Cisco Raises its VoIP

  • Jim Duffy (Computerworld)
  • 27 March, 2000 12:01

SAN JOSE, CALIF. (03/27/2000) - Cisco Systems Inc. this week is expected to significantly expand its voice/data convergence portfolio with 10 new products, including some designed to scale LAN telephony environments to tens of thousands of users.

The products are intended to help users build large-scale campus voice-over-IP networks using Cisco's LAN switches and routers. Users will also be able to connect these environments to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) for wide-area connectivity, sources say.

Cisco views IP telephony as the next "tornado" to hit large enterprises because it has the potential to radically change the $25 billion PBX industry, says Senior Vice President James Richardson. So Cisco is attempting to leapfrog competitors Lucent and Nortel Networks with a comprehensive IP telephony offering while the two telecom giants take baby steps into packet telephony to avoid disrupting their installed PBX bases.

Cisco declined to comment on the product splash.

The gear is part of Cisco's voice/video/data convergence plan known as Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data (AVVID). AVVID gear will ostensibly help users overcome the performance limitations of Cisco's current generation of IP phones and call processing software, which are taxed when connections approach 500 users, according to beta-tester Merrill Lynch.

"We could not roll with the [previous generation] at all," says Adam Schoenfeld, director of private client architecture in Merrill Lynch's distributed systems development group in Princeton, N.J. "The speakerphone is not good, the electronics have a slight fade in the clarity of voice. . . . The quality is not quite consistent enough."

Merrill Lynch is building an 8,000-employee, "PBX-free" campus in Hopewell, N.J., that will have a voice/data network based on Cisco's AVVID telephony products. The products include:

CallManager 3.0, Virtual Gateway 200, a 48-port 10/ 100M bit/sec module, and IP Phone 7910 and 7960 (see graphic).

Media Convergence Server 7935, a fault-tolerant server for running CallManager 3.0.

A power patch panel for the Catalyst 4000 and 5000 switches that enables those products to deliver 48 volts of power to IP phones.

A 24-port foreign exchange office (FXO) module for the Catalyst 6000 that enables the switch to support analog phones and fax machines.

Eight-port T-1 and E-1 digital gateway modules for the Catalyst 6000 that let the switch connect digital telephony devices to the PSTN.

In addition to supporting 10,000 users per cluster, up to 10 CallManager 3.0 clusters can be linked to support up to 100,000 users, sources say.

CallManager 3.0 also can be integrated with Microsoft's Active Directory. That would let network executives delegate call processing policies to employees based on user ID, instead of the IP or media access control address of the phone. That enables users to access their call processing policies no matter which IP phone in an organization they are using.

The switched 100M bit/sec connections on the IP Phone 7910 and 7960 should be a big performance boost over the shared 10M bit/sec Ethernet connection on the current IP Telephone Model 30 and Model 12.

The 48-volt daughtercard for the Catalyst 6000 switch means the IP phones won't drain power from the switch itself.

Pricing for the new products could not be determined by press time.