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Network World - If you're ready for a technical deep dive in a book, the Cisco Networking Technology Series provides that in its collection of volumes on topics that include Cisco firewalls, Cisco Unity Connection voice-messaging platform, Cisco Contact Center, IPv6 and more. Here's a quick review of the books published in this series by Cisco Press this year.
Cisco Firewalls, by Alexandre M.S.P. Moraes. As a systems engineer for Cisco Brazil, Moraes is the guide to take the determined reader through a veritable jungle of firewall possibilities for the various Cisco ASA hardware appliances. This mammoth volume, which runs close to 900 pages, starts with a clear tutorial on security basics, ramping up to establishing VLAN groups, moving on to Virtual Routing and Forwarding and the role of the Nexus 1000v virtual switch used with VMware ESX. There's detail on access-control lists, various options for Network Address Translation, DNS, FTP and HTTP inspection, inspection of voice protocols, and IPv6 connectivity basics. The author has integrity in reporting perceived limitations in the ASA multi-functional appliances, such as not supporting multi-cast routing, while pointing to possible relief in future ASA versions.
Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise by Gary Ford, systems engineer and consultant with over a decade experience in telephony and contact center deployments. This book is about pulling together the various piece parts Cisco offers to design the Cisco Contact Center of your wildest dreams for your call-contact agents to interact with customers. But with so many possible components, you may feel at first like one of Santa's elves the night before Christmas, if the elves were system administrators.
But Ford is clear and convincing in laying out the UCCE possibilities for voice, e-mail and chat, the Cisco IP Phone Agent and Desktop, computer-telephony integration and "pre-integrated CRM desktops" to support CRM vendors such as Salesforce.com and Siebel. There's also a nice chapter on so-called data-driven routing for preferential routing or intelligent menu options. When it comes to the aggravations you might find in UCCE, there's some advice about "potential failures," platform monitoring, and troubleshooting. Ford is ready with a critique of where UCCE could make anyone frustrated. "A key problem found by engineers when troubleshooting a distributed platform such as UCCE is that the engineer must frequently use many different tools to capture logging information from multiple systems to diagnose the fault. UCCE is also guilty of this," writes Ford, though he notes the release of Cisco Analysis Manager is helping somewhat.
Cisco Unity Connection, by David Schultz, educator for Skyline Advanced Technology Services with 27 years networking experience. The focus here is on the UCC operating system, database and server requirements, along with instructions on configuration and features users might want in integrated messaging to retrieve voice messages. At about 600 pages, this is strictly an "everything you wanted to know about voicemail network design." If you really need to learn about the Skinny Client Control Protocol (SCCP) used in UCC, this is where you'll find it. The book explains how to use Cisco's Real-Time Monitoring Tool to keep an eye on system stability and server-disk usage. There are instructions on running reports for Cisco Unity Connection Serviceability. The section on security and availability issues, such as disaster recovery, certificate management, cluster management, and survivable remote site voicemail, could probably have been more in-depth, but it's a start. There's an interesting section on troubleshooting system problems, which Schultz describes as an "art" often based on depth of experience, noting that it takes a certain mental focus under pressure from "external forces, users and managers that might not necessarily be adding to the solution."