Aurus Blog

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

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Cisco Jabber vs Spark and Acano - The Steadfast Tin Soldier

For several years Jabber has been the Cisco's UC answer to Microsoft. A little bit late but still successful one. But in 2015 Cisco gave birth to two Jabber's cousins:

     1) in the beginning of 2015 Cisco announces Cisco Spark
     2) in the end of 2015 Cisco acquired Acano

Both Spark and Acano projects have its own clients for collaboration, so this is a fruitful theme for speculation on which product will supersede/swallow another one.

Cisco Spark vs Jabber

Spark is the real Cisco vision for collaboration that fits the Trollope's vision for, so called, Workstream Communications and Collaboration (WCC).

WCC is considered as a new form of communication that comes up to take the UC's place. WCC tools include asynchronous messaging, real-time voice and video, content and context. Most of leading vendors in enterprise communication world jumped in this WCC train almost simultaneously – Cisco (Spark), Interactive Intelligence (PureCloud), Mitel (MiTeam), Unify (Circuit), Avaya (Zang) just to name a few.

But is it going to replace Jabber? Nope. And the reasons are:

  • Cisco Jabber has a large customer base, which would be easier to continue to support rather than to transition to another app;
  • Spark is a pure cloud solution which may not appeal to some verticals where everything has to be on premise;
  • the UC transition to WCC is not going to be a quick one, and until it isn't over Cisco still needs to compete with Microsoft.

So, I think for the next several years there will still be two clients – Jabber for traditional presence bubbles, buddy list, UC integration and Spark for team collaboration, workflow, persistence etc.

Currently there are business cases for both solutions even to be running simultaneously at the same company.

Acano vs Cisco Jabber

The Steadfast Tin SoldierAcano, acquired by Cisco in Nov 2015, is the best known of its truly interoperable video/audio bridge. On my opinion, this bridge was the primary Cisco's target and Acano is going to replace Cisco Telepresence Server and Conductor in Cisco's business video offering.

But besides the server component Acano provides the client app with contacts (no buddy list though), presence, very good persistent group chats, workflow and some other useful things. And that makes it another threat for Cisco Jabber.

Still I think Jabber will stand, because the primary task will be to digest the Acano's bridge, not the client. For example:

  • Cisco Telepresence Server replacement;
  • integration with Cisco Spark to power it with interop video meetings;
  • probably, integration with Cisco Webex.

So, my prediction is we'll live with Cisco Jabber and Spark and Acano at least until the next decade. Then all the platforms will be merged as well as client applications.

Configuring Cisco Jabber 11 for iOS and Android Mobile Devices

If we have Cisco IM and Presence server and Cisco UCM in our corporate environment, as well as unhandy wi-fi Cisco 7925 telephones, which are heavy and consume the battery as fast as a Formula One car, then sooner or later we’ll think about switching to Cisco Jabber on a mobile phone.

This article tells what you need for that.

Before all experiments, make sure you have the following things:

  • Cisco Unified Communications Manager 8.6.2 or higher (preferably the latest version)
  • Cisco IM and Presence (integrated with CUCM, of course)
  • Wi-Fi Wireless Access Point, already set up by an administrator to distribute wireless internet (don’t mix it up with Wi-Fi Router, since if you have Router, your phones will be hidden behind NAT and RTP streams and it will be complicated to route correctly)
  • CUCM и IM&Presence Administrator kind enough to make us a CUCM and Presence user
  • Android 4.x or higher, better and faster (iPhone will do as well)

You can discard Cisco IM and Presence and configure Cisco Jabber for CUCM phone services only. It will be a dull and sad client (as an alternative to Jabber: what can possibly prevent you from registering an Android phone as a SIP third-party device on CUCM?), but you’ll be able to call anyway.

Proceed to Google market (or Apple Store for iPhone)

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cisco.im

And install the app.

But we won’t be able to run it until we perform the configuration steps in our Unified Communication infrastructure. So, led by the craving for launching Cisco Jabber on our phone, we go to the CUCM web interface and add our device.

Use the menu: Device - Phone - Add new – select "Cisco Dual Mode for Android"

Now we configure our precious, paying attention to the following aspects:

Device Name – in case of Android device it should start with BOT prefix (TCT in case of iPhone) and include name in upper case (BOT <NAME>). Allowed characters: a–z, A–Z, 0–9, (.), (_), (-). Total name length is limited to 12 characters. My device name is BOT-ATYRIN.

Description – specify or shyly conceal the phone model (or write any kind of nonsense)

Media Resource Group List – either specified explicitly or assigned through the Device Pool

Optionally specify User Hold MOH Audio Source и Network Hold MOH Audio Source

Owner – select User

Owner User ID – select yourself from the list of CUCM users

Device Security ProfileCisco Dual Mode for Android – Standard SIP Non-Security Profile

SIP ProfileStandard SIP Profile for Mobile Device

If necessary, in Product Specific Configuration Layout section you can turn video support on, and specify a list of SSID Wi-Fi access point names, separated with ( /), if you wish to connect to the specified access points only.

After that we can add a line (DN) to our device.


Associate yourself with this line.

Take notice that since Cisco Jabber 11.0.1 and CUCM 10.5(2)su2 versions you can use conversation recording and listening features!

Quoting the documentation: Silent Monitoring and Call Recording (Built-in Bridge) — In 11.0.1 Cisco Jabber for Android supports silent monitoring and call recording using Cisco Unified Communications Manager 10.5(2) su2 and later releases.

After that proceed to User Management – End User and give yourself the rights to use this device (Device Association)

Don’t forget to ensure that you are an IM and Presence user:

And have the necessary rights:

Last but not least, a bit of Cisco magic without which you may not be able to run anything:

Jabber on Android doesn’t support HOSTNAME in Android kernel before version 4.4.4, and it’s possible that the integration with Call Manager phone services won’t happen. So, you’ll only see chat and presence features.

To solve this problem, first of all it’s necessary to specify FQDN or IP address everywhere in Jabber settings.

Secondly, in System – Enterprise Parameters menu in CUCM you should fill the initially empty Organization Top Level Domain field (initially empty) with the enterprise domain value.

Now cross your fingers and pray to Cisco gods as we proceed to the most exciting part: the first launch and configuration of Cisco Jabber on your phone.

It launches, which is good enough. Let’s open “Advanced settings” and presume that we are clever enough to explore them. Fill out IM and Presence server address and press OK:

Fill out your username and password (End User credentials in CUCM, IM and Presence). If you haven’t made any mistakes, you may rejoice and shed tears of happiness:

Now you can use mobile Jabber:

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.