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This blog is to share our expertise in Cisco UCM, UCCX/UCCE and Cisco Telepresence.

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Cisco Jabber 11 – “And I admit, it's getting better…”

We suppose our readers don’t need to be told what Cisco Jabber is. This article is about the corporate environment it was introduced to, where it is extremely important to support TelePresence devices, work with VDI, let mobile users stay online, quickly create complicated meetings and conferences. And also to conform to a whole lot of rules and security policies.

In June 2015, Cisco Collaboration 11 was released, and Jabber, as a part of it, has changed for the better and acquired a lot of helpful features.

In brief:

  • Support of all main desktop and mobile operating systems except Linux;
  • Interface unification even for Cisco TelePresence devices;
  • Safe access for mobile users (an encrypted channel is created after Jabber launches);
  • A p2p analogue for VDI stations without excessive transfers from terminal to server;
  • Simple guest access for browser-only users.
Now let’s go into more details.

Supported devices

Cisco made Jabber client suitable almost for every device: Windows, OS X, iOS, Android, and also browsers and VDI thin clients. There’s no Linux and Windows Phone support yet. This variety provides maximum accessibility for users and allows them to use their favorite device for communications.

Licensing for a heterogeneous device park becomes easier and more intelligible.

After transition from Personal Communicator (Jabber’s predecessor) to Jabber the application design has become almost identical on all devices. You can see the same interface even on TelePresence terminals (personal and group ones) which provide high communication quality. That helps users to adjust and start using the services.

The features available in Cisco Jabber for Windows are:

  • Presence – real-time availability of employees within and outside the enterprise network
  • Instant messaging – including p2p chat, group chat, chat rooms
  • Phonebook – contains only AD and MS Outlook contacts, but you can integrate Cisco Jabber with CRM and any enterprise DB to make other contacts available in Jabber phonebook
  • Desktop sharing – the whole screen, not the certain app only
  • Conferencing – voice and web meetings
  • Integrated video – with media escalation
  • Security features – encryption, single sign-on, enterprise policy management

Mobile clients provide a bit less functionality.

UC outside the office

Only two or three years ago it wasn’t easy to provide mobile and remote employees with access to corporate communication services. There has always been a choice between using VPN connections and restricting functionality. It may seem easy to build a VPN tunnel, but in reality it created a lot of obstacles and issues: organizational (VPN and UC are usually managed by different departments), technical (encryption matters) and user problems. The last ones could nullify all the efforts to overcome the others, because it was simply unhandy to establish a VPN connection every time you leave your office. In any case, the solution turned out to be expensive and complicated.

After the Mobile and Remote Access (MRA) function was created, everything got better. The function name speaks for itself: it allows providing mobile and remote users with a secure access to UC services. The users can use Jabber anywhere without thinking about their location or changing any settings. All they have to do is to launch the application, and Jabber will find the required server by itself. What makes this function even more attractive is that it is completely free. Software for the edge servers that provide Jabber functioning outside a corporate network costs $0, and Jabber clients don’t require a license for internal calls. Perhaps this is one of the most useful and important functions, that is implemented today in every project where Jabber is used.

Guest access

In the end of 2013 Jabber Guest solution was introduced. It allows to simply send a link to a remote party or place it online. The remote subscriber can connect from a browser or a mobile device using this link, and an employee can use the accustomed means of communication. This function is very helpful for HR, communicating with natural persons and small companies, or recruiting experts from the outside.

Cloud and VDI

Jabber can be used together with Cisco WebEx cloud services and newly created Collaboration Meeting Rooms (CMR) Cloud service which also is based on WebEx Cloud. Joint usage of Jabber and these services provides an opportunity to use the client to take part in cloud arrangements and also initiate them with a single click. The last version of Jabber introduced an opportunity to start a WebEx or CMR session directly from the chat window without planning, inviting participants, etc.

There used to be a problem with VDI, because a workstation with an operating system would be situated in a data center, and the peripheral devices (monitor, web-camera, microphone, speakers) in the office would be connected to a thin client. This caused a significant delay in voice and video transmission to/from the data center. Standard video conferencing and UC applications can’t work in these circumstances. However, a special intermediate for Jabber, installed on a thin client, allows to overcome this limitation. Audio and video data is being transmitted directly between the thin client and a remote subscriber, avoiding the workstation in data center.