So much coverage in just one week!

For the voice project I’m working on, I believed the material in the CCNA Voice curriculum would be enough. In the past week, I have come to realize that the CCNA Voice really is all about introducing the concepts, and isn’t very heavy on the practical application of the technology. I still had many questions remaining, particularly with regards to functionality and licensing of the different hardware.

Enter CVOICE and CAPPS from the CCNP Voice curriculum. I currently do not plan to pursue the CCNP Voice certification (I said that about CCNA Voice, but this time I mean it 🙂 ), but I am so glad that I took a look at these books, particularly CVOICE, as it directly relates to what I am trying to accomplish with CUCME. It answered a lot of questions that I had remaining from CCNA Voice.

The question at the end of my previous post has been answered. What’s funny about the question is that there is pretty much only a single choice with regards to the scope of the project I am working on. The question itself demonstrates a lack of knowledge, which I now have. Having the ability to read older entries to see how I’ve progressed (even if it is just in a single week, as in this case) was one of my primary motivations for creating this blog. When I finally achieve my CCIE R/S (and beyond), I want to have a record of progression for “the quest.”

By the way, the answer to the question is the Cisco Unified Border Element functionality internal to the Cisco router. The CCNA Voice curriculum briefly mentions it, but it really doesn’t say what it is or what it does (or where it is). You must use the CUBE when connecting separate VoIP-to-VoIP networks, such as in the case of service provider’s SIP trunk. In an even earlier post, I said I was considering going with a Cisco Business Edition 3000 system. It turns out that it requires a CUBE for its SIP trunking capability, so since I need a Cisco router anyway, it is cheaper to integrate it all into one router instead of having a separate router and communications management system.

The CVOICE and CAPPS books are great because they go into much greater detail about both the theory and configuration of the different features and functionality. Like the SIP Trunking book, it was nice to read these two books while NOT in pursuit of a certification, because I didn’t have to try to memorize every detail. Additionally, about 1/3 of the CVOICE and about 3/4 of the CAPPS books didn’t apply to my current situation, so I skipped through those sections. That’s also why I didn’t take and post notes as I have for other books in the past — I didn’t read them cover to cover, only the sections I needed.

I finally have all the equipment chosen for the project. I’m currently in negotiation to acquire a subset of the total equipment to provide a prototype/demo.

Hopefully now I can pause the Voice stuff and get back to my CCNP R/S studies until the project continues. What’s so great about this experience, though, is that upon its success, I can use it as a template for future VoIP deployments, which will drastically reduce both the time to proposal and the deployment itself.

SIP Trunking notes posted

My notes for SIP Trunking are now available. Though I read the book purely for the information it contains, it is nice to read a book that isn’t directly certification-related because there is less pressure to commit every detail to memory. This was a really good book and I do feel like I have a little bit more knowledge and perhaps a little clearer picture with regards to SIP trunk offerings from service providers and how they integrate into the network.

Unfortunately, a good portion of the book deals with very large multi-site enterprises, which is currently out of my realm. I’m glad I took the notes that I did because I am sure I’ll be using them for reference over time. The parts of the book that will apply to my situation were very useful. One of the most useful parts of the book was the presentation of actual Cisco IOS configurations for different features.

I already know which provider I’m going to go for if this project is to continue. And thanks to reading this book, I now know of a few important questions to ask them which will indicate what equipment will be needed (such as whether or not they provide any CPE devices).

My next step is to research the Cisco equipment a little more. Phones are no big deal, but the choice of the border element is a little bit tougher. We’ll see what happens 🙂

MPLS Primer

I just encountered a pretty good presentation on MPLS (obtained from Jeremy Stretch). MPLS is a technology that, like VoIP, I haven’t yet worked with directly a lot, but I know the basic concepts behind it. MPLS used to be a part of the CCNP R&S curriculum, but they removed it with the last revision in 2010. It’s a technology that I know I’ll have to get into in the near future, and I felt this presentation was pretty neat because it goes just a little bit deeper than the other basic things I’ve read on it so far, yet it doesn’t go so deep that I get lost in unfamiliar terminology.

After I get my CCNP R&S, I do intend to pursue the mystical CCIE R&S. So this post I think will serve as sort of a bookmark. 🙂

Looking Through the Door of VoIP…

Okay, I know these titles are starting to sound stupid. 🙂

I did pass the CCNA Voice exam yesterday. It was almost all multiple-choice with only a couple of drag n’ drop questions, and most of the questions had answers that were very logical. It wasn’t like the CCNA R&S where you had to actually configure things, so that made it quite a bit easier. I did encounter a couple of questions where they played word games, where if you didn’t read the Q&A carefully, you’d get it wrong.

And as much as I was ready to close the door to VoIP and move on with my CCNP R&S studies, I can’t quite do that just yet. I still haven’t completed the VoIP design proposal that I was working on for one of my clients because I keep running into brick walls as I research more and more. With the design, I wanted to try as hard as I could to move them from TDM to VoIP while keeping the monthly cost close to or hopefully lower than what they’re paying now.

They would like to have integration with Office 365, and the whole company practically lives out of MS Outlook. I encountered three different models: hosted Lync-to-Phone, on-site Lync, and various on-site Cisco methods. The problem with the hosted model is the monthly cost is more than what they’re paying now by about 60%, though the only equipment investment would be the phones. The only reason I was starting to consider the on-site methods is because, while the up-front cost was higher, over the course of perhaps two years it would be cheaper than the monthly bill of a hosted plan. I originally rejected Cisco purely based on the up-front cost. The on-site Lync method was starting to look good until I got to the ridiculous licensing part. They are running a Server 2003 AD infrastructure, and Lync 2013 requires 2008 or 2012, so they’d have to upgrade. Lync 2013 also requires a Server 2012 installation to run on. BUT, you can’t run Lync 2013 on the domain controller, so you have to buy a minimum of two Server 2012 licenses (not to mention having to re-buy all the CALs). Clearly, this is not geared toward a small business or really any business under perhaps 100 users.

So now I’m back to looking into Cisco solutions, and I think I may have found one that will do what they require with the Cisco Business Edition 3000 UC platform. I found it for sale for around $1,000. Lync Server 2013 is about $3,600 by itself, and two copies of Server 2012 are around $850 each (plus $30 per CAL). Additionally, Cisco has quite a wide range of IP phones to choose from, whereas there are only a few phones that support FULL Lync capability.

As it is, no matter what solution I go with, I was going to have the company buy a 48-port Cisco Catalyst 3560 or 3750 PoE switch to support the phones. I certainly do like the idea of the phones being able to use CDP (even though I know the Lync phones can use LLDP-MED).

So that leads me to where I am now. I’m researching the features and functionality of the Cisco BE 3000, and I know that it supports SIP trunking. And I know their ISP & Phone provider is capable of providing a SIP trunk. I have a general overview of what a SIP trunk is and what it does. But how much do I really know about it? Not enough yet to be comfortable working it into a design proposal.

So I found what looks to be an excellent book on Cisco Press called SIP Trunking. Notes to follow. 🙂

Continuing the Door to VoIP…

I have finished studying for the CCNA Voice and my notes from the Official Cert Guide are here. I am going to sit for the exam tomorrow. My three main study aids for this exam were the book, the video series from CBTnuggets, and the video series from INE.

Studying for this exam has been quite different from the other exams I’ve done in the past (and have studied for but yet to take, such as CCNP R&S). All the others were a combination of real-world theory, which could for the most part be applied to any vendor’s equipment, plus the Cisco-specific implementation of those theories and practices. While this exam is considered introductory to the world of Cisco VoIP and did provide some vendor-neutral background theory, it was geared mostly around Cisco VoIP implementations. In other words, it was very application-based, much like a Microsoft exam would be.

Comparing my three study sources is kind of interesting. The textbook was written by Jeremy Cioara, who also recorded the CBTnuggets video. I watched his video first as sort of an overview of the whole exam. I have found I typically retain more information if I watch the video first, then read the book and take notes, and then review the videos again. What was weird is his writing style for the book. He writes exactly the same way he talks, including humorous anecdotes that he always includes in his videos. I’ve never read something like that in a textbook before. As much as I love his videos, in the end I found that format distracting in a textbook. I think it’s just because I’m so used to dry purely-factual textbooks. Finally, there’s the video series from INE. The video series was presented very much like a textbook in a very dry, matter-of-fact way. This is kind of interesting, because this kind of presentation can get very boring (in fact, I fell asleep multiple times during the video series), but at the same time, I feel like I obtained the greatest amount of knowledge from the INE videos. I think Mark Snow is an excellent teacher. Conversely, I have found Jeremy Cioara’s videos very entertaining to watch and he is excellent at keeping your interest in the subject matter, but when I compare him to other videos from INE that I have watched in the past (for CCNP), I find that INE’s videos always contain a LOT more information. They are just presented in a more boring way that puts me to sleep occasionally. 🙂

Another difference for this exam, compared to my CCNA and CCDA, is that my heart isn’t truly into this (yet) the way it was for the previous two. I find the topic of VoIP to be interesting and I think it is good information to possess at a foundational level, which I now have. But at the same time, I don’t picture myself moving beyond this point into the more advanced voice realm unless it becomes a necessity of employment. To obtain the CCNA Voice, it is one exam @ $250. The next level, CCNP Voice, is FIVE exams @ $200 each. I don’t see myself spending $1000 of my own money on something like that. It would definitely have to be a necessity of employment. In the end, I’ll be happy to have those extra letters behind my name for employment purposes, but the base level of VoIP knowledge is good enough for me for now.