Siemens launch back office, desktop VOIP wares

New products aimed at VOIP networks

Shoretel and Siemens recently launched new products aimed at those who manage and maintain VOIP networks, and the people who use these systems all day long.

Shortel introduced a management and troubleshooting application -- ShoreWare System Monitor -- for its line of IP/digital hybrid phone systems. The software provides network monitoring and diagnostics for VOIP traffic generated by the vendor's equipment, as well as network gear from other vendors, the company says. The company also updated its call-center package.

Meanwhile, Siemens launched a new line of IP desktop phones, built to attract the iPod set, with a touch-pad interface and PC-like features and applications.

ShoreWare System Monitor uses Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to monitor and collect data from network devices, as well as Shortel's ShoreGear IP/digital voice switches, IP phones and application servers. The software correlates overall network performance and Shortel equipment performance data, then provides reports and visual displays for administrators. The software allows users to identify VOIP-specific problems in the network, and fix the issues through a Web interface tool.

Along with the management software, the vendor also released an update to its call center application, Contact Center 4.6. This software runs on a Microsoft Windows server alongside ShoreGear equipment -- LAN-based phone switches, which support up to 24 digital phones, wired into the device, or IP phones, which connect to the box over IP.

Call agents on the system can use a hardware phone, or softphone client built into the Web-based desktop interface software. The application also can link to CRM and database software applications and provide "screen pops," where customer data is pushed to an agent when that customer calls into the system.

Contact Center 4.6 provides standard call-center features for Shoretel users -- such as call routing and queuing as well as call center reporting and traffic monitoring. The new software supports a feature called "Universal Queue," which combines voice, e-mail and Web-based chat applications into a single interface for agents. Customer help requests from phone calls, or via the Web, can be routed to any agent attached to the system, because all communication modes are supported, the company says.

Contact Center 4.6 also supports Double-Take server failover software from Sunbelt Software. This allows administrators to set up a primary and backup Shortel Contact Center server, which would keep a call center online in case of a primary server failure, the company says. Contact Center 4.6 packages start at US$5,500 for 10 agents.

On the user side of VOIP, Siemens launched its OpenStage IP phone family. Along with a receiver and dial-pad buttons, the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based IP phones run an embedded Linux operating system (on some models) with a color LCD display to access directories, Web sites or corporate applications. For navigating features and applications, the phones include a scroll wheel interface device and touch-sensitive feature buttons, which should be familiar to iPod users.

The OpenStage phones include OpenStage 20, 40, 60 and 80 models. These phones can attach to any SIP-based IP PBX -- such as Asterisk or Cisco CallManager 5.0 -- as well as the Siemens HiPath 8000 IP PBX. Attaching the phones to a third-part SIP server only allows 40 or so basic SIP features; several hundred features are accessible when the phones are attached to a Siemens HiPath 8000 server.

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