Cisco expands convergence offerings

Cisco Systems Canada Co.’s latest router modules are said to enable scalable voice, video and data integration on some existing Cisco routers.

Several of the new products are based on Cisco’s various multiservice platforms, which Louie Di Diodato, consulting systems engineer with Cisco in Toronto, explained is a modular router format. He said line cards can be swapped out, allowing customers to start with entry-level products such as analogue diallers.

“Then if I want to go up to frame relay, I just take out the analogue dial component of the single network module and replace it with a serial interface that can do frame relay,” Di Diodato said.

Dan McLean, senior analyst, network support, with IDC Canada in Toronto, said convergence products built as add-ons are a smart plan for vendors.

“Vendors have a much greater chance of success doing it that way than convincing someone to buy a whole new type of equipment. For the past couple years, vendors have been building this functionality into the equipment that they’re selling, and it’s been there and kind of latent. The plan was to eventually build out new functions that people could place into this existing equipment that would give them added functionality,” McLean said.

The new Digital T-1/E-1 High Capacity Voice Port Adapter allows customers to add voice to the Cisco 7200 and 7500 series routers, while the T-1/E-1 Multiflex Voice/WAN Interface Card and Digital T-1/E-1 Packet Voice Trunk Network Modules bring voice to the Cisco 2600 and 3600 Multiservice Platforms.

“[The voice trunk network modules] are used to plug into a PBX so you can take the PBX traffic and move it across your router network or to plug into the PSTN if you had a need to get PBX traffic out to the local calling area,” Di Diodato said.

“Today, they only support one form of signalling with the PBX called T-1 channel associated signalling, which is an old protocol that most PBXs support but isn’t quite as rich as, say, ISDN D-channel signalling. So in our next software release we’ll enable that.”

The new Cisco 3660 Multiservice Platform serves as a chassis for the cards with six slots, whereas the previous 3620 and 3640 only supported up to four cards, Di Diodato said.

“If you just buy a 3660, you can’t do anything with it. It’s like a computer with no brains. It has no ports for any type of network connection whatsoever. Likewise, you can’t run the card unless you have a chassis…with slots for the cards to be put into,” Di Diodato explained.

Also available is the new Cisco Multimedia Conference Manager (MCM) H.323 Gatekeeper for the 2600 and 7200 series. This software is already available on the 2500, 3600 and 3810. MCM provides quality-of-service management for voice and video by giving those connections priority over data traffic.

Di Diodato and IDC’s McLean agreed that the main motivator for convergence products at this point is cost.

“There are some tremendous savings to be achieved by placing your voice traffic across a LAN,” McLean said. “The equipment itself is certainly much less expensive and the notion of not having to use a carrier service for some of your voice calls is a savings achievement as well.”

The various voice adapters and modules range in price from $11,692 to $36,340. The entry-level price for the 3660 Multiservice platform is $16,900. The Multiflex Voice/WAN Interface Card pricing begins at $2,054.

Cisco Systems in Toronto is at 1-800-553-6387 or on the Internet at