A common question that arises today is where to register the latest and greatest video endpoints from Cisco. Two viable options exist, the Cisco Spark Collaboration Cloud or on-premise at customer sites via CUCM or VCS Expressway (we’ll include Cisco’s HCS Private Cloud in the on-premise model for the purposes of this discussion). When this question arises, a few key questions will usually direct us to an easy answer.
Do you already have an on-premise deployment of Cisco collaboration technology? This can be as simple as Cisco Unified Call Manager (CUCM), Cisco VCS/Expressway, Cisco Meeting Server (CMS) and/or Cisco Telepresence Server/Conductor.
How many meeting rooms and telepresence systems are you looking to deploy/install?
What is your available bandwidth at the central and remote locations?
How many users will this deployment support?
What is your preferred method of licensing - subscription or perpetual?
What meeting solution are you currently using? Is it cloud or premise based?
Let’s highlight a few of the key requirements and components of this scenario:
To deploy any video endpoint (SX/MX/DX series, SparkRoom Kit, etc.), we will require a SIP registrar. The H.323 protocol is still a common video protocol but it is out of scope of this blog. This SIP registrar can be CUCM or Expressway-C. CUCM and/or Expressway can both be virtualized as part of a Cisco UCS hardware deployment. Either CUCM or Expressway with require a room registration license for each video endpoint. In addition to a room registration license, it might be required to purchase additional RMS licenses for B2B video on Expressway depending on the workload’s being used.
Regardless of whether CUCM or Expressway-C is chosen for a SIP registrar, we will still require a full Expressway C/E pair for media and firewall traversal as shown above. This can make a deployment somewhat complex as there are specific DNS and Firewall requirements. However, it also provides a great deal of organizational control.
Finally, if we wanted to do calendar integration for scheduling with Exchange/O365 and/or provide address book functionality to the on-premise room systems, we will require Telepresence Management Server (TMS) and the TMS Exchange Extensions (TMS-XE). TMS will require proper licensing and utilizes a dedicate Windows VM for deployment.
Next, let’s review a Cloud based reference architecture.
The first thing to note is the simplicity with this option. Registering a video endpoint to the Cisco Collaboration Cloud (Spark) will reduce, first and foremost, the on-premise component requirements. This reduction includes the local SIP registrar (CUCM/Expressway/VCS), the Expressway C/E pair for media firewall traversal and finally TMS and TMS-XE for scheduling and the Address Book. It is also fair to call out the new requirements in this scenario:
Video endpoints deployed on premise will require direct egress connectivity to the Cisco Collaboration Cloud (Spark). Expressway is not used for media traversal.
Video endpoints will require a room registration subscription to Spark. This can be accomplished by a single subscription license per endpoint (1:1) purchased individually or through a larger Enterprise Licensing Agreement (EA) such as the Cisco Spark Flex Plan.
Calendaring and One Button to Press (OBTP), a single Expressway-C Management Connector will need to be deployed on premise. Note, this dedicated Expressway-C virtual machine is not associated with any existing Expressway-C used for media traversal.
Finally, to synchronize the internal Active Directory user database with the Spark Cloud, the AD Connector will need to be installed on an AD joined Windows server. Please note, any existing App Server can be used as this is a simple lightweight tool.
The advantages of cloud deployments via Cisco Spark include feature sets of the individual endpoints that simply aren’t offered on premise at this time. These bells and whistles include options like “People Count & Facial Recognition”, the “Cisco Spark Assistant” AI engine, the “Spark Control Hub” single pane of glass portal for endpoint management, firmware auto updating, Cisco Spark Board registration, whiteboarding on DX series endpoints, cloud PSTN services, and a simple self-service endpoint registration methodology.
Alternatively, on-premise managed endpoints allow for greater administrative control, seamless integration with the current dial-plan (especially important if the video endpoint will be the only "phone" in the room), no additional 3rd party PSTN contracts, and a more robust firewall traversal architecture leveraging Expressway. Also, customers who require deeper A/V integration with Crestron, AMX, and room dividing systems require that on premise deployments. These integration are available in the Spark Cloud world, however, they do require specific accounts for the integrator's login and will require the Touch10 panels to be used vs. the 3rd party controller.
So now that we have reviewed the two deployment scenario architectures, it’s important to return and review the original questions. I find , more often than not, even customers with an existing Cisco on premise deployment for voice and/or video conferencing lean towards the cloud registration option when weighing the scenarios. Cloud is especially common in greenfield environments. One of the largest advantages of leveraging a cloud based room device deployment is the ramp up time. Customers can sign up for Try/Buy program direct from Cisco and Cisco partners and be up and running in a matter of hours. See the URL below for more details.