An Overview of Cisco Communications Manager Express


With the cost of high-performance networking switching equipment coming down, the implementation of alternative voice solutions has become common. There are a number of different voice solutions that utilize the existing network to provide not only a data connection but also provide a voice connection. One of these solutions that are available is Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express (CME). Cisco Unified CME provides a solution that can fill a number of different voice requirements within a small business or branch location. As well as working in these smaller environments, the Unified CME solution can also be integrated into a larger Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) solution. This article provides a high-level overview of some of the most commonly used abilities of the Unified Communications Manager Express solution.  After this overview, hopefully you will know whether or not you are in a position to install Communications Manager Express.

Unified Communications Manager Express Solution

As stated in the overview, the Unified CME solution can provide not only a simple voice solution that utilizes the existing data network infrastructure, but also can provide a feature rich voice solution with support for many common business voice features. The Unified Communications Manager Express solution includes support for many features including:

  • Call Hunt
  • Call Pickup
  • Call Waiting
  • Hunt Group
  • Call Park
  • Caller ID Blocking
  • Conferencing
  • Music on Hold
  • Paging

An example of how the Unified CME solution in a small office can be deployed is shown in Figure 1.

Example of Unified Communications Manager Express in small-office environment

Figure 1

As seen in the figure, all of the common connections provided by a more traditional voice solution are offered. The Unified CME solution is not only able to meet the requirements of businesses but can also be deployed by service providers. One of the available solutions includes the use of an Integrated Access Device (IAD) that is deployed within the customer premises with a connection back to an integrated device running the Unified CME software. An example of this solution is shown in Figure 2.

Example of Unified Unified Communications Manager Express utilizing Integrated Access Device

Figure 2

As shown in the figures, the Unified CME solution is very flexible and able to provide all of the existing functionality provided by traditional telephony solutions and offers it with a cost savings and a reasonably easy configuration.

Unified CME Models

The Unified CME solution can be deployed in a number of ways following familiar voice deployment models. The models supported include the Private Branch Exchange (PBX) model, the Keyswitch model and a hybrid of these two models.

PBX Model

The PBX model follows a deployment that mimics the traditional configuration provided by a PBX; this includes the deployment of a number of different extensions (phones) that are each assigned a unique extension. Traditionally using this model, people calling in would be routed through a receptionist or an automated attendant in order to be transferred to the correct internal extension.

Keyswitch Model

The Keyswitch model follows a deployment that was more common on older systems (key systems) where each of the phones in the office would have a configuration that was very similar. Each of these phones would have a button that represented each of the numbers coming into the office; any one of these phones could answer and make calls on any of the lines.

Hybrid Model

The hybrid model provides the ability to offer the opportunity to utilize features from both the PBX and Keyswitch models. This would include the ability for a phone to have a unique extension as well as have the ability to have access to shared lines throughout the office.


As discussed in the article, the Unified Communications Manager Express solution can offer the ability to implement a voice solution that supports a number of different features and deployed after traditional voice models. Hopefully this article and the companion articles will provide a better idea of what is possible with this solution and how it can be implemented to take advantage of equipment that supports multiple data and voice solutions.