4.0(5) definitively.
•    IOS will be upgraded from 12.2(15)T and ZJ trains to IOS 12.4(3) mainline code (this includes all of the T train from 12.3(13)T but not any T trains in 12.4 code – so don’t confuse this and practice with anything newer.
•    Cisco Unity Express (CUE) 2.1(2) makes it’s debut in the form of a Network Module – but we don’t know to what router in the published topology in will be installed. It would make the most sense to see it in conjunction with CME, but don’t forget that it can also be licensed just as easily to integrate with the CME’s big brother – CallManager.
•    IPCC Express will be upgraded from 3.0(x) to version 4.0(1) - presumably with SR1 though this isn’t specifically stated on CCO.

That’s it? That doesn’t sound like that much, does it? One thing you should certainly know by now if you are practicing for any IE track - don’t underestimate anything!
So what do these 5 small bullet points mean? Let’s take a bit of a deeper dig into them. With the new version of CallManager 4.1(3) we could almost draw up a brand new test that would challenge the most knowledgeable of souls – all of its own! For starters – Partitions are no longer simply partitions – they are now active or non-active based on the time of the day. Oh yeah, and also based on what time zone you are in – which of course is based on your Time/Date group delegated by your Device Pool. So that adds some fun with how we stack those Partitions with similar DN’s in CSS’s. We also have Hunt Groups. Don’t let these seemingly easy and intuitive objects fool you – for we have something called Extended Call Coverage which certainly makes for a bit of an interesting configuration. Combine those with ToD Partitions for CTI Route Point’s forwarded to the Hunt Pilots or elsewhere and we start to get into a lot of fun! To never be overestimated are the numerous Service Parameters for each and every service running on a CallManager. These should be heavily investigated before attempting an IE exam, and while a photographic memory of what each and every SP does is not required – a somewhat good awareness of where you might be able to affect a given task globally in CallManager should certainly be retained.
New in Unity is the ability to have an Inbound and Outbound Fax server easily deployed and configured from within the Unity Tools Depot should not be an oversight. Long have we had the ability from within an IOS device to deploy a Faxing On-Ramp or Off-Ramp GW, however with the easy ability to have Unity perform the other side of this equation, this should be considered a prime target. Unity can now perform tasks such as Live Record – the (quite simple) ability to configure Unity to be a very basic recording device that upon hangup – simply deposits the recording in the mailbox of the user who dialed into it. One thing relevant to both Unity and the new CUE is that they both have mailboxes and messages (go figure J). With that – there would seem to me the impending desire of the IE Content Managers to have you configure the ability for users in either system to be able to very simply send voice messages back and forth to each other. Note: I said that the users should easily be able to forward voice messages back and forth – not that the task of setting up the back end system for this to occur (VPIM) was easy.
IOS now running at version 12.4 mainline raises countless new opportunities for the ‘Gatekeepers of the IE’ to throw fun things at us. Long has been the policy of the CCIE exam in general (all tracks) that “if the possibility exists for configuration of a given task from within the software or hardware versions provided in the CCIE Blueprint – then it becomes a testable topic”. This far reaching and extremely vague statement has been long what provided for a bit of terror in the newcomers to the studying realm of the CCIE. So what new does it mean for those taking the CCIE Voice exam? Well for one, we have this (relatively) new concept of a Session Border Controller (SBC) also known as a IP-to-IP Gateway (IPIPGW). This sounds daunting. It’s really not that much different from traditional OGW’s or TGW’s that we are used to configuring. The major difference? Instead of connecting IP with TDM networks in one fashion or another – IPIPGW’s connect IP to IP networks. They serve to provide a Border to our autonomous Control and our Sessions of IP voice traffic – thus the name SBC. They can do a myriad of things. They can connect heterogeneous signaling networks – such as H323 to SIP, or homogenous networks such as H323 to H323 or SIP to SIP and provide DTMF signaling boundaries. They can provide a termination point and proxy for RTP traffic. They can even transcode the RTP that traverses the IPIPGW. This also changes things when we get back into Gatekeepers and how they function with these entities.
Of course we add the CUE module, a linux based server that sounds very much like Unity when accessed through the voice interface of leaving and retrieving messages – but when it comes to configuring, is like the immortalized Monty Python troop said best – “… and now for something completely different!” First off – it doesn’t use any H323. So if you are not to familiar with SIP – time to learn it. Not to mention that CallManger now speaks SIP (at least trunk side), as well as the IOS devices (of course they have been doing this for 5+ years now) – so definitely time to brush up on it. Configuring it is not that difficult actually, with it’s GUI based interface that is very intuitive to navigate and it’s IPCCX like scripting editor. Certainly much time can be saved if you are proficient with the CLI interface provided by the CUE engine.
And then we have IPCC Express. This product has almost been completely revamped in it’s capabilities and how to configure it. No longer are CTI Route Points or Ports created in CCM. Nor the users to tie them together. Now everything is done right in the IPCC web admin page. Also now we have the ability to route calls directly to agents (Agent Based Routing). Passing Enterprise Data onto call taking agents is a bit different as well.
What should of course be considered in your studies – is how much hasn’t changed. Many – if not most of the concepts from the previous version of CallManager, UnityFeature Articles, and IPCCX still apply. A CSS configured on a DN and a CSS configured on a Device will still be concatenated together to form a brand new CSS from which the decision will be then made when digit analysis is performed – which DN does CCM pick from which Partition.
This is just a taste of what is to come in the new CCIE Voice Lab. For a much more in-depth guide of what is possible – try out one of our 5 or 10-day CCIE Voice Lab Bootcamp’s. These will give you by far the most comprehensive training possible on the market today to adequately prepare you for your attempt at this industry legend of an exam. And don’t forget to check out our self-paced products either. They give you the tools that you will need to prepare for the Lab.

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