InformaCast 11.0.1 Engineering Overview + Podcast

podcast on security and communication improvements

With each new release of InformaCast, we sit down with Singlewire CTO, Jerry Steinhauer, to learn the details of what's new. You can download and listen to the podcast or read and learn more below. 

Click to Download InformaCast version 11.0.X

Transcript

Hello everyone. This is Jerry Steinhauer. I'm the Chief Technology Officer here at Singlewire Software, and I'm here to talk to you today about InformaCast 11.0.1.

So to start with, just a brief note on version numbers. You may have noticed that we have moved from our previous release, which was 9.1.1 to our new release, which is 11.0.1. You may say, well what happened to 10? From this release forward, we are synchronizing our version number with Cisco Unified Communications Manager.

For those who don't know, we do ship InformaCast as the Cisco Paging Server that's part of Communications Manager. We've been part of CUCM since 9.1. In this release we begin synchronizing our version number with CUCM's version number. We just feel that that reduces confusion for those who are installing and looking to upgrade to understand the compatibility with CUCM. It conveys part of the story, but not the whole story. In terms of compatibility with CUCM, our 11.0.1 release does support CUCM release 8.5 and higher. And in this release we add support for CUCM 11.0.1, as you might expect.



InformaCast Answer Files

One thing to mention for our partners is that if you install InformaCast servers in a batch or large group configuration, so if you're doing CUCM deployments with answer files today, the InformaCast and Cisco Paging Server (we are going to use those interchangeably for the duration of the podcast here), InformaCast and CUCM and the rest of Cisco products support answer files. And an answer file is used by a particular application to configure the network and basic authentication information for that application.

So for instance CUCM has an answer file that allows you to specify its IP address, subnet mask, as well as OS and application level authentication information. As of InformaCast 11.0.1 InformaCast also supports the ability to receive answer files. Now the answer file format that we use in InformaCast is different than that of CUCM so don't try and use your CUCM answer files with InformaCast. But we do support the creation and use of answer files.

If you have questions about this, please do contact our support folks and we can describe for you first in some more detail how that works.



Support for New Cisco Phones

Another new feature in this release is we are adding support for two new Cisco IP phones, specifically the 7811, the 8845 and the 8865.

The 7811 phone is a single line, basic function phone. The 7811 supports text and audio notification from InformaCast. The 8845 and 8865 are high function video devices, and they also support text and audio notification from InformaCast.

In this release we're upgrading the Singlewire Notification System or SNS. The SNS is the application that we introduced in InformaCast version 9.1.1. This application allows you, from the InformaCast console, to send text and audio notifications to Cisco DX devices. These include the DX650, the DX70 and the DX80. One thing that was not available in that release was the ability to send to devices that were running Wi-Fi, so we didn't support DX devices with Wi-Fi turned on. As of InformaCast 11.0.1, we've added to SNS the ability for DX devices to always use the Ethernet MAC address for registrations with InformaCast, and that resolves this issue.

If you're a customer or partner who's using SNS currently, you should know that your SNS devices will upgrade automatically once you upgrade InformaCast.



Improvements to Legacy Paging Interface (LPI)

The next feature I'd like to talk to you about is LPI improvements.

So LPI, in case you haven't heard of it before, is our Legacy Paging Interface. And the LPI used to be an application that ran inside our virtual appliance. So from a technical perspective, it was its own Java virtual machine. It ran on its own application port. And it had its own web interface that the administrator would log into to configure it. And that web interface looks a lot different than the web interface that we used for InformaCast.

In this release, LPI gets integrated into InformaCast directly, so LPI is now considered a plug-in. What this means is that LPI gains a lot of functionality from being part of InformaCast. Specifically, LPI now supports the ability to do TLS SIP connections to LPI destinations. So previously we weren't able to encrypted SIP LPI.

We also support resiliency in LPI. This was the primary reason for moving LIP into InformaCast as a plug-in, was to take advantage of the resiliency architecture. For those of you who haven't heard of resiliency, resiliency allows you to deploy an InformaCast publisher and an InformaCast subscriber and make your configuration changes, and create your messages and your recipients groups on your publisher and have that configuration flow from your publisher to your subscriber. That also means that if your publisher fails, your subscribers able to take over the work that it was doing.

Now in terms of LPI, LPI will run in this resiliency paradigm as well. So LPI normally runs on the publisher. When the publisher fails, the subscriber will start a copy of LPI with the same configuration in it, and will do all the work that the publisher would normally do with respect to LPI.

We knew that when we released InformaCast 9.1.1 that a lot of customers would be those interested in adopting resiliency, but they weren't able to because they had legacy paging integrations. And so as of InformaCast 11.0.1 we can confidently say for these customers that resiliency will work effectively for you now.

One other improvement that I wanted to mention in InformaCast 11.0.1 one is delayed offer SIP. This, in case you're not familiar with it, there's two types of SIP call flows. There's early offer and delayed offer.



In an early offer call flow, when a far end system sends an invite request, that early offer call flow also includes media information, so the codec, the IP address to use, things like that.



The previous versions of LPI all used early offer, and the problem with early offer when you integrate into UC Manager is that there was a restriction where early offer calls required the use of a media termination point or an MTP.

As of InformaCast 11.0.1 LPI supports the ability to do delayed offer SIP call flows and this removes the restriction on requiring MTP. So this will make LPI installation and configuration a lot easier.

And for those of you who already deployed LPI and do have MTPs available in your environment, there's no need on configure MTP if it's already configured. It's just that LPI will no longer use it or require it. So we feel this is a useful feature.

In addition LPI supports the ability to define a SIP server group. Now a server group consists of one or more SIP providers, typically this would be in a Communications Manager cluster if you have two nodes, this would be the subscriber then the publisher.

When LPI attempts to make a SIP call, it will first try the server that is next on its list in the server group. Now we support two ways to distribute calls among the SIP server group. We support a round robin algorithm where if you have let's say three nodes in your cluster, will offer the first call to A, the next call to B, the next call to C and then start over at A. Or hierarchical. And in a hierarchical call flow, the first call is offered to A, and the next call is offered to A, and the call after that is offered to A. If A then fails, B will be used if A is not available, and C will be used if A and B are not available.

So we feel that this allows us to configure a redundant and a resilient SIP topology for our customers using LPI.



Improvements to CallAware

The next feature that I'd like to talk to you about and InformaCast 11.0.1 is our CallAware improvements.

Now CallAware is also integrated into InformaCast as a plug-in. It used to be a separate application with its own web app, its own configuration, its own licensing, and now this information is integrated into InformaCast.

So when you configure CTI within InformaCast the CTI providers, that CTI provider information also flows into CallAware. CallAware as you probably know, was a CTI application before, so what's different in 11.0.1 from CTI perspective is that CallAware still maintains a separate CTI user, but all of the configuration is done directly inside of InformaCast instead of in a separate application.

We still support most all of the features that you've come to use in CallAware, specifically call alerting, call recording. We support resiliency in this release. So from a resiliency perspective again there's a publisher and subscriber. The subscriber will take over for CallAware recording when the publisher is down.

In this release we've also removed a call to real time AXL. So let me explain what I mean by that.

In previous releases when you made a CallAware call, InformaCast would make a direct access to the Communications Manager database to look for information about the phone that you made that call from and it would use that as part of the InformaCast broadcast that was initiated from CallAware. As of 11.0.1, we removed the requirement for real time AXL and we use instead the IP phone cache that InformaCast creates and uses as part of its configuration.

Now a side effect for this from this change is the phones that are not supported directly by InformaCast will not have Description information about them in CallAware broadcasts. So let me give a little more detail on that.

When you place a call through CallAware, CallAware has access to the calling number, the calling name, which would be from an IP phone the SIP followed by the 10 or 12 digit MAC address, and then the description that's defined in Communications Manager for that phone. As of InformaCast 11.0.1 CallAware still has access to all three of those fields, the DN, the name, and the description from phones that are supported directly by InformaCast. These are phones that are listed in the compatibility matrix on singlewire.com, those compatible phones for InformaCast. You can send broadcasts to them. As of 11.0.1, phones that are not listed in that matrix you still get the calling name, you still get the calling number, but you won't get the calling description. That's an issue that we're looking to address in a future release.

I should also mention that from a call recording perspective that call recording is indeed supported, continues to be supported. And we also support the ability to fail that process over from a publisher to a subscriber. But one thing to keep in mind is that the publisher and the subscriber have their own history. So when you record a call on the subscriber, that call recording has still happened, and that call recording is still saved, but it saved on the subscriber, not the publisher.

We feel that customers are going to be quite pleased with CallAware that the addition of resiliency to CallAware will make it attractive for you guys as customers and partners to upgrade.



Improved API Support

The next feature that I wanted to talk to you about an InformaCast 11.0.1 is our API support.

As you probably heard, within InformaCast we've been moving release by release, adding support for the application programming interface to make programmatic what I call CRUD (create, rename, update, and delete) functions inside the InformaCast database.

Our goal is to provide 100% coverage of API to what's available to the user through the InformaCast web interface. But we're not at 100% yet. What we add in this release is in 9.1.1 we have the ability to perform API support, API functions, for everything to the left of the plug-ins menu in the InformaCast interface.



Now in 11.0.1 we add the LPI plug-in, the CallAware plug-in, the M2M plug-in, the inbound email plug-in, the park and page plug-in, which I'll mention here in just a few minutes, is a new plug-in. So we support API to all of those five items.



Conference Call Plugin Improvements

The next feature that I wanted to talk to you all about is the ability to receive conference call notifications through the conference call plug-in.

So one piece of feedback that we received from a number of customers was it's nice that InformaCast can initiate a conference call, but we really need some way to know what other people can dial to enter that conference call. And we need some way to forward that out to other people who we might want to join but are not part of the pre-defined attendee list in the Conference Call plug-in. And the way we're handling that in 11.0.1 is through a new feature called outbound notification.

So with outbound notification, when InformaCast creates a conference call and that conference call is going to invite multiple attendees automatically, and we still support the ability for others to join in by dialing a number and entering an optional PIN. What's different in this release is that the dial in information can be sent to other parties as part of an outbound notification.

So one obvious way to do this would be when InformaCast initiates a conference call, still invite the same people that you had on the conference call previously, but also send an email to those attendees informing them what the dial in number is so that they can turn around and forward that information to others who may want to join the conference call.

We feel that this feature, based on that the feedback we've received from customers and partners, significantly enhances the Conference Call plug-in.



Park and Page Plugin

The next thing I'd like to talk about is our park and page plug-in. So our park and page plug-in is a little bit different in that it is not included directly inside of the InformaCast licensing package. So it's available as an extra feature on top of InformaCast.

What Park and Page does is to receive calls from Communications Manager and then park them and then page by using InformaCast broadcast. So anywhere you can notify from InformaCast, you can inform as to a parked call that needs to be retrieved.

So if you imagine a retail environment, go down to you're in your neighborhood grocery store. Your grocery stores probably an SRST remote on a centralized Communications Manager that centralized Communications Manager has InformaCast with Park and Page. When a call comes in for the bakery department that caller gets transferred to Park and Page. Park and Page then receives that call, parks the call, and then plays an announcement overhead in your grocery store informing those in the bakery department that a call is waiting and what number to dial to retrieve that call.

We also support the ability when that call reverts, if that's not handled correctly, we support the ability to escalate that and send that on to other parties.

We've had some fairly strong interest from particular verticals on Park and Page, so it says it's a feature that we are very interested in. I would encourage you, if you're interested in Park and Page to email sales at singlewire.com for some more details.



Other Plugin Notes

So a couple of the odds and ends that I do want to mention in InformaCast 11.0.1. We are looking at potentially turning off some additional features in InformaCast, starting with the digital media manager plug-in or DMM.

The DMM plug-in we added several years ago. The DMM application that we integrated to at the time had an emergency API, where digital signage end points could receive InformaCast notifications through a particular API, so we wrote the plug-in to support that. Since then the DMM product that we integrated to withdrew that API, so we are also sunsetting the DMM plug-in.

But have no fear. We have a number of other digital signage integrations that you or your customers will be interested in and there's actually too many for me to go into on this particular podcast. Please email sales at singlewire.com if you're interested in learning about the DMM integrations that we support.

Features that we're looking to remove in 11.0.1, the next one is we are asking for feedback on the Islamic Prayer Time plug-in.

So if you as a customer or a partner are deploying and using the Islamic prayer time plug-in, please contact us. We'd love to hear your feedback. We'd love to understand how you're using the plug-in so that we can understand how best to go forward with it in the future.

And the same with our Lync plug-in, Microsoft Lync. The Lync plug-in, if you're using it from InformaCast, please do contact sales at singlewire.com and tell us how you're using the plug-in and how that's working for you. Because if there's not sufficient customer and partner interest, we are looking at removing the Lync plug-in our next release.

So those are the highlights from InformaCast 11.0.1. Thanks very much for sticking with us, if you have further questions or comments, please email sales at singlewire.com and we'll be glad to talk to you further about them.

We look forward to you upgrading and let us know how it goes.

 

Next Steps

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