Vendors enhance VoIP wares

Three leading networking companies hope their latest IP telephony rollouts will give them a leg up in building next-generation converged enterprise networks.

Cisco Systems Inc., 3Com Corp. and Nortel Networks Corp. all made product and customer announcements at the recent NetWorld+Interop 2000 show in an effort to jockey for leadership in the emerging voice-over-IP market. Voice over IP and IP telephony are considered the next big thing to hit enterprise networks with the potential to churn the US$25 billion PBX installed base.

Cisco announced the Integrated Communications System (ICS) 7750, a telephony platform that appears to be gunning for 3Com’s key voice-over-IP enterprise branch-office products. The ICS 7750 is a modular chassis that combines data and voice networking, call processing and IP telephony applications on a single platform, as opposed to two or three separate products.

The ICS 7750 six-slot chassis houses a variety of WAN link, voice trunk and analogue device modules. Cisco offers two types of cards in the ICS 7750: the Multiservice Route Processor (MRP) and the System Processing Engine (SPE).

The MRP router/voice gateway card has two interface slots that support voice and WAN interface cards. The SPE is an embedded application server that supports call processing and IP telephony applications, such as unified messaging.

The ICS 7750 also has a system switch processor with two 100Mbps Ethernet ports for connecting any required Cisco Catalyst LAN switch to the system. A single ICS 7750 can support up to 150 IP phones, Cisco said.

“Cisco is now better-positioned to fulfill the long-term convergence needs of enterprise branch offices and midmarket businesses” with the ICS 7750, wrote Ron Westfall, an analyst at Current Analysis of Sterling, Va., in a recent report.

The ICS 7750 costs US$765 per user and will be available in the third quarter.

3Com says the ICS 7750 is Cisco’s response to its NBX 100 voice-over-IP platform.

“Imitation is the strongest form of flattery,” said Ed Wadbrook, director of the voice solutions group in 3Com’s Commercial and Consumer Networks business unit. “This particular product has strong similarities to what we at 3Com have been shipping in the market for 20 months.”

3Com has an installed base of 5,000 NBX 100 users and 500 resellers, Wadbrook says.

For its part, 3Com unveiled some voice-over-IP extensions of its own. Release 2.6 of the NBX 100 enhances the system’s T-1/E-1 Primary Rate Interface (PRI) services and includes support for Microsoft’s Windows 2000.

The new T-1/E-1 PRI services include E-911 connectivity over PRI circuits and access to more T-1 carrier services, such as automatic number identification (ANI) for enhanced inbound call center operations. The E-911 capabilities provide location and call-back service, and support for ANI to identify the location of an end user for the emergency service. The NBX 100 system supports up to three T-1 PRI circuits.

3Com has also updated the NBX application suite to support Win 2000. The NBX pcXSet provides telephony features and functions on desktop PCs; NBX ConneXtions, an H.323 gateway; and NBX Call Report, a call detail reporting package. The upgrade is free to existing NBX 100 system customers.

An NBX 100 Version 2.6 system with one T-1 PRI circuit, 50 multiline handsets, multilevel auto attendant ports and unified messaging costs approximately US$30,000. It will be available in July.

Voice-over-IP product rollouts are one thing, but customers are where the rubber meets the road. Nortel announced that Symantec and Gestalt Technology are conducting trials of its Succession Internet Telephony products, including the new Succession Communication Server for the Enterprise (CSE).

Symantec is using Nortel’s i2004 Internet telephones, which let remote employees connect to the corporate network via digital subscriber lines for voice service, voice mail, e-mail and faxes. Gestalt, a provider of Web-hosting and Internet consulting services, is testing the CSE’s unified messaging features.

The CSE will be available midyear at a cost of US$850 to US$1,000 per user.

Cisco is at;

3Com is at;

Nortel is at