While we have previously discussed Remote Expert Mobile design at a high level, let’s dig into the architecture/design of the Cisco Remote Expert Mobile. Cisco Remote Expert Mobile is a remote support software that empowers organizations to enable real-time engagement directly in their application and website channels, making it easy for customers to interact with “experts” how, when and where they choose.
The following diagram explains the flow from the consumer to the enterprise:
On the left are the consumers. They interact using PC/Mac or Mobile devices over a variety of connections such as Wi-Fi/4G/LTE. Cisco Remote Expert provides SDK that can be used to embed in websites or allow for custom application development. Benefits include being able to click to call an expert or cross-launch to a custom application.
The enterprise servers consist of a Remote Application Server (labeled REAS) that has a built-in web gateway, typically installed inside the enterprise. Reverse Proxy sits in the DMZ and isn’t specific to this application. It can be generic, such as an F5, NGINX. It performs functions such as SSL offloading, hiding internal address and ensuring secure context.
The media broker (labeled REMB) server sits in the DMZ and handles the actual media traffic — firewalls and transcoding. We will discuss transcoding later in this blog.
The application server has several functions:
- It hosts the console applications for supervisors/agents that allow them to interact with the client for remote control, document share (PDF/JPEG/GIF/PNG) and annotation. This includes the built-in expert console for a Communications Manager only; installation; and the custom gadgets that load inside Finesse container when you are running contact center express/enterprise.
- It converts the incoming HTTP request from the client application to SIP, because the internal enterprise architecture — consisting of Cisco Communications Manager, Unity connection — is built on SIP. This provides notification to the internal UC components to set up the call.
- It manages the media broker, ensuring that when the signaling is set up, the ports for the media set-up are allocated.
Here is an example of the gadget loaded inside Finesse. You can see buttons to share, push links/documents and annotate. The documents to push and links to share are pre-loaded/configured by the supervisor using the admin interface. This ensures agents don’t have to share their entire desktop and only documents/links pre-approved to be shared are provided to the agent.
The incoming request passes from the Application server through CUBE to Cisco Communications Manager/UCCX/UCCE. In the current tested design, call flow has to pass through CUBE which allows forking of the audio/video to Media sense. This enables video recording. Media sense also allows for video in queue and Hold.
The agent can use two types of consoles depending on the architecture. If this is a Communications Manager Deployment with no CCX/CCE involved, the expert console is a self-contained gadget that provides annotation/voice/video/content sharing. Hunt Groups and queuing are achieved in this setup using native hunt groups. Since the agents in this scenario will talk to the REAS server, Communications Manager will extend the calls to the server using extend and connect. Agents talking to the REAS server can be authenticated through a Cisco Communications Manager UDS directory.
If a contact center is present, we switch to the gadgets hosted inside Finesse and provide robust contact center queuing functionality plus media sense features such video on hold/queue.
In certain instances, an enterprise may also provide this functionality to internal users such as an expert help desk. In this situation, enterprise callers can also reach experts inside the company. The only difference is that since there is no application server in the call flow, as the signaling is initiated from within the company, you cannot employ remote control/annotation/sharing. This will be a direct audio/video interaction between the enterprise caller and the expert/agent.
A wide variety of video endpoints are supported for the agent/expert such as DX/MX/SX/Jabber. Please consult the release notes for caveats/supported endpoints.
All communication is encrypted/secure from the Internet to the application servers/media brokers. TLS/SSL using ciphers 128 bit or higher and SHA algorithms for certificates.
Audio/video from the consumer to the REMB server uses DTLS/SRTP (ensuring the keys are encrypted) whereas traffic within the enterprise uses TLS for signaling and SDES SRTP. Certificates are exchanged between the REAS and the UC infrastructure such as CUBE, using certificates either self-signed or CA.
Comparisons with Cisco Jabber Guest
Cisco does have another solution for enabling B2C communications called “Jabber Guest.” For a deep dive on this solution, please consult my coworker’s blog. At a high level, both provide for rich voice/video interaction from consumers to companies. Jabber Guest also allows SDK to customize your website for click-to-call and cross-launch custom applications, and to work on desktops/laptops/mobile devices. Both Cisco Jabber Guest and Remote Expert Mobile follow a very similar architecture consisting of an expressway to handle the media, firewall traversal and the Jabber Guest server to handle HTTP-to-SIP translation. However there are important differences:
- Jabber Guest is a good solution when all that is needed is voice/video with high scalability since it can handle up to 2000 sessions using a large expressway template and a couple of Jabber Guest servers. This when compared to Remote Expert Mobile, which can scale up to 1000 sessions but needs a large number of media brokers (4 REAS, 20 REMB) — and, since the REMB take 8 v CPU, this can add up very fast.
- Jabber Guest is a plug-in based architecture and hence doesn’t invoke transcoding when calling from any browser to H264 endpoints. However, since it does use Plug-in — unlike Remote Expert Mobile, which is Web RTC capable — it can mean installation challenges for non-technical end users, who also may not have admin rights. It is on the horizon for Jabber Guest to also become Web RTC compliant. On the Remote Expert side, browsers like Chrome that can only handle VP8 and plug-in based browsers like IE or Safari cause a drop in the scalability for Remote Expert Mobile when calling H264 endpoints. Remote Expert allows for receiving content share using BFCP but doesn’t support sending content from the consumer side.
- Jabber Guest has no native support for features like co-browsing, annotation, Visual IVR, cross channel analytics or document/link share.
- Jabber Guest doesn’t support the ability to share specific content from the agent side. The agent’s entire screen is shared, which can be an issue in certain markets.
- Jabber Guest can integrate with a contact center and provide video on Hold/queue through Media sense — but tighter integration, such as passing contextual information using UUI headers or the ability to provide annotation/content sharing/form filling, isn’t available.
Cisco Jabber Guest could work well when interviewing candidates, or in vertical scenarios such as in health care/retail where the focus of the interaction is simply voice/video — for example, in video health consultations, video translation services or video appearances on TV shows. It could also be used a replacement for the legacy Conference Me application that used to come with the MCU code but isn’t available with the Telepresence server code.
Remote Expert Mobile, on the other hand, will work well in financial and insurance markets, for form-filling on government or healthcare sites, and for onboarding users. Basically, it works well when you have to marry collaborative capabilities with Web RTC based voice/video interactions.
In summary, the consumer is kept at the center of all communication channels and decides how to interact in a seamless way with a company’s contact center support services. Context and consistency are maintained across all possible channels for that individual. By using technologies such as remote expert dialing into a call center and hearing IVR menu prompts, confusing options will become a thing of the past.
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