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Architecting Cisco Unified Communications Manager 12.5 – An Evolutionary Tale

February 6, 2019 - 10 Comments

Last week I was with many of our customers attending Cisco Live Barcelona. Barcelona is a wonderful example of a vibrant, contemporary city, the host of the annual Smart City Expo. Around the city, modern structures like Frank Gehry’s Golden Fish (El Paix) and the Museu Blau (Herzog and de Meuron) blend with traditional Catalan gothic architecture and Antoni Gaudi’s brightly colored designs, inspired by nature.

Perhaps the most famous of Gaudi’s works is the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia. Work on the basilica started over 135 years ago. Construction has been continuous ever since, and today is approximately 70% complete. Work will continue until at least 2026. Unfortunately, Gaudi only lived to see the completion of one of the impressive towers. But following his death, the project was not abandoned. Successive architects, sculptors and other tradesmen have collaborated to continue towards his vision. Along the way, they have embraced modern construction techniques and materials. The addition of each new facade and tower, delighting visitors with new experiences and transforming the city skyline. I can’t wait to come back and see how it has changed on my next visit.

As an engineer, this got me thinking about parallels with the products I look after. I am fortunate to be the latest engineering leader to have responsibility for Cisco Unified Communications Manager.

Over the past 20 years UC Manager has evolved. It has built on its enterprise IP telephony and voicemail heritage, to accommodate new technology and new ways of working. Instant messaging and presence, mobility, telepresence, virtualization and cloud collaboration, and much more have all been embraced. As a result, UC Manager is trusted by over 200,000 organizations to deliver secure communication and collaboration capabilities for their people and teams.

And this week, Unified Communications Manager got even better. Release 12.5 is generally available now.

A key objective for us in this release was to simplify administration and reduce your total cost of ownership. It is packed with features to make administrator’s lives easier. Here are a few:

  • All Cisco Jabber and video endpoint* configuration can now be done directly from Unified CM’s administrator’s interface (no more XML files!).
  • You can manage Cisco Headsets* from Unified CM too, simplifying configuration management, inventory tracking, software upgrades, and more.
  • We reduced the time it takes to upgrade your Unified Communications Manager system by up to 50% with simple “one-touch” cluster-wide upgrades.
  • Provisioning new phones has never been easier with secure on-boarding, using simple 16-digit or QR codes.

(*NOTE: Video endpoint and Headset management need Unified CM release 12.5 SU1, available April/May 2019)

Of course, we didn’t forget about end-users. We created a more consistent experience for extension mobility users. And we made Jabber mobile deployments more robust and feature rich. We also enabled interworking between on-premises Jabber IM&P and Webex Teams messaging. By the way – did you know that Jabber 12.5 also supports a new “Team Messaging Mode”? It means you can use Unified Communications Manager for enterprise calling, and connect to the Webex team messaging service for next generation business messaging.

As in every release, we strengthen our security capabilities. We added elliptic curve cryptography support, granular controls for cipher management, encrypted instant messaging archiving, and several other enhancements.

There are dozens of things we could talk about, but you probably get the point. Our strategy is to continue to provide outstanding on-premises solutions, at the same time as we aggressively develop our cloud portfolio. We know hundreds of thousands of you, our customers, depend on it!

Cisco Unified Communications Manager 12.5 has had the most rigorous testing. It is the highest quality release for many years. I’m sure you are going to love it. But, like the planners, architects and engineers who are driving the City of Barcelona and the Sagrada Familia forward, we are not done yet! In fact, we are already planning our next release. We are going to jump straight to “release 14” (any guesses why?).

While we are still early on in the process, we are thinking about greatly improving our user interfaces, more seamlessly integrating to our cloud services portfolio, and increasing scale. I should probably not share much more, as roadmaps are constantly in flux. However, I would love to hear what YOU would like to see us doing next. Leave me your comments below.

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  1. I'm eager to know what you do for release 13??? Is it completely skipped? I get that there won't be a public release of 13.0, but does that mean the software developers literally save the source code as version 14.X.Y.Z and never use 13.X.Y.Z?

    I can probably understand why version 13.0 won't see the light of day, but eager to hear why Cisco thinks there should be no version 13.0 (which I agree with)…

    Great article above! Thanks for posting it.

    • Developers should be using 14 instead of 13. It's all about luck in the end 🙂

      Note that we are no longer going to "dot" the release either. It will be release 14, and not 14.0. While there will be maintenance releases, we are moving away from the minor release designation.

  2. I have heard that there are plans to deprecate 7940,41,60 and 61 endpoints in CUCM release 14. I know many customers with very large estates that consist of almost entirely these models of phone. I know many customers who are considering Skype for Business as an alternative UC solution. Has any consideration been given to how the cost of being forced to replace thousands of phones will influence those customer's decisions on whether to stay with Cisco UC or move away to Skype for Business?

    • Absolutely! We expect every device we sell to be operational for at least 10 years. The 7941/61s were end-of-sale 10 years ago, and will still work with supported versions of CUCM for a few more years. In average that's about 2 decades of usage. Few technologies can claim this longevity. For the 7940s and 7960s, the timeline is even longer.

      While we don't like to use this space to bash competitors, it is important to highlight that Skype for Business follows a different policy. Our understanding is that phones that work with it are not natively supported with Microsoft Teams, so customers will probably have to upgrade at much faster pace.

      The long support for our phones is and will continue to be a Cisco differentiator.

  3. must say , this is some good news
    i would love to see the below next
    – would be sweet if multiple phones ITL can be deleted using bulk administration

  4. Nice to hear there is no more XML for Jabber. Good for Admins!

  5. Reducing the upgrade time for CUCM clusters is definitely a key takeaway in the big list of enhancements in version 12.5.

  6. Do you have design document for deploying 12.5 on AWS

    • KJ,

      Documentation is still being worked. When available, you should expect it to show up in the rest of CUCM 12.5 documents.

  7. Because 13 is considered as bad luck in several cultures?