Shoreline Beefs Up IP PBX With Enhanced Features

SUNNYVALE, CALIF. (04/03/2000) - A small IP telephony switch vendor is joining bigger players in unveiling an enterprise-class IP PBX system that can route calls over the LAN or WAN for large numbers of users.

Shoreline Communications has announced Version 2.0 of the Shoreline Communications System, which can support up to 1,200 users in a WAN or converged campus network. Although the Shoreline product does not reach the capacity of Cisco's new CallManager 3.0 - which claims support for up to 10 clusters of 10,000 users each - it offers additional telephony features that some analysts say the Cisco products lack.

For example, Shoreline 2.0 gives users the ability to fall back on an automated attendant and offers a built-in voice mail feature that can be integrated into Microsoft Outlook mailboxes for unified messaging. With that, Shoreline hopes to carve out a share of the voice-over-IP market, which Framingham, Massachusetts, market research firm IDC projects to grow from 1.16 billion minutes of use this year to 60 billion in 2004.

The core of the Shoreline 2.0 system is a newly expanded 24-port voice switch - up from 12 ports in the current version - called the ShoreGear IPBX-24.

The 19 inch box, which Shoreline executives liken to a stackable Ethernet switch, can be housed in a single wiring closet or distributed across a WAN in virtually any combination to a maximum of 50 for a total capacity of 1,200 ports. "It is a stackable, rackable architecture," says John Fazio, Shoreline's president and CEO.

Also delivered with the system is ShoreWare 2.0 call-control software, which resides on a Windows NT server and includes voice mail, automated attendant and call detail reporting features. Additional client-side software gives users the ability to manipulate their messages from their desktop PCs via the Microsoft Outlook user interface.

The ShoreGear voice switch provides connectivity to 24 analog phones, with an auto-sensing 10/100M bit/sec Ethernet port to connect to the IP backbone. For WAN connections, Fazio says users will need an IP network with a "reasonable" service-level agreement. That means not only high network availability, but also less than 250 milliseconds of latency and "reasonable" jitter - the variation in average latency.

Because not all IP VPNs offer latency and jitter guarantees, users can link multiple ShoreGear switches over their existing frame relay networks, Fazio says. But he cautions that every frame relay location equipped with a Shoreline switch should be upgraded to at least a 384K bit/sec network connection because the 24 voice ports - especially combined with frame relay data traffic - will max out slower connections. Alternatively, Shoreline recommends linking IP PBX locations over fractional T-1 links or digital subscriber line access at 384K bit/sec and up.

Version 2.0 also includes a new 4-port switch called the ShoreGear IPBX-4 Teleworker, which is designed for telecommuter sites. Even users at corporate sites can perform a money-saving maneuver by harnessing a remote worker's Teleworker-4 box. They can access a Teleworker in another city, obtain dial tone and place local calls in that remote city without paying long-distance tolls.

Unlike other IP PBX players such as Cisco, Shoreline does not manufacture an IP phone and instead supports standard analog phones. Fazio says Shoreline expects to make partnership announcements in the future to produce phones for shipment with its system.

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