How Cisco is Implementing an IP Phone Refresh Program

July 21, 2011 - 0 Comments

IP telephony has been deployed for over 12 years now within Cisco.  We are constantly in an ongoing process to refresh our older phones with next generation devices.  It’s not easy – it’s a little like painting the Golden Gate Bridge:  you’re never finished.

Today we have more than 150,000 physical Cisco IP phones installed across the company with a large mix of models, from the older Cisco 7960 to our most recent, the Cisco 9971, and other new Cisco video endpoints.  The larger the number of device models we have to support, the greater the complexity. Currently we are standardizing on  only two models (the Cisco 9951 and Cisco 9971) as our standard desktop device, and are planning replacements for the nearly 35,000 phones that are eligible for the next round of our refresh program.

Standardizing on a reduced number of phone models isn’t easy.  We know that users choose certain phone models because they offer valuable features. While we offer standardized phone models, Cisco IT supports departments in choosing and self-funding other Cisco IP phone models that better suit their business needs.  We will deploy and support these non-standard phone models, but actively encourage the utilization of our standard selections.

Processes and Priorities for Phone Replacement

When it comes to actually replacing the old phones, we follow one of these processes, based on the needs of each site:

  • Send the new phones to employees individually and have them return their old phone after installing the new one.
  • Host a “phone swap” day onsite, where we distribute new phones and receive old phones.
  • Send a technician to the site to perform the phone exchange or to replace eligible phones across an entire office when it’s expanded or renovated.
  • New employees receive one of the new standard phone models, based on an internally defined entitlement policy that helps to control our equipment budget.

We also needed to decide how to stage the replacement activity among sites: Should we refresh the large sites first, or start with smaller offices instead? Each approach has its pros and cons, but in the end we decided to start with the smaller locations so that we could quickly replace all phones on smaller Cisco UCM clusters.  Also, if we encountered problems, they would be easier to troubleshoot and we would impact fewer users.

This decision means that phone replacement at our two largest campuses–San Jose and Research Triangle Park–will not be completed until the tail end of our current refresh cycle.

The Benefits of Clearing Out the Old

When this refresh cycle is complete, we expect to see significant cost savings and consistent user experience due to a more standardized phone model deployment. All phones will be able to support the latest feature Unified Communications features and services.

In the meantime, Cisco will see incremental benefits from the phone refresh program. Any time we clean house we get a chance to clean up loose ends.  For example, we are identifying a lot of “stale” phones that are configured in the Cisco UCM database but aren’t plugged in or registered. This usually happens when an employee leaves the company and the phone is taken off that person’s desk, but it never gets removed from the database. We’ve already identified over 30,000 stale phone appearances  to remove globally, which reduces the configuration on our Cisco UCM cluster and makes our lives easier.

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