Calling with Cisco and Microsoft: Client Integration vs Direct Routing for Microsoft Teams

Cisco Calling in Microsoft Teams

Comparing Cisco Client Integration with Direct Routing for Microsoft Teams

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations faced pressing challenges and looked for ways to quickly enable their remote workforce by

  • Keeping workers engaged
  • Enabling work to be done anywhere
  • Providing enterprise-class capabilities and performance to home users

Six months later, organisations now face a different challenge: to facilitate the return to the workplace while

  • Ensuring worker safety and wellness
  • Bridging technological gaps
  • Building a secure and distributed-work model
  • Enabling operations to scale

To that end, Cisco has prepared a blueprint that focuses on empowering the remote worker and paving a safe return to the office. It includes touchless technology and collaboration tools that build bridges with other platforms such as Microsoft Teams to offer innovative and seamless options for organisations to leverage existing investments, support tactical decisions and provide interoperability between multi-vendor Calling, Messaging and Meetings platforms.

In this post, we will focus on two available interoperability options between Cisco Collaboration and Microsoft Teams, followed by a quick comparison and summary.

 

Cisco Client Integration for Microsoft Teams

The Cisco client integration with Microsoft Teams allows your team to use all Cisco Collaboration enterprise-grade voice and video calling features in combination with the Microsoft Teams client. The client-side integration, for Calling and Meetings workloads, provides an alternative for users to retain the Microsoft Teams client without the constraints of Direct Routing.

 

Direct Routing for Microsoft Teams

A Direct Routing interconnect enables PSTN calling functionality within the Microsoft Teams client. The Direct Routing interconnect with Cisco Collaboration calling is currently a roadmap item, and not supported by Cisco at this time.

When supported, the functionality will likely be similar to Direct Routing PSTN calling – number display and call routing only. For example, standard telephony features such as ‘caller name display’, ‘message waiting indicator’ and ‘callback’ will be unavailable.

 

Cisco Client Integration vs Direct Routing

Key comparison areas include both benefits and challenges, with a focus on:

  • End-User Experience
  • Deployment and IT Management
  • Financial Implications

Cisco Client Integration

Direct Routing for Microsoft Teams

BENEFITS

End-User

(Features)

  • Supports dialling from within the Microsoft Teams App
  • Supports proximity, ‘touchless join’ and wireless sharing within Cisco meeting rooms
  • Supports a familiar and consistent calling/dialling experience
  • Supports a consistent set of features and functionality across different devices: desktop, macOS, Android, iOS.
  • Supports a consistent set of features across all call flows: IP Phone to IP Phone, IP Phone to App, App to App.
  • Supports unified extensions, dial-patterns and voice mailboxes (a single mailbox, dial-plan, and extension per user)
  • Supports integration with desk phones (shared lines or desk phone control)
  • Cisco Collaboration IP Telephony environments have an extensive set of features and capabilities that are extended to desktop and mobile applications, including:
    • Multiline
    • Call Waiting
    • Call Waiting ID
    • Call Transfer for mobile clients
    • Call Forward Busy
    • Single Number Reach
    • Auto-answer
    • Distinctive Ring
    • Call Return
    • Sequential Ringing
    • Barge-In
    • Business Continuity (CFNR)
    • Customisable Music on Hold
  • Cisco client integration is not required, providing a simpler user experience

Deployment and IT Management

  • Leverage mature, enterprise-grade native calling capabilities within a Cisco Collaboration deployment
  • Supports a wide range of new and legacy telephony devices
    • Analogue gateways
    • Intercom
    • Paging
    • Gates/booms
  • Easy to deploy, no server-side/backend integration required
  • Webex Teams ‘Modular App’ can be added to the Microsoft Teams client to enable only the desired workload: Calling and/or Messaging and/or Meetings. A single, cutdown version which only supports the selected workload with other features disabled and removed from the App to simplify the user experience. Calls and/or Meetings are initiated from the Microsoft Teams App.
  • Easy to manage and troubleshoot
  • End-to-end visibility
  • Single vendor for voice, gateways and possibly the data network
  • A comprehensive set of mature troubleshooting tools such as Real-Time Monitoring Tool (RTMT)

Financial Implications*

  • No additional licensing costs when using a Hybrid Services deployment architecture
  • Maximise return on investment by leveraging existing Cisco investments (where available)

CHALLENGES

End-User

(Features)

  • Presence status sharing between Cisco and Microsoft devices and applications is currently not supported (Microsoft Presence API does not currently accept Presence updates)
  • Presence status sharing between Cisco and Microsoft devices and applications is not supported (Microsoft Presence API does not currently accept Presence updates)
  • Ad-hoc system with no integration between user physical handsets and desktop/mobile applications;
  • Confusion and difficulty in managing multiple extensions/ voicemail boxes
  • Confusion regarding which extension to dial to reach colleagues/other staff
  • Inconsistent user experience across different workflows
  • Increased dialling complexity with the addition of inter-site and intra-site dialling prefixes
  • Highlighting some of the basic/advanced features and capabilities that are unavailable within the MS Teams platform, and when dialling between on-premise Cisco CUCM/PSTN, and Microsoft Teams
    • Comfort Noise Generation
    • Multiline
    • Call Waiting
    • Call Waiting ID
    • Call Transfer for mobile clients
    • Call Forward Busy
    • Single Number Reach
    • Auto answer
    • Distinctive Ring
    • Call Return
    • Sequential Ringing
    • Barge-In
    • Business Continuity (CFNR)
    • Customisable Music on Hold

Deployment and IT Management

  • Maintaining two applications: Microsoft Teams and Webex Teams (Calling Mode)
  • Deployment of additional Cisco Expressway capacity may be required
  • Difficult to manage and troubleshoot dual dial-plans, extensions and PSTN routes
  • No end-to-end visibility for the calls between Microsoft Teams and Cisco Collaboration Infrastructure and/or PSTN
  • No Media Bypass Support. All media flows through the CUBE gateway
  • No end-to-end Cisco TAC support
  • Multiple vendors need to be engaged to troubleshoot calling issues, leading to delays in the resolution of incidents.

Financial Implications

  • Justification of the return on investment, given the current feature set
  • Higher recurring costs, with upgrades from Microsoft A3/E3 to A5/E5 or Phone System add-on licensing
  • Recurring costs associated with requirements to purchase additional licenses for public spaces/common/lobby areas
  • Costs associated with the procurement of replacement Cisco CUBE gateways with feature support
  • Additional recurring costs associated with Cisco CUBE licenses and software support

*No additional costs if the customer current user licensing supports multiple devices per license

 

Cisco Client Integration: a better alternative to Direct Routing for Microsoft Teams

In summary, although the Direct Routing approach provides limited integration options between the two platforms, it has the benefit of utilising a single client-side application. The main drawback is an inconsistent user experience across different workflows, together with the unavailability of both basic and advanced telephony features on the Microsoft Teams calling side when calling between the platforms. The lack of visibility for end-to-end voice network traffic, and the complexity of the architecture are also factors in addition to this feature still being under development. The Direct Routing interconnect is recommended during the transition phase of migration, rather than a permanent solution.

The Cisco client integration, on the other hand, is simple to deploy, easy to manage, provides a consistent user experience, supports the most features, and provides end-to-end visibility of voice network traffic. The only challenge is to deploy and manage two client-side applications.

 

Would you like to improve the user experience of your Microsoft Teams and Cisco users?

Would you like to provide proven, enterprise-grade telephony and contact centre capabilities for your Microsoft Teams users?

Would you like to use Microsoft Teams with your on-premise Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM or CallManager) and Cisco Jabber deployments?

Would you like to use Microsoft Teams with your cloud-based Cisco Webex Calling (WxC) subscription?

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