Enabling Fast Development and Deployment of New Managed Services
The Cisco® Unified Communications Express Services Interface is a new capability available with Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express 8.0. It enables third-party application control and monitoring of call state-and call provisioning-on any Skinny Client Control Protocol (SCCP) device registered to Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express (CME). Java application programming interfaces (APIs) enable the application server to completely control the call-processing and associated endpoints, as well as initiate a change of call state. The application server can be hosted in a service provider's cloud or can be co-resident on the user's premises. This new capability facilitates integration between a managed services deployment of Unified CME on a customer premises, with that service provder's or a third-party developer's hosted unified communications applications. This hybrid deployment model allows the service provider to unlock additional value and maximize customer benefit.
Various business and technology trends are converging and creating new opportunities for developing and offering unified communications applications and services, so both service providers and application developers stand to gain. Service providers can offer new managed services-in a hosted environment-to their commercial business customers, whereas developers can create hosted applications deployed by either service providers or commercial business users. Those who take advantage of these trends can develop and offer unified communications solutions that are becoming valuable, if not essential, to the success of companies worldwide.
According to Forrester Research, the complexity and convergence of the IP telephony (IPT) and unified communications market will create greater need for both hosted and premises-based managed IP telephony communications services. In all likelihood, managed services for premises-based IP telephony will attract the greatest usage for two important reasons: First is the fact that business users are familiar with the traditional premises-based IP private branch exchange (IP PBX). The second is that the premises-based IP PBX will take on the broader role for control of a variety of media transmission requirements as video becomes a more prevalent element of communication and collaboration services.
But, the premises-based IP telephony system to perform call control is only part of the solution that commercial business customers will require. They will also need unified communications services, including messaging; collaboration services such as conferencing; customer-relationship-management (CRM) integration; and mobility services. Although these services will most likely be delivered by service providers as hosted services, they will need to integrate with the premises-based IP telephony to enable access to call-control features. Therefore, delivering these high-value services to the commercial customer requires integration of the premises-based call-control and hosted unified communications technologies into a complete communications solution architecture.
Fortunately, numerous technology trends are making it possible to satisfy these market requirements. One such trend is that commercial businesses will be able to access higher WAN bandwidth at continually lower tariff rates. This higher bandwidth enables more flexibility in how both premises-based and hosted unified communications services are delivered. It also means that hosted unified communications applications and premises-based call control can now interact at a fast rate.
Another important trend is the growing deployment of intelligent mobile phones, which are becoming users' devices of choice to access services over the Internet. Additionally, the trend toward thin clients over thick clients broadens the availability of Web 2.0 technologies, and effectively turns mobile devices into portable web interface and transaction devices. These devices allow you to select and control unified communications services just as you do with any other web-based transaction service (for example, online banking). A related trend is the growing number of third-generation (3G) voice and data wireless networks, which are making it easier for you to access the Internet almost anywhere.
Additional technology trends help complete the picture. The transition to Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunks makes it possible to take advantage of high bandwidth and IP networking to provide more options for integrating IP telephony call control and advanced media services (that is, video) with unified communications applications. Finally, web-based transaction servers continue to deliver higher levels of performance to support the ever-growing number of transactions at faster rates, meaning that you will be able to submit more transaction requests for unified communications services through your mobile devices.
As these technology trends rapidly gain momentum, service providers and developers that take advantage of them stand to achieve market share gains over competitors that do not. That said, doing so will require a service delivery architecture that combines the flexibility of cloud-based unified communications services with the proven benefits of on-premises call control.
Broadening the Market Opportunity for Unified Communications Services
For some time now, large enterprises running their own private networks have deployed unified communications solutions that augment and enhance their basic IP telephony system, and boost end-user productivity. However, until the advent of the technology trends mentioned previously, these unified communications solutions were not readily accessible to midsize and smaller commercial businesses. As a result, those businesses had difficulty deploying services such as centralized directory, multisite extension mobility, and fixed and mobile convergence.
But now the trend is to extend the benefits of such unified communications solutions to midsize and smaller commercial businesses. Both application developers and service providers recognize that many of today's technology trends are enabling the development of service applications that can deliver the types of unified communications solutions previously available only to the large corporate enterprise.
Service providers and developers are formulating strategies to develop and deliver unified communications service applications that are hosted in the cloud, but integrate with their customers' premises-based IP telephony systems. This integration will enable service providers to include call-control and -monitoring features as part of the service. In turn, service providers will be able to generate incremental service revenue while increasing the differentiation of their service offerings. Plus, by consolidating the deployment, provisioning, and maintenance of unified communications services under a common service delivery architecture such as this, service providers will also realize operational efficiencies (that is, reduced costs) as they continue to add new unified communications services.
A large community of third-party developers and service providers has been waiting for Cisco to deliver the type of computer telephony integration (CTI) that can support this common service delivery architecture, in particular on Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express. As a premises-based IP telephony system that runs on the Cisco Integrated Services Router (ISR) platform, Cisco Unified CME is ideally suited to provide the premises-based call-control functions needed for such a service delivery architecture.
Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface: Enabling New Revenue-Generating Services
For this community of developers and service providers, the wait is over: Cisco has developed an interface that makes it possible for developers to build unified communications service applications and service providers to offer those new services that enrich and extend Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express functions for small and midsize businesses. This new interface is the Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface.
Unified communications services based on hosted applications that use the Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface can provision as well as monitor and modify the call state of the telephony endpoints (that is, Cisco Unified IP Phones) that are registered with the premises-based Cisco Unified CME. As a result, service providers can offer unified communications services that integrate with the customer's on-premises Cisco Unified CME platform from a hosted "cloud" environment, meaning that hosted unified communications applications can control the telephony services to users through the new interface as required for the type of unified communications services being offered. At the same time, telephony services that are not related to or affected by the hosted unified communications services are controlled by the premises-based Cisco Unified CME alone. The resulting service delivery architecture is a hybrid of hosted and managed premises-based technologies.
As mentioned previously, the hosted unified communications services that integrate with premises-based Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express employ Web 2.0 technologies to enable you to access the hosted unified communications applications through the web so you can select the type of unified communications services you need when you need them. You can control unified communications service functions through a web interface on your mobile device or desktop computer connected to the hosted unified communications application server. In turn, the application server interprets the services you request into call-control instructions that are transmitted through the Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface to the on-premises Cisco Unified CME. As a result, you gain unprecedented control, any time and any place, over your unified communications services (Figure 1).
Figure 1. You Can Control Unified Communications Service Functions Through a Web Interface on Your Mobile Device or Desktop Computer
An important advantage of the service delivery architecture enabled by Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express and the new services interface is that the "service in a cloud" interacts with Cisco Unified CME to handle basic call control without requiring additional on-premises application servers. This scenario greatly simplifies service delivery and enables cost-effective creation and delivery of new revenue-generating services that require no changes or additions to the existing premises-based equipment. Because the management of these hosted applications is centralized, service providers can easily offer and customize new services that satisfy the needs of small and midsize businesses operating both single and multiple sites.
For single-site companies running a single Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express, service providers can control, configure, offer, and deploy new services-such as CRM services or fixed mobile convergence-that enhance Cisco Unified CME functions. To satisfy the needs of companies running multiple sites, each with its own Cisco Unified CME, service providers can offer services such as central directory and multisite extension mobility that all sites can share.
How It Works
The hybrid service delivery architecture described previously has several critical elements, starting with the Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express. Embedded in Cisco IOS® Software as part of a converged voice and data solution for commercial businesses, this telephony service application provides call control for up to 350 Cisco Unified IP Phones per site. The Cisco Integrated Services Router-and now the Cisco Integrated Services Routers Generation 2 (ISR G2)-are the hardware platforms on which Cisco Unified CME runs.
The flexibility and sophisticated functions of the Cisco ISR and ISR G2 platforms enable deployment of media-intensive applications such as IP telephony, unified messaging, video telephony, and desktop collaboration. The advanced media-processing capabilities of the Cisco ISR G2 make it a critical element of network infrastructure, because voice and video media traffic is becoming the fastest-growing and largest component of network traffic.
The next critical element of the hybrid service delivery architecture is the computer telephony API for Cisco Unified CME: the Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface. Applications developed using this interface can interact with a premises-based Cisco Unified CME to remotely monitor or modify call control of the IP phones registered to that Cisco Unified CME. Although call-control functions continue to be performed locally by the Cisco Unified CME, the interface enables unified communications applications to instruct the Cisco Unified CME on what call-control function to perform. Details of the Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface are discussed in the following section Reference Figure 2.
Figure 2. Now It Is Possible to Develop and Offer Unified Communications Services in a Hosted Cloud Environment That Integrates with an On-Premises IP PBX
Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface Elements
The Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface enables third-party application control and monitoring of call state-and call provisioning-on any SCCP device registered in a Cisco Unified CME. It also makes telephony provisioning possible using Administrative XML (AXL) protocols by hosted applications, reference Figure 3.
The Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface includes:
• CTI protocols embedded within Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express
• A Java Function Library (the Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface) that co-resides on an external server with the third-party application
Java APIs provided in the interface enable the application server to completely control the PBX and associated end stations, as well as initiate a change of call state. (The application server can be hosted in the service provider cloud or can be co-resident with Cisco Unified CME on users' premises.) The interface facilitates integration with Cisco CME CTI features, and also simplifies and enables interaction between the hosted application and premises-based call control.
The Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface is based on various technologies, including:
• Computer Supported Telecommunications Applications (CSTA), an Ecma International standard, to define Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) features for call control and call monitoring
• TR-87, which defines transport of CSTA messages over SIP
• AXL protocols to support dynamic provisioning to modify Cisco Unified CME configuration
• X/Open System Interfaces Extension (XSI) tunneling to exchange Extensible Markup Language (XML) messages between applications and Cisco Unified IP Phones
Figure 3. The Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface Enables Third-Party Application Control and Monitoring of Call State, Along with Call and Telephony Provisioning
Each of these technologies plays a critical support role:
• CSTA allows a third-party application to change call state on a phone and monitor change of call state.
• AXL enables modification of configuration provisioning. Because it is XML- or HTTP-based rather than Telnet-based, it provides a robust programmatic interface for modifying the underlying configuration of services on the user's phone.
• XSI enables XML messaging to smartphones. With XSI, developers can transmit messaging to Cisco Unified IP Phones without keeping track of the IP addresses associated with each phone tied into the service.
External applications can use the Cisco HTTP-based XML interface to query and configure a Cisco Unified CME Integrated Services Router. A Java-based application on top of the native XML interface in Cisco Unified CME abstracts the underlying XML content format and its transport protocol. The provisioning capability provides a Java framework for querying and changing the Cisco Unified CME configuration. The Java APIs provided in the capability are built to communicate with Cisco Unified CME through the existing XML interface. The application calls the API, which sends an XML request over HTTP or HTTPS to Cisco Unified CME. Cisco Unified CME processes the request and sends a response back to the interface.
Delivering New In-Demand Services
You can enable the following unified communications services from the Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface:
• Multisite centralized directory: Multisite centralized directory creates a common company address book that merges local contacts stored separately in each of your company's Cisco Unified CME applications. Optional services include web access, customized fields, and presence information.
• Personal directory: The personal directory generates a web-accessible secure personal contact list by retrieving local directory files from different Cisco Unified CME sites.
• Multisite extension mobility: With this service you can temporarily log in from a different phone-using your own personal settings and directory number-to retrieve your profile and personal address book. You also can have calls to your home phone routed to a temporary phone.
• Presence management with multisite call forwarding: This service sets your presence availability status-such as "do not disturb", "in a meeting", "on holiday", or "at home"-and manages the call inside the multisite network architecture.
• Multisite shared lines: Multisite shared lines forwards calls on your IP phone to another phone number, allowing your calls to simultaneously ring phones in multiple company sites. When you answer the call on one phone, the ringing on the other phone stops.
• Missed-call notification: This service enables profile customization to specify whether you wants to be notified by Short Message Service (SMS) or email message if you miss an incoming call.
Let's examine two of these services in more detail: multisite centralized directory and multisite extension mobility. The Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface allows developers and service providers to more rapidly develop applications that involve CTI. As a result, they can deliver managed hosted applications that coordinate functions between sites, such as centralized directory and extension mobility-a service that is extremely valuable to small and midsize businesses with multiple sites, each featuring a Cisco Unified CME on site.
Therefore, developers and service providers can enable multisite functions and truly distributed call control from a centralized location. Consider how centralized call control is handled through Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express in a standard on-premises deployment. If five or six sites in a company are using Cisco Unified CME, one site acts as call control and the other sites communicate with that site to place a basic call.
With the Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface, developers can create-and service providers can offer-an application that automatically extracts centralized directory information. When employees dial the number for the IP phone directory, the information no longer comes from the local Cisco Unified CME; it comes from a centralized directory of all users in all locations.
Similarly, let's assume employees who work mainly at one site visit another site with their assigned phone. They can log into Cisco Unified CME through their smartphones, and change the configuration so that all calls are forwarded to the new site.
The Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface offers the following benefits for service providers:
• Faster time to market for hosted service offerings
• Greater service revenue potential from premises-based call-control customers
• Flexibility and scalability to enable broader market reach
The Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface offers the following benefits for developers:
• Ability to develop applications that involve CTI more rapidly
• Ability to bring new applications to market quickly while lowering operating costs
• Ability to help service providers capitalize on new revenue-generating services that require no change or addition to existing premises-based equipment
Service providers that deliver managed-premises IP telephony with Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express on premises can differentiate by integrating with service applications in the cloud. With the Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface, developers can create new applications and service providers can develop an architecture that makes it possible to deploy a service that can interact with premises-based call control.
Just as important, service providers can implement new services more easily,without deploying new equipment. They simply add another application to their hosted server to take advantage of the existing infrastructure. As a result, the incremental cost of delivering a new service is lower and the speed of bringing a new service to market is much quicker. By taking advantage of the Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface, service providers create an environment in which they can cost-effectively add new services-and realize an attractive margin on each new service added.
Both developers and service providers want to know that their chosen technology direction will make a good long-term investment. With the Cisco Unified Communications Express Services Interface, they can tap into the technology trends that will predominate for years to come. By designing a service strategy around multiple critical technology trends, developers and service providers will be well-situated for the long term.