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Changing your Unity Connection SMTP domain

Changing the SMTP domain on a Unity Connection server really isn’t that big of a deal, but as with all things voice, no change works as initially advertised.  Previously, I had never had cause to mess with the SMTP domain address, but recently one of the major cell providers quit delivering our voice mail message notifications to devices and, not surprisingly, users were none to happy about it.

My guess was that the carrier in question didn’t much like the format of the sender address, since it included a sub domain: unityconnection@myservername.mydomainname.com.  I quickly decided that changing the SMTP domain on the server would easily test that theory and seemed far less painful than opening a ticket with a large service provider*. I did open a TAC case just to see if there were any caveats in making this change I might want to be aware of. That’s a whole lot of voice experience talking…err, writing. The voice paranoia runs deep for a reason.

TAC indicated that not only was this a simple change as thought, but that only one service would have to be restarted – the Connection Conversation Manager, and that wasn’t to be a big deal. Well, finding that hard to believe**, I proceeded to make said change and found that there’s a little more to the story.

First – there are *three* services that have to be restarted, and since two of them are critical services, you experience a failover if you are running in HA. The system does warn you this will happen, and for what it’s worth I did not experience a loss of service doing this. Certainly don’t blame me, though, if you do have an outage and aren’t in a maintenance period when you attempt this change.

smtpUnity

 

Of course, you get to rinse and repeat on the secondary server in an HA environment. Personally, nothing about the warning prompt I got on the secondary server indicates this is not a big deal, but hey, maybe that’s just me…

smtp-connection conversation manager secondary

That being said, once the services were restarted, and my blood pressure returned to normal, I expected to see the SMTP domain updated and a happy dance to ensue.  Alas, that was not the case.  After consulting with TAC, and without the least bit of surprise whatsoever, I found that a reboot was “sometimes”, infer always, required.

This did fix my problem and the delayed happy dance was epic. And thankfully not recorded for the sake of my remaining pride.

 

Published 1/26/2015

*Almost all levels of hell are more pleasant than opening a case with a carrier. I suspect Satan actually admires the ingenuity of carriers and any future levels of hell are modeled on their expertise and innovation in human suffering.

**There is seemingly far more proof of the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot, and the Abominable Snowman than of something involving voice being “easy”

 
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Posted by on 2015/01/26 in Unity Connection

 

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Runt Post: HP Discover Notes

Last week I had the privilege of attending HP Discover in Barcelona and thought I’d hit the highlights while they were still fresh in my mind.

HP’s continued OpenFlow work stood out last week as HP has several applications leveraging OpenFlow available to customers now. One of the things that I find most appealing is that there are actually *campus* SDN applications, not just data center applications. Recently, data center has received all the love in networking innovation, leaving campus networks to the same old same old. Campus networks, however, represent a wide range of potential for SDN, so it’s nice to see some OpenFlow applications focused in that direction. The Network Optimizer application that dynamically allocates bandwidth for Lync experiences and the Network Protector app that leverages a TippingPoint Reputation database are the HP SDN applications I’ve heard the most about, but a look at the SDN App store shows there are quite a few others out there, customer ready and available.

HP’s Intelligent Management Center caught my attention when listening to the Packet Pusher’s episode on the platform and after talking to Chris Young about the product at Discover, I am all the more curious to get a demo up and running.  IMC not only allows for your basic network management and monitoring tasks, but also offers advanced features such as config validation and device configuration from a centralized management console. It won’t get rid of all your other single pains – err – panes of glass, but does look quite promising for centralizing network management in a way that doesn’t suck your will to live as some of the larger, more bloated platforms tend to do. Also, support of third party devices is big for anyone not running HP gear exclusively or even at all. The insight into ESXi servers also caught my interest as being super cool – a way to see into what those wily sys admins have done with their virtual switches while they blame your physical switches for the problem.

I also found the work HP Labs is doing to be quite fascinating.  Having an increased R&D budget as of late, the HP lab geeks are taking on some pretty cool projects. Much of their energy is being funneled into photonics and memristor technology projects, collectively referred to The Machine. Personally, the name “The Machine” sounds a bit over the top, but there is some serious science going on in this line of research and my geek DNA can’t wait to see what develops from these endeavors.

I had a highly enjoyable experience overall and loved getting to geek out over tech with some other seriously fabulous nerds – you should check them out as well because they are *awesome*.

Published: 12/9/2014

 

Disclaimer: While HP Networking was very generous to invite me to this fantastic event and pay my expenses, and I am very grateful for it, my opinions are totally my own, as all redheads are far too stubborn to have it any other way.

 

 

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Runt Post: Unity Connection 8.6 and SU5, there’s a .cop file for that

I ran into a fun* issue last week while upgrading Unity Connection from 8.6.(2a) to the latest patch SU5, and I would tell you to be sure to read the release notes on the subject, but as I found when calling TAC at 2am, the release notes don’t warn you about this particular issue.  See, after the upgrade, all those precious call handlers you painstakingly configured and tested over the past few years just don’t work. At all. Not even a little. In fact, the system just routes these calls to the Opening Greeting. Much to your frustration, you can see that the extensions are still defined on the call handlers just like before the upgrade, but after the patch the system rudely snubs your call handler configuration entirely.

As much as I am totally ruining the surprise of your discovering and experiencing this precious jewel of an error on your own and wondering what the heck to do about it, there is a .cop file that fixes the issue: ciscocm.cuc_86x_cdl3.cop.sgn (cco login required).   After uploading the file to both servers (assuming an HA environment), a reboot of the primary and then the secondary is all that’s left to do.

And people wonder why voice engineers drink…

 

Published 11/03/2014

*voice engineers have a slightly skewed definition of fun, precisely because of issues like this…

Note: there is a bug ID for this, CSCuq63776 (cco login also required) in case you are interested.  I have no idea if every upgrade that goes from 8.6(2a) will hit this particular bug, but at least now you won’t be surprised if you do…

 
 

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The 8945 firmware upgrade dance

For awhile now I’ve been hitting the fabulous issue mentioned in this Cisco forum post for 8945 phones in which the phone basically stops incrementing the time display. Being as I only had a few of these deployed and unplugging/plugging them would fix the issue, I had put off upgrading them. I had plan to put off upgrading the firmware until the proverbial upgrade cows came home and sat around my desk mooing their demands for attention, but unfortunately my plans were udderly derailed*.

I discovered while reading various release notes that the usually cumbersome but predictable upgrade process would be a bit more involved and would need to be done before I started major version upgrades, otherwise my phones would be shiny dialtone-less bricks with no usable firmware to make their happy little phone lives better.

Cutting to the chase, here’s what you have to do if you happen to be in the same series of release boats that I’m paddling around in.  Keep in mind that in this particular situation I am starting with 8945 phones with SCCP894x.9-2-3-5 installed and CUCM version 8.6.2.20000-2, your mileage may vary:

  • You must have the minimum Device Package 8.6.2(22030-1), which in this case I didn’t have. 8941 and 8945 phones won’t register at all if you try to install 9.3(1) or later without this device pack installed first. Yay.
  • Next, you’ve gotta do a step upgrade from 9.3(4) to 9.4(x) because in the grand tradition of voice upgrades being about as much fun as root canals, you can’t just upgrade straight from a 9.2 release to a 9.4 release. Double Yay.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when doing device pack and firmware installations.  First and foremost, always always always read the release notes. If something doesn’t seem clear or make sense, open a TAC case to clarify. This is way better than blowing up your server or phones because you assumed something the release notes didn’t cover or explain properly.

It should go without saying that you should always confirm you have a good backup before doing any file installations at all. I’m saying it anyway, check your backups, never assume they ran. Trust but verify, the emphasis being on verify.

Remember to copy down the values on the Device Defaults page before the upload of the files and to paste in old values if necessary directly after the upload. Check out this previous post for why you will thank me for this later.

Lastly, always remember to reboot after device package installs and to stop/start the TFTP service after firmware file installs.  These processes will save you some heartache and potentially a bruised skull from repeated head-desks when you finally realize you never did stop and start that service and the last 45 minutes of troubleshooting was for nothing.

*Anyone with a beef about my cow puns probably shouldn’t follow me on twitter either, the puns only get worse more fabulous from here… 

Published: 10/23/2014

 

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Getting to know Cisco ACI…

Watching Cisco present on ACI at Networking Field Day 8 was a nice expansion to the introduction I received on the product almost a year ago at the ACI launch event in New York.  Now that APIC is shipping, companies can swap over from NX-OS mode to ACI mode and start playing with the magic that is application network profiles.

The basic components of ACI are the fashionable spine/leaf architecture that is all the rage these days, an APIC controller talking OpFlex southbound, and a switch operating system on Nexus 9Ks that interprets policy and forces it down to the endpoints.  Underneath the covers, each switch uses ISIS to build a routed topology from any VTEP (virtual tunnel endpoint) to any VTEP (basically from any leaf to any leaf). Rather than the controller programming routes and handling traffic forwarding, the controller focuses on pushing down policies that are understood and then implemented by the switches.

The concept of a self provisioning network also comes into play with the ACI solution, as does the concept of one big fabric to rule them all. The fabric can be zero touch provisioned, with the controller finding new switches brought online. The controller also acts as a single point of policy provisioning – the fabric itself scaling up to 12 spines, with multiple active controllers all sharing data for redundancy.

The heart of ACI really lies with the policy model and associated concepts.  ACI works by putting things into groups – usually done with identifiers like vlan/vxlan ID, subnet, 802.1q tag, or by physical/virtual port – and then these groups are assigned policy contracts which basically “turn on” connectivity between these groups, according to the rules of the policy assigned. The level of abstraction inherent in these contracts lend themselves well to automation and consistency in network policies, as well as allowing for a clean up process as applications are removed – therefore solving some of the what-the-heck-was-this-thing-nobody-remembers problems we engineers often encounter.

Application network profiles can be home brewed as well as provided in the form of device packages from vendors.  These device packages will automagically roll out the best practices for the application at hand, and if they are from an official partner, TAC will even handle support issues that arise from using the package. As Joe Onisick put it, “think of it as an automatically deployed Cisco validated design.”

There’s much more covered in the Networking Field Day 8 presentations, including service graphs – think service chaining but with flexibility for differing behaviors for various traffic groups, an API inspector that allows you to see the API code as you make calls through the GUI so you can create automation scripts from it, and atomic counters which allow for detailed health scores and packet tracking, but as I’m a sucker for a good demo, I’ll leave you with this, Paul Lesiak showing off APIC’s mad programmability skillz.

 

Published: 10/14/2014

For more links to ACI resources, you can check out my previous post, check out some excellent videos by both Lilian Quan and Joe Onisick on the subject (just go to youtube and seach for Cisco ACI), or check out Lauren Malhoit’s blog where there’s some good posts on getting to know ACI as welll.

Also, mucho bonus points to Lauren for not only being generally awesome all the time, but for also providing this ginger with a desperately needed Diet Coke as a caffeine source at this 8am presentation, an un-caffeinated ginger is a scary, scary thing.

Disclaimer: While Networking Field Day, which is sponsored by the companies that present, was very generous to invite me to this fantastic event and I am very grateful for it, my opinions are totally my own, as all redheads are far too stubborn to have it any other way.

 

 
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Posted by on 2014/10/14 in ACI

 

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Server, meet switch: a brief introduction to Pluribus Networks

When I think of what Pluribus Networks is doing, I get this image of a high performance server and switch wrapped together, with the bow on top being this extremely clever hypervisor, called Netvisor, talking directly down to the chips in the switches. These server-switches allow Pluribus to do some pretty nifty things when it comes to networking.

This slide from Alessandro Barbieri’s presentation at Networking Field Day 8 helps me visualize what they are doing in comparison to traditional switch architecture:

chip

 

Network design-wise you will find that Pluribus is using the spine/leaf architecture that we are all coming to know and love. While there is no single recommended pod size, 12 to 24 racks were mentioned throughout their Network Field Day 8 presentations as the most commonly seen deployments.

These server-switches all make up a cluster – each with the same view of the network, talking to the others over TCP connections in a peer to peer fashion.  There is no centralized controller in this architecture, and each node in the cluster uses a three phase commit process to keep information synchronized with its peers. This means that either all the nodes are on board with a change, or the change just doesn’t happen. Much better than trying to rollback a change that wasn’t 100% successful across all nodes. The cluster is managed and appears as one big fabric, again a common theme that SDN is delivering on.

One of the cool things that Pluribus has focused their technology on is real time and stored analytics, the ability to “record” the network traffic and, in Pluribus’ case, this doesn’t require a separate fabric or taps. This is a pretty huge distinction considering the cost of monitoring alternatives and the time/effort that could be spent to maintain a separate monitoring fabric.

Pluribus’ technology does allow you to slice up your network into tenants and there is a strong emphasis on programmability, automation, and integration with OpenStack. Your basic “cloud in a box” – a box you will have plenty of resources to run advanced L4-7 services on.

This video from Networking Field Day 8 demonstrates just some of the analytics possible, but I’d also recommend checking out the demos from Networking Field Day 7 to see a bit more product-in-action videos.  I also really like this write up by @mrtugs – he does an excellent job further explaining the architecture and exploring the possibilities that stem from this server-switch goodness.

 

Published: 10/7/2014

 

Disclaimer: While Networking Field Day, which is sponsored by the companies that present, was very generous to invite me to this fantastic event and I am very grateful for it, my opinions are totally my own, as all redheads are far too stubborn to have it any other way.

 

 
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Posted by on 2014/10/07 in Pluribus

 

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Runt Post: Big Tap Monitoring and its Wireshark goodness

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Anyone reading my blog posts or tweets knows that I am huge fan of Wireshark and all its packet capturing greatness, so let me point you to this great Big Tap video from Networking Field Day 8  where Sunit Chauhan demonstrates how you can troubleshoot a client issue using Big Tap Monitoring Fabric, even generating an impromptu packet capture in the process. The ease of the process is beautiful, just beautiful.

 

 

Skip to the 13 min mark to start the troubleshooting fun. After that, you’ll want to watch those first 13 minutes to find out how the magic is done.

Big Switch Networks Big Tap Monitoring Fabric from Stephen Foskett on Vimeo.

 

Published: 10/3/2014

Disclaimer: While Networking Field Day, which is sponsored by the companies that present, was very generous to invite me to this fantastic event and I am very grateful for it, my opinions are totally my own, as all redheads are far too stubborn to have it any other way.

 

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