Cisco to ease voice-data integration on WAN Links

Information technology managers looking for a way to save money on long-distance calls between sites can use several new products from Cisco Systems to put that traffic on their data networks.

The devices take voice traffic from private branch exchanges and pass it to high-end Cisco routers or access concentrators, which in turn send it over frame-relay, Asynchronous Transfer Mode or IP links to their often far-flung sites, eliminating the need for separate voice networks.

But this is likely only a hit for users with heavy internal -- but limited external -- calling, especially if some of those external calls are running over very expensive international telephone networks.

Most users have outsourced internal and some external calls to large telephone companies, and some users are fearful of packetised voice for reliability reasons, said Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp consultancy. "Most voice isn't intracompany to begin with, and only 20 to 25 per cent of companies have multiple sites," he said.

However, if managers are looking to add more traffic to their router-based data networks, adding voice could be a rational strategy, Nolle said.

The Cisco products include a high-density T1 voice card that lets its 7200 and 7500 series routers handle 24 channels, as opposed to the original four voice interfaces to its popular 2600 and 3600 branch office access concentrators and the 3660 -- a high-end addition to the line.

"We plan to use them to support calls between our domestic and international sites over leased lines and in some cases frame-relay connections," said Jeff Walton, senior network engineer at NuSkin in Utah. "We think this is more cost-effective for most international calls." The personal care and nutrition products company has three US sites and 26 international locations.

The Cisco products can provide a more scalable and flexible alternative to upgrading or replacing widely used but ageing T1 multiplexers for combining voice and data over a single wide-area network line, said Jeremy Duke, president of Synergy Research. That's because users need only to add the voice modules to their existing routers and branch office concentrators.

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