Cisco fits IP call system to branches

Aiming to simplify telecommunications at small companies and branch offices of large enterprises, Cisco is now offering IP telephony software similar to its CallManager on routers made for or already deployed at those sites.

The network infrastructure vendor Thursday announced CallManager Express, software that can be integrated directly into Cisco IOS on routers ranging from the Cisco 1700 Series to the Cisco 3600 Series. An additional element, the Cisco Unity Express voice mail and automated attendant system, requires a hardware module as well as software. They can be used for a branch office telephony system with Cisco IP phones.

The current CallManager software, which runs on a server instead of a router, is designed for use in large facilities rather than sites with fewer than 100 employees, said Rick Moran, vice president of marketing for voice products at Cisco. Some enterprises roll out IP telephony beginning with branches because it is easier to deploy it first with smaller numbers of employees, he said. The new software is intended for sites with 24 to 100 users, said Mark Monday, director of product management for access voice.

CallManager Express provides IP telephony call processing functions like those traditionally carried out by PBXes and key systems, including call pick up from another local extension, call forwarding, paging and intercom. Along with Cisco Unity Express, it can provide a full IP telephony system inside a router, according to Cisco. Companies also can deploy a variety of XML applications via Cisco IP phones.

The system is intended for "full-service" branches, which may have their own voice mail systems and connections to the Internet and the public telephone network rather than getting all of those functions through a corporate WAN to headquarters. A Cisco branch router can be an all-in-one voice and data platform for a full service branch, the company said. For example, it can be equipped with a WAN interface such as a T-1, VPN support, a power switch for IP phones, flash memory for telephone on-hold music and 100M bit/sec LAN ports, in addition to the CallManager Express and Unity Express features.

Integrating call processing into IOS makes it easier to manage, which is important at branches because they often lack a full-time IT staff, Monday said. Like other features in IOS, it can be managed through CiscoWorks and via Telnet, he said.

Cisco expects most customers to deploy CallManager Express on existing routers. Both are available immediately worldwide. Call Manager Express is available in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Unity Express is available now in English. A future version coming early next year will include the other four languages as well as additional voice mail functions.

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