Cisco expands IP telephony portfolio

Cisco Systems announced Monday a dozen hardware and software products designed to make IP telephony systems more secure, easier to manage and fault tolerant.

CallManager 3.2, the latest version of Cisco's IP telephony management software, offers upgraded security and supports 10 European languages, in addition to English, Cisco said.

The software uses digital certificates to authenticate phones and users on the network, in order to prevent hackers from breaking in, disrupting business and making free calls, said Phil Dean, marketing manager for Cisco's voice products in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

"We haven't had any reports of IP telephony systems being attacked, but as the world becomes more familiar with IP telephony it is something people will get into. We want to close the door before it happens," said Dean.

Cisco announced a variety of other IP telephony products Monday:

-- The company unveiled the Cisco Conference Connection, which allows a user to set up conference calls, and Media Gateway Control Protocol (MGCP) support for Cisco's 2600 and 3600 routers. MGCP allows connections to third party products, such as PBXs (Private Branch Exchanges), Dean said.

-- Also announced was an addition to Cisco's Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data (AVVID) -- the Survivable/Standby Remote Site Telephone (SRST) upgrade to the operating system of the Cisco 7200 router, said Dean. The 7200 router would be deployed at a remote office, servicing up to 500 phones.

"A user can have centralized call management with resilience. If the connection breaks between the call manager and the remote office, you still have service," said Dean, noting that the local 7200 router, equipped with the SRST, can take over when the connection with the central call manager is lost. Previously, all phones at the offsite location would go dead.

-- For smaller branch offices, Cisco developed the Cisco Catalyst 4200, providing support for IBM Corp.'s SNA (Systems Network Architecture) and Novell Inc.'s IPX (Internetwork Packet Exchange) networking protocols.

"The Catalyst 4200 brings together all functionality in one product. It, for example, includes an IP switch with powering for the phones. It offers integration with existing protocols in a single box," said Dean.

-- Cisco also added products to ease migration from a PBX to an IP-based system. Traditional telephones at remote sites at the end of a cable that can be up to 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) long can be connected to an IP network using the Cisco VG 248 Voice Analog Gateway, said Dean.

-- The new High Density Analog Voice/Fax Network Modules, which plug into the 2600 and 3600 routers, also allow users to connect existing hardware. To support the plug-in modules Cisco sells the Advanced Integration Modules (AIM) Voice-30, providing processing capability for compressing voice and digitizing faxes, Dean said.

-- The only hardware announced Monday that goes on an end-user's desk is the Cisco 7914 Expansion Module, which connects to the side of the Cisco 7960 phone. The module adds buttons and display capability to the phone, said Dean.

-- Targeted at service providers such as telecommunication companies, the Cisco Internet Services Node (ISN) 1.0 can be the basis of a voice response service.

-- Other products announced Monday, but only available in the U.S., are the Cisco IP Contact Center bundle and the 911 Emergency-Response Service, which provides location information to emergency services.

Pricing, valid worldwide, with all products available today, except for CallManager 3.2, due out Dec. 31, and the High Density Analog Voice/Fax Network Modules, due out Dec. 28. includes: Catalyst 4200 SNA/IPX, US$12,995; Conference Connection, $21,000; 7914 Expansion Module, $428; AIM Voice 30, $4,000; VG 248 Voice Analog Gateway, $11,995; MGCP support for 2600 and 3600 routers, free Cisco IOS upgrade; SRST with Cisco 7200 routers, $16,250; ISN 1.0, $3,500; High Density Analog Voice/Fax Network Modules, from $3,900; CallManager 3.2, free upgrade from version 3.1 or $5,995 for new installations. Pricing for the Cisco IP Contact Center bundle and the 911 Emergency Response Service was not available.

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