All of the architecture "geek speak" aside, CISCO and ShoreTel have fundamental "cultural" differences that defines their approach to the entities of a "phone" and a "user". Simply stated in the ShoreTel world a phone can not exist without a user, but the CISCO world a phone can exist without a user. Now this is not a bad thing or a good thing, it is a just the way it is thing! What does that cultural distinction mean to you and your business? Does it mean anything? From a system definition perceptive, it does change how you think about your deployments.
In the CISCO world, you can bring up a range of phones, auto-assign an extension number, have a fully functioning dial plan and never define a user! In a ShoreTel deployment you can auto-register a range of phones, but they can not participate in a dial plan until they are assigned or "owned" by a user. In one solution, the privileges that a phone has, like being able to make International phone calls, is set by the privileges of the user. In ShoreTel a user is associated with a user group and that group has privileges associated with it.
In the ShoreTel world, users are licensed but phones are not directly licensed. You clearly have to have ShoreGear resources for the phones to register in the system, but aside from the cost of the phone and ShoreGear switches, the phone is not directly licensed. If you deploy that phone in the "Parts" department you will need to create a User and associate that User to the phone. So we now need to create a user and user name like "Parts Desk1" and assign it to a phone. Optionally, we could create a user named Tony Slavetore who works in the parts department, but that brings up the issue of of separating a "function" from a "person" which is an entire deployment discussion in itself and the subject of another blog.
In the CISCO world, you can have phones with extension numbers and they do not have to have a User profile associated with them. In a CISCO deployment, phones belong to "partitions" and "calling search spaces" and that is what determines the phones privileges. In fact the concept of a "partition" makes it possible to separate phones in such a way that "staff" for example, can not dial "executives". ( If asked in a ShoreTel system to restrict a phone from being able to dial a specific other phone, I would have to puzzle that one out ). Again, this is not a which strategy is better discussion, but it is a distinct cultural difference that we seldom hear about.
The included video demonstrates adding a user and a phone in both the ShoreTel and the CISCO CUCM solution. System Administrators will spend +80% of there time in this area! Adding, deleting or modifying Users is a key part of the day to day maintenance of a phone system.