Notes on the COBRAS Migration Tools for Cisco Unity and Unity Connection


COBRAS is a set of object-oriented import/export tools for Unity and Unity Connection.  They allow you to selectively export (i.e., backup) specific application objects (e.g., Subscribers, Call Handlers, etc.) and then import them to another version of Unity or Unity Connection.  COBRAS is much different than DiRT which provides backup and restore capabilities to the exact same version of Unity.  COBRAS is geared more towards migrating data between different versions of Unity or even between applications (Unity to Unity Connection).  In total, there are 3 separate  tools:

  • COBRAS Export is used for selective backups of system data.
  • COBRAS Import is used to selectively import data onto a new Unity or Unity Connection system.
  • COBRAS Data Viewer is used to view backup databases created by the Export tool.  The Data Viewer can also be used to alter the data in the backup file.  I’ll touch on this in a moment.

Export Process

The export process is straightforward and fairly uneventful.  You just need to select which data (i.e., objects) to backup and let the process run.  All backups are written as Microsoft Access database (.mdb) files.  The name of the primary backup file is always prefixed as “UnityDBData_Backup”.

  • You can use COBRAS to backup voice messages.  To do this, you have to run COBRAS Export as a user with rights to bind to the message store.  Specifically, you should use the user associated with the AvCsMgr service.  Usually, this is the UnityMsgStoreSvc account.
  • If you are backing up messages, there will be multiple Access DB files written based on how many messages are being backed up.  If you need to backup a large amount of messages, make sure you have enough disk space for the backup.

Import Process

The import process is also relatively straightforward; however, I would definitely recommend that you familiarize yourself with COBRAS Import in a test environment before running it in a production environment.  The import process is a multi-step wizard that essentially runs in 3 high-level phases:

  • First, choose the objects you want to import.
  • Next, you have to resolve any and all conflicts for each type of object to be imported.  As the wizard progresses, you must complete each step in the series before you can proceed to the import.
  • Once you have resolved all conflicts, the last phase is the actual import of data into the new system.

Other notes about COBRAS Import:

  • If you decide to import messages, the send/receive and read/unread status  is not preserved between systems.  All imported messages are stamped with the time/date of the import and will be seen as new messages in the user’s inbox.
  • When Subscriber data is imported, the Subscriber’s PIN (for telephone access) is preserved.

Data Viewer

If subscriber aliases are not the same between systems, you can use the Data Viewer to remap the aliases in the backup to aliases on the new system.  The Data Viewer lets you open up any of the DB files created by the export process and view the data.  There is a simple “export to CSV” functionality that is used to map old Subscriber aliases to new Subscriber aliases.  You should make a copy of your primary backup DB and use the copy to run the alias mapping because this function permanently rewrites the contents of the DB that is used.

Exchange 2007 Integration

If the Unity system you’ll be importing data into is integrated with Exchange 2007, you will need to ensure that any subscriber accounts that need to be migrated have AD user objects and Exchange mailboxes created in advance.  In addition, you will also need to create the Subscribers on the new Unity system in advance of the import as well.  Unity cannot create users/mailboxes in an Exchange 2007 integration so, if any Subscribers are dropped during the import process (i.e., they are not mapped to one of the new Subscriber accounts) and those users are owners of other objects on the system (e.g., Call Handlers) then you’ll have to manually resolve all the conflicts that result.  So, this  is a perfect example of when to use the Data Viewer.

Final Thoughts

In lab testing, I found that the COBRAS tools work as advertised and, depending on the scenario, are quite useful.  There are still some things you’ll need to manually configure and/or tweak in order to complete any given migration but COBRAS can get a lot of data and speed things up.  There is an in-depth help guide and a series of videos that walk thru the COBRAS tools available online.  Be sure to check out Cisco Unity Tools Depot for more information.

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Nick Kelly

Cybersecurity Engineer, Cisco

Nick has over 20 years of experience in Security Operations and Security Sales. He is an avid student of cybersecurity and regularly engages with the Infosec community at events like BSides, RVASec, Derbycon and more. The son of an FBI forensics director, Nick holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice and is one of Cisco’s Fire Jumper Elite members. When he’s not working, he writes cyberpunk and punches aliens on his Playstation.


Virgilio “BONG” dela Cruz Jr.

CCDP, CCNA V, CCNP, Cisco IPS Express Security for AM/EE
Field Solutions Architect, Tech Data

Virgilio “Bong” has sixteen years of professional experience in IT industry from academe, technical and customer support, pre-sales, post sales, project management, training and enablement. He has worked in Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) as a member of the WAN and LAN Switching team. Bong now works for Tech Data as the Field Solutions Architect with a focus on Cisco Security and holds a few Cisco certifications including Fire Jumper Elite.


John Cavanaugh

CCIE #1066, CCDE #20070002, CCAr
Chief Technology Officer, Practice Lead Security Services, NetCraftsmen

John is our CTO and the practice lead for a talented team of consultants focused on designing and delivering scalable and secure infrastructure solutions to customers across multiple industry verticals and technologies. Previously he has held several positions including Executive Director/Chief Architect for Global Network Services at JPMorgan Chase. In that capacity, he led a team managing network architecture and services.  Prior to his role at JPMorgan Chase, John was a Distinguished Engineer at Cisco working across a number of verticals including Higher Education, Finance, Retail, Government, and Health Care.

He is an expert in working with groups to identify business needs, and align technology strategies to enable business strategies, building in agility and scalability to allow for future changes. John is experienced in the architecture and design of highly available, secure, network infrastructure and data centers, and has worked on projects worldwide. He has worked in both the business and regulatory environments for the design and deployment of complex IT infrastructures.