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