Cabletron officially unveils internetworking plan

Cabletron Systems' recently announced convergence strategy varies little from the plans outlined by senior executives last fall.

Cabletron divulged its Inherent Internetworking convergence blueprint at the CeBit 2000 show in Hanover, Germany, last week. The strategy is intended to provide enterprises with a migration path to standards-based, multiservice networks that merge voice, data and video.

Like the plan outlined by Cabletron executives last fall, Inherent Internetworking focuses on WAN convergence, PBX augmentation - as opposed to replacement - and building "basic" voice networks. The strategy builds upon the Layer 3 to Layer 4 switching capabilities of Cabletron's SmartSwitch Router, the management features of its Spectrum software, a voice-over-IP gateway and the company's professional services offerings.

Cabletron's differentiator is that features such as quality of service, prioritization, bandwidth management and accounting are baked into hardware, whereas Cisco, Lucent and Nortel Networks rely on software for these functions, claims Ray Wright, Cabletron's senior director of voice and convergence solutions.

The WAN convergence piece hinges on Cabletron's SmartVoice Gateway. This device, which scales from four analog ports to 960 voice/fax channels, allows integration of existing PBXs, key systems and additional voice switches onto data networks. The gateway lets users reduce telecommunications costs via toll bypass of domestic and international voice/fax calls, Cabletron says.

The PBX augmentation plan is designed to let customers extend their current voice networks to smaller sites supporting a reduced number of users. To do this, Cabletron in the third quarter will release "soft-PBX" features on a telephony server. This server will handle call signaling for voice traffic that switches across the data network.

For "basic" voice networks, Cabletron claims its existing SmartSwitches and SmartSwitch Routers can transport all voice traffic across a data network without the need for a PBX or key system. This method is designed for small and midsize businesses requiring only limited voice connections and services.

Coming soon

As for new products, Cabletron plans to unveil an H.323 gatekeeper in the second quarter. This will enable users to establish H.323 domains in which the gatekeeper determines who can access a specific voice-over-IP gateway.

Also in the second quarter, Cabletron will roll out a public network voice gateway for service providers. It will support Signaling System 7, and voice service billing and accounting capabilities.

In the third quarter, Cabletron will add Web-based call centre support to its existing Web-hosting products.

Missing from the Cabletron strategy are applications for converged networks, such as unified messaging and customer relationship management. Wright says Cabletron is looking to partner with software vendors developing these applications.

He also says a "key" to Cabletron's IP telephony application portfolio is the openness of the company's telephony server platform. An open interface will make it easier for software vendors to write several telephony applications to the Cabletron server, he says.

Cabletron may offer this API on its Web site, Wright says. This method was successful in getting software vendors to write applications to the company's Spectrum flow accounting protocol API over the past year, he says.

This API enables users to track application flows so they can bill company departments for network usage.

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