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TFTP Overview

Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP) within the Cisco Unified CM system has one simple task - provide necessary files to IP telephony devices on demand. This is a VERY simplistic viewpoint, but this is critical functionality in the IP telephony system. Without proper redundancy, a TFTP server outage can create widespread impact among all users.  The Cisco TFTP service is a file serving system that can run on one or more Unified CM servers.

Among the types of files made available by the TFTP Server:

  • Phone configuration files
  • Phone firmware files
  • Ringer files
  • Dial plan files for SIP phones
  • Certificate Trust List (CTL) files
  • Tone localization files
  • User interface (UI) localization and dictionary files
  • Softkey files

The TFTP server manages and serves two types of files, those that are not modifiable (for example, firmware files for phones) and those that can be modified (for example, configuration files).

A typical configuration file contains a prioritized list of Unified CMs for a device (for example, an SCCP or SIP phone), the TCP ports on which the device connects to those Unified CMs, and an executable load identifier. Configuration files for selected devices contain locale information and URLs for the messages, directories, services, and information buttons on the phone...

When a device's configuration changes, the TFTP server rebuilds the configuration files by pulling the relevant information from the Unified CM database. The new file(s) is then downloaded to the phone once the phone has been reset. As an example, if a single phone's configuration file is modified (for example, during Extension Mobility login or logout), only that file is rebuilt and downloaded to the phone. However, if the configuration details of a device pool are changed (for example, if the primary Unified CM server is changed), then all devices in that device pool need to have their configuration files rebuilt and downloaded. For device pools that contain large numbers of devices, this file rebuilding process can impact server performance.

When a device requests a configuration file from the TFTP server, the TFTP server searches for the configuration file in its internal caches, the disk, and then alternate Cisco file servers (if specified). If the TFTP server finds the configuration file, it sends it to the device. If the configuration file provides Unified CM names, the device resolves the name by using DNS and opens a connection to the Unified CM. If the device does not receive an IP address or name, it uses the TFTP server name or IP address to attempt a registration connection. If the TFTP server cannot find the configuration file, it sends a "file not found" message to the device.

A device that requests a configuration file while the TFTP server is rebuilding configuration files or while it is processing the maximum number of requests, will receive a message from the TFTP server that causes the device to request the configuration file later. The Maximum Serving Count service parameter, which can be configured, specifies the maximum number of requests that can be concurrently handled by the TFTP server. (Default value = 500 requests.) Use the default value if the TFTP service is run along with other Cisco CallManager services on the same server. For a dedicated TFTP server, use the following suggested values for the Maximum Serving Count: 1500 for a single-processor system or 3000 for a dual-processor system.

More information found here.

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