Cisco's IP telephony offering has become so complex in such a short period of time that to learn about it now involves a two-part, eight-day training course. Delegates can either attend the two parts as a standalone option (and take the course exam if they choose), or take a further four courses and go for the Cisco Certified Voice Professional (CCVP) qualification.
Global Knowledge is an official training partner of Cisco, and so closely follows its curriculum. It is one of the largest training providers for Cisco in the UK, having acquired the previous largest provider, Azlan, in March 2006. As a result of the acquisition, it boasts a range of training centres across the South East, the Midlands and the North.
The course focuses on CallManager (now called Cisco Unified Communications Manager), the call-processing software in Cisco's IP telephony offering. Delegates can choose to learn about CallManager version 4, the most widely deployed Windows-based version, or version 5, which is Linux-based.
ZDNet.co.uk reviewed the first part of the eight-day course and chose to focus on version 4. The first part lasts five days and covers about five-eighths of the content. Delegates are given dates for the second part, which is three days in length, shortly after the conclusion of part one.
We reviewed this course at Global Knowledge's London training centre, a busy basement facility in the heart of the city's business district. Global Knowledge also teaches the course in its Wakefield, Coventry and Wokingham training centres.
Global Knowledge suggests that delegates have already studied for both the Cisco Certified Networking Associate (CCNA) and Cisco Voice over IP (CVoice) certifications. But, in reality, several years of experience in both data and voice communications is likely to be sufficient.
CallManager operating system, database and supporting applications; CallManager deployment options; establishing a call; Cisco telephony endpoints; CallManager configuration; configuring Catalyst switches to handle voice; configuring Cisco IP Communicator soft phone; using the bulk administration tool; configuring gateways and trunks; configuring route plans; configuring hunt groups; implementing class of control; multi-site deployments; enabling features; configuring CallManager applications; adding video; quality of service; security; troubleshooting.
This course was delivered by an extremely knowledgeable tutor who understood Cisco's IP telephony equipment thoroughly. He was rarely unable to answer a question and he populated the course with factual titbits, some of which were useful in practical terms ('Remember that passwords are reset when a CallManager update is applied') and some of which were just plain interesting ('Did you know why the MAC address contains that prefix?'). Critically, he gave frequent pointers to the type of questions that could appear in the exam.
Although the tutor is permanently employed by Global Knowledge, he said that he spends 20 percent of his working time outside the classroom in order to keep up-to-date with IP and Cisco technology. His claim seemed to be substantiated, as he talked at length about industry events and practical experiences.
The tutor also ran practical exercises configuring CallManager, which accounted for about 60 percent of the course's duration. Each step was clearly defined in precise detail in the course notes, with the result that little thought was required to follow the notes, arguably impeding the learning process.
We had just one criticism of the tutor: although he held the delegates' attention admirably, he did, in this reviewer's opinion, fail to fully engage with the delegates in two-way communication.
Quality of supporting materials
Delegates were supplied with three hefty sets of notes covering the tutor's presentations and practical exercises. These were for the most part provided by Cisco, with small local additions. This is standard practice for a technology training course. Delegates were also offered free ongoing support by email.
Our judgement on the value of the course for potential delegates comes with one caveat. Delegates must consider the likelihood that they will need to deploy an IP telephony offering that is made by Cisco. In terms of configuration, Cisco's IP telephony equipment is considerably different to any other vendor's equipment, and so the course only has significant worth for Cisco deployments. IT professionals who are planning to deploy non-Cisco IP telephony might do better in choosing one of the many generic IP-telephony courses on offer from other providers.
However, if the delegate is intending to deploy Cisco kit, then the value-add from the eight days is considerable: a huge amount of hands-on knowledge can be taken away.
Certification and further opportunities
Delegates can choose to sit an exam after the end of the course if they wish, and can then proceed to complete the CCVP if they wish. The other courses within the CCVP are all offered by Global Knowledge. They are: Quality of Service; Cisco Voice over IP; Troubleshooting Cisco Unified Communications Systems; Implementing Cisco Voice Gateways and Gatekeepers.
But a word of warning: the total fees to attend all the courses necessary for the CCVP will set delegates back a shade over £10,000 — and that's without exam fees or VAT. The certification can be held for three years before re-testing is required.
Students could then choose to study for the much sought-after Certified Cisco Internetwork Expert (CCIE) qualification, Cisco's premiere certification.