Cisco Touts IP Telephony to the Enterprise

SAN MATEO (03/27/2000) - Tackling the notion that IP (Internet Protocol) telephony systems have not yet showed enough muscle for prime-time deployment in large enterprises, Cisco Systems Inc. today rolled out its second-generation enterprise-level IP telephony products for its convergence platform called Architecture for Voice, Video, and Integrated Data (AVVID).

"These products bring the scalability and high availability that enterprise customers have been waiting for in order to deploy large scale IP telephony solutions," said Marthin De Beer, senior director of marketing the enterprise voice business unit.

The new line of products include Cisco CallManager 3.0 software, the Cisco IP Phone 7960 and the 7910, and the Media Convergence Server (MCS) 7835. In addition, Cisco has integrated packet telephony features, such as gateway interface cards and a 48 port 10/100 Ethernet switch module, into its Catalyst 6000 switch line.

"Scalability and the implementation factor are the major issues for large enterprises looking at telephony solutions," said Terre Bracco, principal analyst for enterprise infrastructure at Current Analysis, in Sterling, Virginia. "These large enterprises already have voice systems in place that work well. They don't want to go to a lot of trouble and expense to rebuild their voice system. And they don't want to experience any outages or degradation in quality. Your voice system has to have high quality."

The IP Phone 7960 is a display-based IP communication device with six programmable feature buttons and four interactive soft keys that help guide a user through calls. The phone features an integrated 10/100 Ethernet switch port, which allows Fast Ethernet connectivity for any PC hooked up to the phone. The 7960 lets users pull information from any Web server and display it on its large display screen. In addition, the phone is capable of displaying voice-mail messages in text on the display, which lets users select and listen to voice messages out of order, similar to reading e-mail, Cisco officials said. The 7910 is an entry-level version the IP phone with comparative features, but at lower cost.

The Cisco IP phones can help reduce the cost of moving users, which usually requires reconfiguring the PBX, according to Cisco. You can plug and unplug the IP phone, much like a PC, to follow the user. The IP phone uses an IP address to talk to the server and can download the user profile to the phone when it is moved.

That kind of mobility and ease of use is a major factor for cutting costs in enterprises, according to Bracco.

"The driving force right now for IP telephony is lowering the cost of moves, adds, and changes in the PBX. That cost is so much larger than anyone thinks it is," Bracco said. "A lot of companies have a lot money sunk into the PBX, so they are slow to adopt new IP telephony solutions. But when you start talking about doing away with the huge amount of money enterprises are spending on moves, adds, and changes, that changes the equation. Sometimes those budgets can exceed six figures."

Version 3.0 of Cisco CallManager software can group multiple CallManager servers into a single cluster and manage it as a single unit, according to Cisco. This distributed call processing enhances the availability of the servers to phones, gateways, and applications, and it helps the system scale to handle the call-processing demands of large enterprises. For example, the system can scale from 10 users in a small branch office on a single server to as many as 100,000 users in a large enterprise, according to De Beer.

Addressing the sticky issue of supplying power to IP telephony systems, which can be susceptible to power outages, Cisco is offering several choices for providing power to the devices.

Cisco's 48-port 10/100 line card that sits inside the Catalyst 6000 switch with an Inline Power daughter module can provide 48 volts of DC power through Ethernet cable to the IP phone systems. By providing power to the IP phone through Ethernet cable, phones will remain powered and running in the event of a power outage in the building, Cisco said. Cisco is also offering an Inline Power patch panel, which lets users upgrade existing LAN switches with the capability of powering IP phones.

"You can power the IP phone from a regular wall jack or you can power it through the Ethernet cable from the switch," De Beer said.

Cisco is also announcing the VG200 gateway that lets users connect IP telephones to the PSTN or BBX, a 24-port analog gateway, and an 8-port T1 gateway.

All the IP telephony products announced today will be available beginning in April, except the IP Phone 7910, which will begin shipping in late July. The Cisco IP Phone 7960 is priced at US$495 plus license and the 7910 version is priced at $145 plus license.

CallManager 3.0 comes pre-installed on the Cisco MCS 7835, which is priced at $14,995. The Catalyst Inline Power patch panel is priced at $4,995. The VG200 is priced starting at $2,495, the 24-port analog gateway begins at $9,995, and the T1 gateway starts at $19,995. The 48-port 10/100 card for the Catalyst 6000 is shipping now priced starting at $12,995.

Cisco Systems Inc., in San Jose, California, is at http://www.cisco.com/.

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