Merrill Lynch returns to Cisco for VOIP rollout

After balking on a Cisco Systems VOIP project in 2003, Merrill Lynch & Co. is going back to the vendor for a 600-site IP telephony rollout in the financial firm's retail branches.

The Cisco voice system will be deployed on top of an existing all-Cisco switching and routing infrastructure, with the project due to start in mid-2005.

Tapping Cisco for the large branch office VOIP project comes after a much-publicized pullout of Cisco IP telephony gear in the vendor's corporate offices in Hopewell, N.J., and Tokyo. The company said it wanted to move towards a hybrid IP/TDM phone system, and chose to install Avaya equipment, which can support both traditional digital and IP phone sets. Merrill Lynch was an Avaya customer before deploying the Cisco VOIP gear.

"This is a different part of their environment," says Charlie Giancarlo, Cisco's CTO. "The past situation was regarding one of their corporate office sites. This deal involvers 600 branch offices."

Merrill Lynch has said that it did not completely scrap Cisco IP telephony gear in its network. Cisco IP phones still run in many Merrill Lynch offices.

In addition to the Cisco IP telephony gear and Unity unified messaging system, Merrill Lynch will also use Cisco's new Advanced Services, which combines network planning, technical support and business process reorganization services.

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