Polycom has recently released the latest version of UCS firmware for the VVX line of SIP telephony devices. The 5.0.0 version includes a number of new capabilities including new features for Lync and new device support for Lync, and applies to the entire line of VVX devices: 300, 310, 400, 410, 500, 600, and 1500.
The VVX1500, which was previously only supported with the older unqualified 4.0.x release now joins the rest of the VVX family in terms of capabilities and features provided with Lync registration. Also be aware that Lync Server registration is supported with this release for the SoundStructure C-Series conference room audio solution, yet this article will focus on the VVX model line. Other SIP telephony devices in the SoundPoint and SoundStation families are not compatible with this version and currently utilize the 4.1.x software versions.
In addition to the features originally provided as part of the Lync device qualification program in the 4.1.0 release and native Lync PIN Authentication support added in the 4.1.2 update this new 5.0.0 release adds the following Lync functionality to the VVX model line. All of these new features are supported in both Lync 2010 and 2013 environments, expect where specifically explained otherwise as in the case of video calling support.
Better Together over Ethernet (BToE)
This new capability is the framework to provide the same ‘Better Together’ functionality which has been present in Lync Phone Edition (LPE) devices via USB since the release of the original CX700 phone for Office Communications Server. This initial release addresses the most important features including user provisioning, click to call/forward/hang up/transfer/hold/resume, and to join a Lync Online Meeting. More capabilities will be added to this feature set in later releases. Detailed configuration of this feature will be covered at the end of this article.
Boss/Admin (Shared Line Appearances)
This new functionality not available in Lync Phone Edition brings the first set of options in the way of supporting basic shared-line telephony features like inbound call pickup, outbound calling on behalf of another user, and call status monitoring. Additional capabilities will also be provided in this category with future releases. A future article will cover the configuration and usage of these features in more detail.
Lync Address Book Web Query (ABWQ)
The phones can now perform directory searches against the entire Lync Address Book by sending requests to the Lync Server’s Address Book Web Query service. Leveraging this service provides for real-time search results with presence which are not affected by any out-dated offline address book files. Search results can also easily be added to the Lync user’s contact list directly from the phone.
This addition is another step forward in attaining feature-parity with the Lync Phone Edition platform, with some differences. For one only the ABWQ service is supported, the VVX phones will not download the device-specific address book files (.dabs) like LPE does by default. Additionally the search results are currently limited to accessing only the primary number of the user’s contact card.
- To search the Lync directory simply bring up the main menu (the one with all of the colored square icons accessible by toggling the Home button on the handset) and select the green Directories icon.
- Select Lync Directory… and then key in the name of the contact (e.g. smith) and hit Submit.
Lync Device Update Service
As of this release the in-band firmware update service provided by Lync Server which handles Lync Phone Edition updates is now also leveraged by the VVX phones. Thus it is no longer a requirement to utilize any type separate provisioning server to provide automatic firmware updates to VVX phones in a Lync environment, although that option is still available for advanced device configuration beyond what Lync Server can provide. This does not replace the previous firmware update processes, it is just another way to support updates, so if a provisioning server is already in place then it can still be used for updates just as before if desired.
As 5.0.0 is the first version supporting this option then this release cannot be initially installed on the device using this method. Although the CAB file package for UCS 5.0.0 was published these can only be used by any pre-release beta or testing customers that were already running an earlier build of 5.0 software. So for the majority of Lync customers this 5.0.0 release is the last update which would need to be provided via a provisioning server or manual method. Once 5.0.0 is active then it will begin to check the device update web service for any approved updates and when 5.0.1 is released that package can be installed into the Lync Server for native upgrades from that point forward.
- To manually check the Lync Device Update status navigate to the Settings > Status > Diagnostics > Lync Device Update menu to bring up the following screen.
As shown above this Lync environment does not currently have any approved updates for the VVX phones. When checking the daily device update log (RequestHandlerAuditLog_csnblync_09122013.log) on the Lync Front-End server the device update request from this specific VVX 600 is shown.
09/12/2013 00:57:48,,10.11.12.19,3PIP,9/12/2013 7:57:48 AM,”0004F2A1B2C3″,”0004F2A1B2C3″,”POLYCOM”,”VVX600″,”Rev-7″,”ENU”,cpe.nbt;188.8.131.5274;8/22/2013 2:13:00 AM,
Notice that the Device Type string is reported as 3PIP which is an acronym for 3rd Party Interoperability Program that Microsoft uses to identify Certified/Qualified Lync phone devices. Because there is not a newer approved update then the response fro the server does not include the internal or external URLs to retrieve the package. When 5.0.1 software is released a follow-up article will cover this process in more detail, but realistically the configuration is basically identical to what has always been used for Lync Phone Edition devices.
Full support for parking and retrieving calls from the parking lot on Lync Server is now included. In past versions it was possible to retrieve parked calls by simply dialing the orbit number of the parked call (e.g. #149) but there was no interface available on the phone to park a call from the VVX. That is now an option on the phone, given that a Call Park orbit range has been defined and the registered user is enabled for this feature in the assigned policy. When in an active call if call parking is available to the use then a Park button will be displayed on the main call menu.
Lync Status Screen
A new status screen has been added to the web browser management interface which is similar to the hidden Configuration Information menu provided in the Lync desktop client. It reports the status of registration as well as displaying the various in-band provisioning settings passed down by the server (e.g. MRAS Server FQDN, Dialplan, Media Bypass status).
- To access the Lync Status screen connect to the IP address of the phone using a web browser, sign-in using either the default Admin password of ‘456’ or the default User password of ‘123’.
- Select the Diagnostic > Lync Status menu item to bring up the following page.
Peer Video Calling
The VVX 500 and 600 models support a modular USB video camera produced by Polycom which provides the ability to handle video directly on these devices. The VVX1500 which includes in integrated video camera is also capable of the same video scenarios.
As of the release of UCS 5.0.0 the use of video calls is currently only supported in Lync 2010 environments as the phones do not currently support Real-Time Video (RTV). This means that video calls can be negotiated with the Windows Lync 2010 client which additionally supports the older H.263 video codec, which is limited to CIF resolution. Yet when placing peer video calls between two different VVX phones through Lync Server then devices will be able to negotiate video over non-Lync supported codecs which they have in commons, so H.264/AVC will be utilized which provides additional, higher resolution options.
- Connect the VVX modular camera to a VVX 500 or 600 model and the phone will automatically detect the new device.
- To utilize video calling tap the More button and then tap the new Video Mode button to toggle between Video Mode and Audio Mode.
- Place a video call from a Windows Lync 2010 client to the user registered to the VVX phone and answer the call on the phone. Video streams will be sent in both directions using H.263 at CIF resolution (which is a 4:3 aspect ratio).
Video calling is not currently supported in Lync Server 2013 environments for two reasons.
Firstly, video calls between VVX phones and Lync 2013 clients are not possible today as they have no compatible video codecs. As discussed in earlier articles the implementation of H.264/SVC in Lync 2013 is not natively compatible with the standard H.264/AVC codec. So although that commonality may be leveraged for future video interoperability with 2013 it does require development and does not just ‘work’ out of the box. There are a lot of moving pieces behind the covers which need to be dealt with first.
Secondly, it is possible to place peer to peer video calls between VVX phones or even place a video call to a Lync-integrated RMX from a VVX phone as there common video codecs in there scenarios. And because video is handled the same way as audio in terms of media traversal in Lync then technically video calls may function in most scenarios. But understand that these video scenarios are not currently supported by Polycom for this specific release in a 2013 Lync environment, so any video calling in 2013 can be considered unsupported and/or experimental. Support for this will be provided in a future update.
The remainder of this article shows how to update a single VVX phone to the latest 5.0.0 firmware release and then utilize the new BToE capability to sign-in to the phone directly from the paired workstation.
Prepare VVX Phone
This new software can easily be installed on a VVX phone by leveraging the Polycom Hosted Server method as shown in this previous article.
- Access the management UI in a web browser via the device’s IP address and then click the Check for Updates button to list any firmware versions available on the default server.
- Select the 184.108.40.20674 package for installation and click Install.
After the phone completes the upgrade process it can now be provisioned via a third method by leveraging the new BToE feature. This user authentication process on the Lync client will look identical to the USB-tethered Lync Phone Edition sign-in process.
The Windows PC to be tethered to the phone must be connected to the network through the VVX phone’s built-in Ethernet switch. The BToE functionality is not currently available for separately connected devices or workstations connected only to wireless networks.
- Connect the PC with the installed BToE connector to the uplink Ethernet port on the VVX phone if it is not already connected in this manner.
Depending on the existing configuration on the phone it may be desired to wipe any current settings in order to experience the new provisioning process.
- In this case it is recommended to reset the device settings as covered in detail under the Factory Reset section of this previous article. This process will not revert the firmware version or make any changes to the software; it only wipes all non-factory settings on the phone. If the phone is already registered to Lync then there is no need to reset or wipe any settings, this step is simply included to follow along with this article and experience the new user sign-in process.
- After the device is reset to factory default settings enable the Lync Base Profile as originally described in an earlier article by using the 1, 4, 9 multi-key combination. Alternatively this menu is found under Settings > Advanced > Administration Settings > Network Configuration > Base Profile.
Install BToE Connector
The same Windows PC which is to be paired with the phone will also require a Polycom provided Windows driver package to be installed. The Better Together functionality is not provided natively in the Lync client so an additional driver is installed to allow the Lync client to utilize the phone as an audio device for calls.
- Download the Polycom BToE Connector application from the Polycom support website.
- Extract the Polycom_BToE_connector_PC_application.zip package and then run the appropriate MSI installer package which matches the proper version of Windows (32 or 6 bit). Note that either package will install the same x86 application on the computer, only the installer application itself is different.
- Accept the default installation folder or browse to the desired location. It is recommended to use the default path.
- When the installation is complete make sure to reboot the workstation before attempting to launch the connector for the first time. Seriously, reboot the PC.
After the workstation reboots there should be a new icon on the desktop entitled Polycom BToE Connector 1.0.0.
Enable BToE Pairing
The final step in the setup process is to enable the BToE pairing feature on the phone itself. This is a one-time process and once pairing is enabled it does not normally need to be re-enabled on the phone, unless the feature is turned-off or the settings are reverted to defaults.
- On the phone navigate to the Settings > Features > BTOE > BTOE (Disabled) menu and enable the feature by selecting Enabled and then Back.
A second option named BTOE Pairing Status will appear at this menu level.
- Select it to bring up the pairing menu which will display the status as ‘Not Paired’ as well as present a Pair soft key on the menu.
At this point the BToE pairing feature is enabled on the phone and the connector is active on the workstation. This completes the one-time setup steps and should not need to be performed again for this specific pairing of devices.
Now that the connector software is installed and running and the pairing function is enabled in the phone all that is left is to simply pair the device.
If the Lync client is already running on the workstation when the pairing process is attempted then the client it will automatically prompt the for sign-in credentials to pass to the phone without the need to manually select any sign-in actions on the phone. This is the same behavior as seen when physically connecting a LPE device via USB to a workstation.
- Launch the Windows Lync 2010 or 2013 client and confirm that it is successfully signed-in.
Pairing and Provisioning
Now that the pairing process is ready then final step is to simply activate the pairing and initiate the provisioning process for the desired Lync user account. Although the basic User Credential and PIN Authentication methods are still available on the phone and could instead by used to register to Lync, the benefit of the BToE application allows for an even simpler and faster way to enter user credentials.
- Start the Polycom BToE Connector application to load the connector and prepare the workstation for pairing to the phone. After starting the application a system tray status icon will appear and report the application status.
In the event that any errors appear regarding failure to connect to speaker or microphone devices try disconnecting any other USB audio devices which may be connected to the workstation. They can be reconnected one at a time to identify which device or devices may have been causing a conflict.
Because pairing was enabled in the previous section the phone will display a new BTOE soft key on the home screen, providing a faster path to this option for any repeated re-pairing actions (e.g. after reconnecting a mobile workstation).
- Tap the BTOE menu item to access the BTOE Pairing Status menu.
- Tap the Pair menu item to initiate the pairing process with the connected workstation.
Almost immediately the status should be updated as ‘Successfully Paired’ on the phone as shown in the following screenshot from a VVX 600.
At the same time on the workstation the BToE Connector should reports a status of Paired.
- Change the Windows workstation’s focus to the Lync client and the a new window entitled Logon information needed should be seen. Verify that the pre-populated Sign-in address and User name fields are correct and then enter the Lync user’s password and click OK to complete the sign-in process. (The User name field can be populated in either DOMAIN\username or firstname.lastname@example.org formats.)
The phone will receive these credentials via the active pairing connection and then attempt to register to the Lync Server. If successful the Line icon will show a green check mark and the pairing status should be reported as ‘Better Together Activated’. The pairing status will be indicated by a green chain-link icon on the home screen.
In the event that the paired workstation is disconnected from the Ethernet connection (e.g. undocked laptop) or is rebooted, hibernated, or put to sleep then the phone will be unpaired. The phone is still connected to the Lync Server through its own network connection so there is no need to re-provision the device or sign-in again, only the pairing link needs to be reestablished.
- After returning or rebooting the workstation verify that the BToE Connector is running and then simply tap the BTOE button on the home screen and then select Pair.