Cisco launches IP telephony gear

Cisco Systems Inc. last week bolstered an already dominant position in the IP telephony market with a slew of products and upgrades, including a US$165 IP-based telephone.

The IP push was welcomed by Forged Metals Inc., an aerospace products supplier in Fontana, Calif., and an early adopter of one of the 16 new products, the Cisco Content Transformation Engine 1400.

Forged Metals recently converted its corporate network to an IP network and is using the CTE 1400 to automatically transfer HTML content to XML and other formats, said Ken Rowley, vice president of IS.

Forged Metals' sales personnel can now access customer information in an Oracle database via wireless smart phones from Kyocera Wireless Corp. as well as from their desktops. "We're pretty pleased with it," Rowley said.

The IP network has saved Forged Metals thousands of dollars in monthly carrier costs for calls inside the network. And the company has been able to eliminate the telecommunications manager position, Rowley said.

Joe Gagan, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston, said Cisco is the "clear leader" in IP telephony. The US$165 IP phone that Cisco announced will help reinforce that position, because high prices for IP phones have been a barrier for some customers, he added.

Also key is Cisco's upgrade in scalability of its central IP PBX product, the CallManager 3.3, Gagan said. Cisco said it can now support 30,000 IP phone users on a cluster of five servers, up from a maximum of 10,000. Gagan said 3Com Corp. in Santa Clara, Calif., is second to Cisco in the IP networking market.

Nortel Networks Ltd. in Brampton, Ontario, dismissed Cisco's announcements.

"We see Cisco trying to catch up with where we've gone," said Tony Pereira, director of enterprise product marketing at Nortel.

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