Siemens, Shoreline tackle converged applications

Siemens AG and Shoreline Communications Inc. this week are scheduled to announce voice-over-IP products with different approaches for expanding converged voice and data applications in corporations.

Siemens is merging its enterprise and carrier IP voice platforms into a combined offering that carriers could use to host IP Centrex services for businesses or very large companies, the company says.

Meanwhile, Shoreline is set to release its ShoreConference server, which the company says will let small and mid-sized businesses (SMB) host large-scale teleconferences. It includes interactive document sharing and collaboration features.

Dubbed the Surpass Business Connection, Siemens’ product is based on the company’s Surpass hiG softswitch, an IP-based voice platform for carriers. Surpass provides Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based VoIP services to IP phone customers and is installed in the networks of carriers such as BellSouth, SBC and Cablevision as a Class 5 switch replacement, or for managing broadband phone service over IP.

The softswitch is combined with Siemens’ HiPath enterprise IP PBX software, for adding enterprise PBX call control and handling features such as call forwarding and conferencing. The third component of the offering is the OpenScape converged messaging middleware platform, introduced in March.

Carriers could use the Surpass Business Connection to provide a hosted IP PBX service, and support for branch-office phones, teleworkers and mobile workers with cell phones. Siemens says that a business with such a service could take advantage of unified voice and data applications that span TDM, VoIP and cellular networks. Siemens estimates that a service based on Surpass Business Connection could cost a company 20 per cent less than managing its own in-house IP PBX.

Shoreline also is looking to drive convergence into SMBs, but with an approach based on customer premises equipment. The company this week is scheduled to announce its ShoreConference server, a Linux-based server application that can be used to set up voice conference calls across an IP WAN. The server works with Shoreline’s ShoreGear IP PBX, a device that supports 12 or 24 analogue phones, and provides IP-based call-control and routing by plugging into a corporate LAN. End users’ call functions, such as forwarding, hold and voice-mail settings are accessed through a PC-based computer telephony integration client that ties into the ShoreGear box.

The ShoreConference server can sit anywhere on an IP network and supports voice conference sessions for up to 96 people, the company says. A browser-based application can be used to set schedule times for the conference calls, and an application tie-in to a Microsoft Exchange server lets reminder e-mails be sent to conference participants. Integration with Microsoft Exchange also lets users set up conference calls on the fly by clicking on names in an Outlook address book.

In addition to voice conferencing, ShoreConference lets users integrate document collaboration into a voice conference call, similar to hosted services such as WebEx. A conference leader can call up any document on a PC and share the data with conference participants through an application tied into the ShoreGear IP PBX and ShoreConference server.

The ShoreConference server costs US$1,000 per port for voice conferencing. The data collaboration feature is scheduled to be available in the first quarter of next year, with pricing to be determined.