Simple, Configurable Switching.

Greetings All. A quick-ish post today, but an important one for those of us set in our ways when it comes to different technologies.

I recently found myself in need of a new, small network-switch for my home office. Like many other professionals, I work from home. Unlike many other professionals, I have worked from home (when not traveling) for the last 12+ years. My home office resembles something of a lab meets a meeting space meets a man cave, with an office in the middle of that madness somewhere. I wired the home with Cat6 upon purchasing it but I need far more than just one wall drop (I converted Cat6 phone jacks to RJ45s, I love when contractors over-build!). To that end, I have a switch in my office that uplinks to the core/server switches in my network room. I need power over ethernet (PoE) as I have multiple IP phones and video units in various states of configuration as well as a Unifi AP installed that uses in-line power. I also need layer 2 capabilities and either LLDP-MED or CDP for my phones. On the flip-side I need a quiet switch as I am on the phone (or headset) multiple hours of the day dealing with customers that hold me to higher standards than they hold themselves.

In the past I’ve used, almost exclusively, Cisco switches as I work with the brand often in my professional endeavors and find them to be easy to deploy and understand (for the most part). The switch that I am replacing in this narrative is, in fact, a Cisco 3560CX-8PS. This flavor of 3560 is fan-less (quiet) and provides 8 Gigabit Ethernet ports with PoE+ (15.4 watts). It also has two copper/SFP Gigabit uplink ports as well. Additionally it supports basic inter-VLAN routing, which is not terribly important given the satellite nature of where it is deployed (VTP from the core). While this switch is great, it is bigger (physically) than it needs to be and it cost me around $800 on the gray market. Additionally, I found that I needed it for another project and thus I began searching for an office replacement. I first started my search by looking for another 3560CX, I can find refurbished models for $500-1000. I like Cisco gear, but not for that price. I looked at some HPE/Aruba options but those too are more expensive than I’d like and have roughly the same size constraints as mentioned above.

At this point I started to question what I really needed. I need the ability to tag and trunk VLANS and perform the other basic tenants of a solid Layer 2 switch. I need either Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP) or Link Layer Discovery Protocol – Media (LLDP-MED) for my phones and video units. I need PoE, as stated before, but I honestly don’t need 8 ports, I could do with 4 in most situations. I want something small and I need something quiet. To that I end I looked where I should have started looking in the first place…Ubiquiti.

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you know that I have Ubiquiti wireless APs and that I also have a Ubiquiti USG security gateway, I’ll put a link here if you are curious about that adventure. With the APs and USG I have a Unifi Network Controller that is constantly running and provides very useful insights on the wireless and security portions of my network. With all of that said, their switching offerings were my next logical step and I went on Amazon and found a US-8-60W switch for $125 with tax (and free shipping). If you know Ubiquiti models, you will figure out that this is a previous generation of the controller-based 8-port PoE (on 4 ports) Gigabit Layer 2 switch. It is fan-less (quiet!) and has an external power supply that can be easily hidden. The 4 PoE+ ports supply up to 15.4 watts of power per interface and it has native support for LLDP-MED.

The installation was simple. I plugged it in and connected the uplink. It was adopted by the controller (with the help of Layer 2 discovery and DNS records) and the code was upgraded. From there I created port profiles and assigned them to the 8 ports.

From my initial testing, I found that LLDP-MED does exactly what I need it to and the interoperability with my Cisco core/server switches is seamless.

I also found that my Cisco IP phones had plenty of power and registered without issue on the correct VLANs.

I have been incredibly impressed by this switch, and the rest of my Ubiquiti gear. I am sure there are those that will argue that comparing Ubiquiti and Cisco is far from an apples to apples comparison. I believe that argument has merit, but I prefer to respond in this way; I was able to deploy Layer 2 switching with PoE for $125. I don’t really think anything else needs to be said.


CUCM: TLS 1.2 and Legacy Phones

Hello world!

Today’s post will be quick and dirty but hopefully useful.

In Cisco Call Manager (CUCM) version 11.5(1)SU3 support was introduced for Transport Layer Security (TLS) versions 1.1 and 1.2. Prior to this release 1.0 was the only supported version. With security being the driving factor in much of the IT world these days, there is a push to secure everything to the highest available level, that includes the Collaboration environment. I have many customers that want to take advantage of the higher TLS version levels and that is a good thing, but there are gotchas.

If you know anything about Cisco IP phone communications you know that several services; and specifically the Corporate and Personal directory service are pre-configured applets that run between the phone and CUCM. In the case of the directory service(s) they talk using 8443 which is a secure port and thus uses a certificate to communicate (along with the Trust Verification Service (TVS)). That certificate is directly encrypted with the help of TLS. Because support for the newer/higher TLS versions has only recently come into play there are several generations of IP phones that do not support anything above TLS 1.0 (or 1.1 in some cases). This list of legacy endpoints includes the 7900 series and Cisco’s previous “Cadillac” the 9900 series as well as others.

If you have legacy endpoints and change your TLS version to something above 1.0 you will notice that the directory services on those endpoints will fail with a “Host not found” error. What is actually happening involves a failed TLS handshake between the phone and the Trust Verification Service (TVS) on CUCM. Because the phone cannot communicate with the TVS using TLS 1.2 the handshake fails and the directory service cannot be accessed.

So what are your options?

  1. Replace your legacy phones, there is always a financial fix and this is it.
  2. You can manually create a directory service that talks HTTP and assign it to the phones. You could make this an Enterprise Subscription if you want everyone to use it. The URL that you should use is: http://YOURCUCMFQDNorIPHere:8080/ccmcip/xmldirectory.jsp. Since this is an HTTP service you can use the IP instead of the FQDN. This will allow the service to function whether name services are functional or not. This will require user training but may make the most sense depending on the environment.
  3. Revert to TLS 1.0. This sounds easy, but there are gotchas here too.

The gotchas of going back…

Switching from TLS 1.0 to TLS 1.1 or 1.2 (If you are going to change, go to 1.2) is a relatively straight forward process. You log into the platform CLI of your CUCM publisher and any subscribers and issue the following command set tls min-version 1.2. When you enter this command you will be asked to confirm and once confirmed (with yes) the system will restart. This happens immediately and should only be done during a maintenance window.

Switching back from TLS 1.2 to 1.0 follows the same steps with the same command and the same reboot process. However, when you switch back from a higher TLS version to a lower TLS version, anything that was encrypted using that higher TLS version becomes invalid. This includes certificates (which automatically regenerate) and also the application UI password store  (including your CCM Administration credential). This password must be reset from the CLI and changed to something different before you can log into the system again. Note that this does not change your Prime License Manager (PLM) admin password if co-resident with your CUCM.

Security is important and continually making our security better is the only way to prevent incidents. With that said, proper planning will stop security changes from turning into outages.

Cisco’s TLS 1.2 Compatibility Matrix:

CUCM: The Logout Profile

Good Morning Readers!

Today’s post is quick and dirty. If you work in an environment where Extension Mobility is widely used, the content of this post is probably common knowledge and you can stop reading here if you like.

For those curious about Extension Mobility, there are a ton of resources on the Internet that can show you how to use and configure it as well as how it impacts your CUCM licensing. If you don’t know what CUCM stands for, this probably isn’t the post for you.

I was recently dealing some odd behavior from one of the 7841 IP Phones in my lab. Despite the fact that I had logged out my Extension Mobility (EM) user, their details (their User Device Profile) were still showing up on the physical phone. I reset the phone, checked the cluster for DB errors, and scratched my head a lot. I then proceeded to smack my head when I remembered the logout profile configuration in CUCM.

If you know anything about Unified Communications Manager Express (UCME), you know that the logout profile is very common on this platform. EM cannot exist on UCME without it. In CUCM we get spoiled, we can use existing device configuration details and do not have to specify a logout profile, there is however still a place for one.

In a perfect world a logged out EM configuration (in CUCM) should look like this:

This denotes that when a user logs out of the phone, the phone will use whatever configuration data exists in CUCM.

If however, a logout profile gets set (as shown below), the phone will display that profile upon an EM logout.

This is exceptionally confusing when the profile that was just logged out happens to also be the logout profile!

Obviously this was a misconfiguration on my part. Instead of just checking the box to enable Extension Mobility, I also specified a user profile. This lead to several minutes (a good half hour) of me troubleshooting a problem that inevitably had no problem at all.

Thanks for reading and hopefully you got some enjoyment laughing at my screw-up.



CCIE Collaboration Lab: My Return Trip

If you follow this blog regularly (it says a lot about you, but that is for a different post) you know that last year, 2016, I took my first crack at the CCIE Collaboration practical lab exam. I took it in RTP (North Carolina) and it royally kicked my ass.

It is now nearly 12 months later and I am preparing for my second attempt. This year I have built my own lab instead of renting rack space from INE (who I believe I still owe money to from last year, but so far they haven’t come to collect). I am taking the exam on April 25 in RTP once again and while I am going to give it my very best shot, I am taking it because I honestly have no desire to attempt the written again and if I wait more than 12 months to attempt the lab my current written will be invalidated.

I’ll probably have more posts as the weeks draw closer, but the most important thing to note so far is that it is getting cheaper to purchase your own lab hardware. With Cisco coming out with the 44xx and 43xx ISR G3 routers the 29xx ISR G2 routers, which are still the hardware of choice for the current lab iteration, have become cheaper in the secondary market. I’m not saying that building a lab is cheap, by any means, but at least more folks now have that option. In my case,  my lab contains the following…

  1. 3825 – PSTN/BB Router. This is running CME for PSTN emulation. I am running PRIs to all 3 of the site routers; T1 PRIs the US sites and an E1 to the international site, I am using fractional PRIs to save on DSP resources.
  2. Dell Server 72GB Ram, Dual Xeon, SSD USB Drives (new addition) – This started life as a very weird CS-24TY but has now been revamped and runs all of my lab VMs easily.
  3. 2921 for HQ (2) PVDM-3 16 DSPs (this is actually enough for homogeneous video conferencing).
  4. 2821 for Site-B PVDM-2 64 DSP (good for voice only) (Generally Site-B is H.323 and possibly CUBE, a 2821 will run 15.1.x code which is not perfect but is close enough for that location). If I am asked switch/conference video at Site-B, I am S.O.L.
  5. 2811 for Site-C (CME)… I actually just ordered a 2911 and ISM-SRE-300 module to replace the 2811 as there are some serious differences between 15.1.x CME and 15.2.x and later CME i.e. CME 9/10.5/etc. I have a CUE module in the 2811 but I made the decision to spend money and get something closer to actual.
  6. 9971 phones as required (cheap enough used) and 7962 phones instead of 7965s as the differences between the two SCCP options are not that great and it saves some money.

In the back-end of the lab I also have a 3750 switch that I am using as a layer 3 WAN cloud instead of Frame Relay (which only matters in the QoS sections) and a 2960G PoE switch which I am using for phone power. I know the syntax is different but I cannot yet justify spending money or effort to aquire PoE  EHWICs.

I also have another Dell Server which hosts my “production” 11.5 CRS infrastructure which I can use for BB SIP calls as needed.

My setup is not perfect but perfect honestly costs to much. The fact that I can come down to my basement and practice whenever I want without having to reserve pricey rack space makes my setup perfect for me.

How about you? Do you have a lab? What are you running? Any suggestions? Comments? Questions? Leave them below!




Configuration Example: Cisco CUBE with FlowRoute

So you’ve decided to step-up and get a “Big Boy” phone system. You’re done with CME and you’ve moved to Call Manager (Cisco can call it whatever it wants, but to many of us it will always be Call Manager). But wait, there is a problem… Call Manager won’t natively peer to your ITSP, so what do you do? While there may be many solutions, the best one that I have found involves using Cisco’s Unified Border Element or CUBE. CUBE, for those of you new to Cisco voice technology is a fancy term for a SIP proxy. The CUBE pairs with your ITSP and routes calls to and from your Call Manager via SIP or H.323 .  Below is the topology that I am working with. Yours may look a little different and we’ll get into these differences as we progress.



ITSP Logical ConnectivityI mentioned topology differences and the biggest one is probably the firewall (ASA 5505) sitting between my CUBE and my ITSP. In an ideal world I’d give my CUBE router a public address and let it talk directly to the internet, this is not an ideal world. My ISP is small and stingy with their public IP addresses. It took a few fights and some extra cash to get one dedicated public IP on my ASA and getting a second is simply not worth the trouble. I’ve read all of the stories regarding trying to pass SIP through a firewall and while there are some caveats, I’ve made it work.

Connectivity is Everything…

It seems like a simple enough statement, but in terms of building and maintaining voice network connectivity really is everything. I prefer to keep it simple and the simplest way to build my topology was to keep the same protocol throughout. With the exception of the SCCP Phone (Call Manager does just fine translating SCCP to SIP and vice versa) every other connection is SIP.

  • Call Manager to CUBE & CUBE to Call Manager – SIP

By keeping the majority of my transactions SIP, I take away at least one point of failure. I mentioned earlier that you could configure the CUBE router connection to CM via H.323 and while I know that configuration can work just fine, why make it more complicated than it needs to be? The biggest thing to keep in mind when deciding on connectivity is “Can I troubleshoot it easily when it does not work?” Its a lot easier to look at a straight SIP trace.

Bring on the configs…

We’ll start with the CUBE first (This CUBE is running archaic 12.4 code).

The voice service commands are pretty standard. In the allow-connections section sip to sip is the key portion. Remember to configure your sip registrar settings here as well.


The next piece we’ll look at, are the voice translation rules. The first rule points my DID (I only have one in this scenario) to an extension on my CM. The second rule puts my DID as the number mask for all outgoing calls. Without this second translation, I’d have to do additional configurations in CM, the translation rule is easier.


Now, we’ll look at the dial-peers. I’ve got one for the incoming calls (from the ITSP) (Dial-peer 2) One for outgoing calls (I’m just dealing with LD calls right now) (Dial-peer 10) and one for communication with CM (Dial-Peer 100). Note where I applied my translation rules.


Finally, we’ll look at the SIP-UA (SIP User Agent) configuration. This is the actual heart & soul of CUBE. This is the connection and authentication to the ITSP. You may find that your ITSP we’ll peer with your specific public IP address rather than give you a user-id and/or password. Peering with an IP is in theory much more secure as spoofing an IP end to end is much more difficult. Notice the credentials and authentication sections. They both include a username and password. The credentials line identifies your CUBE to the ITSP and the authentication line gets you through door.


Next, we’ll take a look at the CM trunk configuration (My CM is 9.x)

First the initial configuration of the trunk. You’ll assign your device pool, media resources and things of that nature here…


Now, we’ll look at the incoming calls section of the trunk config. You’ll want to make sure that you direct inbound calls to the Calling Search Space that includes the Directory Numbers that you intend to answer the calls. You can also adjust things like significant digits. Generally speaking, I always want the CUBE/router to send me everything and then I’ll configure CM to pick and choose what it wants.


Finally, we’ll look at the connectivity section of the SIP trunk config. Here you’ll specify the address of your CUBE and your SIP and SIP Security profiles. These are standard profiles from Cisco and no tweaking is required to make this work.


Like most other things that Cisco creates, there are far more options in the trunk configuration than most configurations will require.

Finally, lets take a look at the ASA (This ASA is running 8.4(7) code)

First, we’ll take a look at my network and service objects. For this scenario, I defined the RTP range and SIP protocols. While not necessary, I defined SIP with both UDP and TCP entries.


Next, we’ll take a look at the NAT statements. While the CUBE is not a NAT aware SIP Proxy, the ASA provides some assistance in maintaining the end to end SIP headers required for successful peering and usage.


Finally, we’ll take a look at the access-list portion of the configuration. These are pretty straight forward…


Additional Notes…

The phone & route pattern configurations for this example are not impressive. The phone (7961) is configured with a Directory Number and pointed at a CSS with access to PSTN calling features. The basic route pattern is configured as 9.1XXXXXXXXXX and pointed at the SIP trunk created above. I discard the 9 (pre-dot) and send 11 digits to my ITSP. You don’t need the 9 but it keeps the scenario in line with most business systems.

I’ve struggled to find an ITSP that supports a true integration with the CUBE. There are several ITSPs that work with Asterisk and other open-source IP PBX platforms but CUBE is its own animal and as such these “Asterisk ITSPs” usually don’t work properly or in many cases don’t work at all. When I came across FlowRoute I was initially skeptical but as I’ve used their service more and more, I’ve become a bigger and bigger fan. The first thing that you’ll notice about FlowRoute is that anyone can try it out. Simply sign up and you’ll get some free time (minutes to place test calls) to peer with them and try your system out. If your system doesn’t work and/or you aren’t happy with the performance, go another direction. If (and this is much more likely) you really enjoy the service. Deposit some money, purchase a DID and keep on going.

Final Thoughts…

I hope this example configuration has helped someone. What I’ve shown is not difficult and is actually quite simple when compared to other voice configurations. That being said, we all need to learn somewhere and hopefully I’ve helped someone do that.

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