cucilync: a full review

Cucilync attaches at the bottom

After a week of configurations and testing, it’s time to write a post dedicated only to Cisco UC Integration™ for Microsoft Lync v8.5.1. For those who still don’t know, cucilync is a “softvideophone” that integrates (as a plug-in) to Microsoft Lync/OCS client and provides voice and video calls, conferencing and voice-mail access to Cisco VoIP infrastructure.

But if Lync also does that, why have this plugin? Well… if you have CUCM telephony in place, you might want to connect voice and video to Lync desktop users with the existing Cisco hardphone users. It’s a better integration than MS/Cisco Remote Call Control, but it can be a confusing end-user experience…

Configuring in CUCM server is rather easy since is just a CUCSF phone associated with a userid (used on cucilync login). Despite of the name, you can integrate with both Lync and MOC clients and, even being a 32bit application, its runs on Windows XP, Vista and 7 32/64bits.
After you install the setup package you need to configure CUCM telephony and active directory parameters on the registry. Cisco was smart enough to provide systems administrators a group policy file to configure all domain computers with those settings.
Cisco advices you to disable voice and video on Lync/MOC side. With this approach the the user only have one menu choice to establish calls. Another interesting fact is that you limit the use of Lync to presence, GAL and instant messaging, which is the cheapest MS licensing option (less than half price of full VoIP licensing).

The CUCIlync client starts with the Microsoft client (a few seconds later..) and attachs itself to the bottom of the window. It prompts for a userid and password that can be the Windows domain account if CUCM is integrated with active directory and you can use single sign-on if you have CUCM v.8.5.
After authentication you are presented with a simple 5 buttons interface: Voice mail messages (Cisco Unity, and maybe call Exchange UM), Call records (made, received and missed), deskphone/cucilync switch mode, configuration options, a dial pad and a status notification on the lower-right corner (not shown, but indicates a warning or a call status).

There are two ways of making calls: right clicking on one or more users and selecting the call option; or drag a contact from Lync interface to the CUCIlync window. You can also initiate calls from a click-to-call applet (default option in CUCIlync setup) from Outlook, Office smarttags and IE/Firefox browsers. The call control dialog window interface will appear, waiting for the person to answer.

A called CUCIlync user will see an incoming call popup window notification (it performs user details and photo lookup in active directory) and if he accepts the call is established and the user presence in Lync change to busy/in a call.

There is not much to write about the interface window. Is simple and intuitive with a ‘click and choose’ interface  that allows you to perform simple telephony options (like transfer, conference call… ). You can switch between audio, video and webconferencing without disconnecting. If you have a webcam you can perform point to point videocalls. Since I only have a virtual based lab (servers and workstations), i could only managed to make short time test calls (it keeps failed because of the lack of resources and USB network device redirection), but it was enough to capture a 720p videocall to show you

You can get more look and fell on the official CUCI-Lync Quick Start Video.

My opinion 

This UC solution using of two different clients, will cause:

  • some confusion on the end user – ex: communicator call or cucilync call, different windows pop and switch if you escalate an IM to a voice call;
  • an administrative burden to the IT staff – client roll-out and troubleshooting Lync and/or Cisco.

And if you allow the user to make Lync calls along with CUCIlync video and voice calls… It’s a potential end user experience disaster and can lead to a project failure.
I also point of some important limitations:

  • If CUCM is not active directory integrated, we cannot access from CUCIlync to the CUCM phone directory (to search for a non domain user like a meeting room);
  • If you are outside the company you can only experience this integration with a VPN connection. With a Lync Edge server you can provide a direct and secure internet access for Microsoft UC solution;
  • You might save on Microsoft voice/video licensing, but you need to pay for the CUCIlync software and CUCM client access. And to get multipoint videocalls you need to have: an (expensive) Cisco MCU and/or a Cisco Meetingplace for webconferencing;
  • If switch to deskphone mode, CUCIlync will not show the user status ‘in a call’ (I could not completely validate this);

In short: I don’t like it and I don’t recommend it.
But I will not criticize those who want to protect their investment in the existing Cisco telephony… if it’s integrated with an active directory and if you can save money by not licensing Lync/OCS voice features.

Final note
Remember: An UC business case is all about end-user experience and productivity. CUCIlync should be carefully evaluated like any other scenario, but in this particular case if something goes wrong you might get a bad impression about the whole solution (ex: a customer might get the ideia that the “lync videocall” is failing).

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17 thoughts on “cucilync: a full review

  1. Ergos 26/05/2011 / 06:14

    Coule aspects not mentioned in the article:
    1) impact of cuciLy c on CUCM performance and scalability… can be very significant
    2) resiliencyand reliability of the solution:this is a least common denominator solution that requires all systems and multiple registratipns to work… one thing goes wrong, you are out of luck
    3) manageability and supportability: something breaks and who do you call? How long before it can be fixed?
    4) Cost… maybe that is cheaper on the Microsoft side but it cannot be cheaoer on the Cisco side…

    • LuisR 12/10/2011 / 18:14

      To clarify some aspects of the CUCI***.
      There weren’t experienced real ‘bugs’ while using the features.
      But as we both say the user experience is a “little” 😉 more complicated with the plug-in

    • LuisR 30/12/2011 / 09:01

      Thanks for your contribution Srini.
      One great thing about blogging is learn and exchange ideas with other persons around the world.

      I wasn’t ware of this module capabilities for the ISR G2 routers.
      Altough I believe it works, I only see hardphone references. Is CUCIlync compatible? and CUPC or Jabber?
      It might be more affordable, but we still have to invest in hardware (ISR and/or the PVDM3 module).

      • Srini 08/02/2012 / 16:29

        Yes all devices can join haven’t heard of any issues there. The investment in PVDM3 happens anyway for PRI/POTS lines, granted we need more of those resources but it’s the same PVDM in play for the TDM cards.

        Thanks
        Srini

  2. saurabh srivastava 08/02/2012 / 06:17

    Can I use desktop sharing feature of Lync and use voice feature of CISCO pbx using CUCI-LYNC. I am not geeting a assuring answer from Lync team.

    • LuisR 08/02/2012 / 14:47

      My personal answer is yes, but is not the integrated way… you have to make two invitations:
      You share the desktop with the Lync client, but you make a call using CuciLync (sharing data goes throw Lync and audio throw the PBX).
      The confusing part is when you have Lync voice/video enable. If you make a desktop sharing session and add a Lync call (voice or video) the call is made only with Lync. If you decide to add a user by phone number (Cucilync) it will fail because it’s not possible to join Lync audio and cucilync calls
      That’s the confusing user experience I mention on the post.

      • Srini 08/02/2012 / 16:32

        Correct it’s not a homogenous solution. Both vendors want the full UC pie(Live Meeting or WebEx). You can use the WebEx Plugin for Lync/MOC to stay with one vendor but trying to mix two can be confusing to the end user. On the voice side, while one create a SIP trunk between Lync and CUCM and try to bridge the two worlds together, It would be a nightmare from CAC and dial plan perspective for IT to manage and maintain and of course troubleshooting as one vendor patches their product and the interop breaks.

        Srini

  3. Will 19/11/2012 / 21:56

    Luis,
    I’ve been tasked with integrating to CUCM for phone presence and click to call functionality. So with that in mind and with the native OCS voice/video functionality disabled (per Cisco recommendation)… Would you still say that the user experience will be poor? Or is the user confusion only around having the native functionality as well as CUCIMOC/LYNC functionality both enabled?

    will

    • LuisR 20/11/2012 / 22:57

      Not poor… just confusing.
      Example: the user start a CUCIMOC voice call (using call manager). He cannot escalate the call to video without disconnecting the CUCIMOC call and make a Lync video call. Since the CUCILync supports video you can overcome this, but it still confusing.

  4. SomeFella 23/01/2013 / 08:49

    The internet seems full of Microsoft shills spending all their time bashing the competition, instead of bashing the actual faults of Microsofts solution in order to improve it. Microsoft might have a good user client (on Windows, the Mac client is sub-par), but the back end architecture is badly thought out, unstable and server intensive.

    Companies end up with CUCI-Lync typically because some suburban-training course educated MS bigot comes in and deploys Lync without proper due diligence; the Voice and Network guys get wind of the Lync project before the network can be flooded with un-controlled variable bit-rate Microsoft proprietary Voice and Video. So their only option is to try and get CUCI-Lync working in order to have it controlled under the same architecture as the rest of the system.

    The client experience isn’t as bad as what is written here , but it is not as smooth as it could be. Not because of Cisco (or Avaya) incompetence but because Microsoft purposefully makes it difficult to integrate.

    I would suggest if you haven’t deployed presence/IM already or if you need to upgrade from MOC to LYNC you look at Cisco Jabber instead.

    • LuisR 23/01/2013 / 09:22

      I will publish your comment although I don’t agree with the way you presented and anonymouslu (don’t be afraid, unless your government in Hong Kong is controlling you ;)), because I want everyone to contribute with opinions and discussions about Unified Communications.

      My blog is originally based on Lync, but the I also work and deploy Cisco UC/Jabber ;)… I haven’t updated my blog dua the lack of time in deploying UC on customers
      There are no “shitty” or perfect solutions. The best solution is the one that serves the customers needs

      Thanks for noticing my blog and leave the message.

      Regards,
      LuisR

    • TDR 23/01/2013 / 11:58

      Actually companies usually end up trying CUCI-Lync because Cisco focused networking and telephone departments desperately try to hang on to their high TCO Cisco kit so that their now legacy skills are still required in the face of advancing end user requirements for UC. And many companies reject it as a failure during the pilot stage and replace it with native Lync – I have yet to see a succesfull large scale CUCI-Lync deployment.

      Lync supports for Call Admission Control and DiffServ marking, and Microsoft RTAudio under all circumstances uses less bandwidth (with better performance) than G.711 or G.722: http://designinglync.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/lync-bandwidth-requirements.html so I dont get your point.

      Microsoft make Lync modular and very easy to integrate – with published APIs – that Cisco use.

      The Cisco model simply can’t compete when you move to Lync / Exchange / Unified Messaging / Sharepoint and Office 365 with Microsoft Office. And besides, the Microsoft model is much cheaper – both to buy and to maintain.

      CUCI-Lync is a broken solution that will never provide a true UC solution, largely because Cisco voice / video cannot support roaming users via the Internet without a VPN like Lync can.

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