December 15, 2023
Some good news for businesses and organizations that use Cisco CallManager, the company’s on-prem calling solution: The sky isn’t falling. Yet. But it will fall in another year or two, so start planning now.
Version 12.5 is widely installed and still supported, but software maintenance ends on 8-31-24 and support on 8-31-25. That’s only 9 months and 21 months, respectively. For companies that can’t jump from on-prem to the cloud, due either to cost or dearth of functionality (customized over many years, legacy solutions often have features that cloud solutions don’t), John Irey, Mindsight’s VP of Consulting Services, advises an upgrade to CallManager’s newest iteration: Version 14.
Then again, he says, if your upgrade cycle isn’t near or at that point (maybe you’re guaranteed service until 2025), it’s best to skip Version 14 and wait for Version 15—forthcoming, Irey says, “in the very near future.”
“Version 15 is going to be based on an entirely different underlying operating system, not CentOS,” he explains. “So for things like security updates, moving forward that’s going to be your new base. There will also be cloud-connected features to bridge the gap between cloud and on-prem for when organizations want to make that transition.”
While cloud-based communication systems are an increasingly enticing option these days, they’re not always feasible—either for the aforementioned financial reasons or because of rules and regulations that may not allow it.
“That might be a great reason to upgrade your Call Manager,” Irey says of the latter. “It will maintain the features you need as well as add to the already robust security.”
Many companies that continue to use on-prem systems do so because of a lack of resources. “Forklifting” to cloud or (in rare instances) another brand of an on-prem system is complex and labor-intensive. Sticking with CallManager for the time being, Irey says, eliminates the hassle. “Maybe you’re putting in a new storage solution or a new ERP solution, and you just don’t want to think about the voice solution.”
The other option, he notes, is to have an MSP (like Mindsight) handle everything for you. “We can manage your Cisco system. We can upgrade it and make it supportable for years to come. And then, in a few years, you can decide whether or not you want to transition everything to the cloud”—whether via WebEx Calling or another service like Microsoft Teams Calling or RingCentral. Alternatives abound.
No matter which solution you choose, on-prem or cloud, “We just want to make sure you remain supported,” Irey says. “But long-term, unless you’re chasing a specific feature, there aren’t going to be a lot of businesses that stay on-prem.”
While licensing costs more in the cloud, he notes, those costs will even out over the years because, “You’ll never do another upgrade. You’ll never pay for another server. You’ll stop paying for your voice circuits.”
Those offsetting costs don’t always even things out, he admits, but they go a long way toward closing the gap.
Granted, that’s future-talk. But all businesses and orgs should be future focused, Irey says, while also keeping their current on-prem systems—be it CallManager or something else—upgraded to the latest version for which they’re eligible. If they’re able to do that in-house, great. If not, there’s plenty of expert help out there.
“You need someone that understands the space to help you through that vendor selection process so that you are getting a solution that works for you and not just a cookie cutter solution,” Irey says. “You need to think about how you could be doing things differently in the future, including with various integrations. You also need to think about how you’ll migrate from on-prem. Will you do it yourself or take advantage of a cloud provider’s services?”
So look toward the future, but stay focused on the present.
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About The Expert
John Irey is the VP of Consulting Services at Mindsight, an IT Services and Consulting firm located in the Chicago area. With nearly 20 years of experience in information technology, John has helped businesses of every size optimize the technology powering collaborative solutions. He has extensive experience with unified communications platforms and seeks to provide a consultative voice to the business leaders who rely on Mindsight’s transparency to make the best technology investments. John earned his BA/BS in Information Systems and continues to focus on how emerging technology, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, impact the contact center. John enjoys spending his free time with his wife and two young children.