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One Small Step Toward VoIP


Enterprises of all sizes and their solutions providers are finding in many cases migrating to VoIP can be akin to a trip to the moon with equipment, coordination and expense required for launch much more than they expected or can bear. Vendors now are addressing this reality with migration appliances as stop-gap solutions or even foundational platforms for incremental converged applications.

“Most folks that look at VoIP think you have to switch out your entire LAN environment and put SIP phones in or a Cisco [Systems Inc.] AVVID system, which from a capital perspective is a barrier to entry,” says Jim Poole, vice president of carrier sales and alternate channels for SAVVIS Inc. “People want the cost savings and the sexy features of the service, but when they look at the fact that they have a Nortel [Networks Inc.] Meridian that works really well, and is paid for, it doesn’t seem an appealing proposition.”


The net.com SHOUT family supports ISDN, NI-2, CAS, R2, Q.SIG, H.323 and SIP, and SIP over TCP as well as proprietary IP protocols, such as Avaya’s DCS/DCS+, Siemens’ Cor-Net, Alcatel’s ABC, Mitel’s MSDN and Nortel’s MCDN systems.

To answer this objection, SAVVIS this spring rolled out to its partners the Enterprise Connect services line, a phased approach to VoIP deployments. Phase one of the product, which was developed in concert with AccessLine Communications Corp., includes a media gateway that sits on the customer’s premises between the PBX and outgoing trunks to enable VoIP efficiencies and applications on existing infrastructure. The gateway is available with a PRI interface for digital PBXs as well as one for individual analog phone lines, from four to 24 lines, common at smaller offices and branch offices. The gateway is included with a managed services contract so there is no capital outlay for the end user. SAVVIS partners are compensated on a monthly basis according to volume.

The media gateway handles the bandwidth management, including transcoding compression schemes, and also the call control. “It’s the entry level of the product as a replacement for a measured business line or traditional tie line,” explains Poole. He adds that it also enables add-on hosted applications such as Microsoft Outlook integration, conferencing, disaster recovery and “find-me, follow-me” services.

“The idea is you [already] have a WAN environment connecting your offices,” says Gerard Healy, SAVVIS’ national director of sales for alternate channels, explaining that it’s easy to install the gateway to have interoffice calls on-net at no charge. AccessLine provides termination to the PSTN for off-net calling.

SAVVIS also is offering phases two and three of the service for different or evolving customer profiles. Phase two provides a SIP interface to an installed IP PBX. Phase three is a hosted solution for those companies that don’t want an IP PBX. “They will go ahead and purchase the IP phones and we will provide all call control in the network,” says Poole, noting the hosted service is scheduled for release in mid to late third quarter.

net.com also has a migration appliance called the SHOUT VMA (VoIP Migration Appliance), which was customized in May for large global enterprises.

VMA enables savings by taking calls off the TDM network and putting them on the IP backbone. “Companies that are moving to VoIP are upgrading their routers, their switches, putting in a ton of gear,” says Brenda Ropoulos, director of corporate relations for net.com. “One of SHOUT’s real strengths is its BSP (BESTflow Signaling Protocol) as well as frame packaging, which compresses the bandwidth so a lot less is used with greater quality. So, what enterprises that are doing a migration will find is not only do they not need to totally rip out their TDM stuff and get rid of the PBXs that have their functions on them they are used to, but they also dont have to go through a massive upgrade in the network itself to handle new traffic.”

With VMA, enterprises also can avoid the costs of upgrading their PBXs. “To upgrade an existing PBX to IP, you are looking at $300 to $1,300 per station,” says Matt Krueger, director of channel strategy for net.com. SHOUT comes in a 900 version, which suits most companies and handles one to eight T1s/E1s and up to 200 calls simultaneously. A larger version, the 2500, manages up to 32 T1s/E1s and up to 1,000 calls. The platforms range in price from $15,000 to $30,000 for the 900 and $30,000 to $100,000 for the 2500. Partners typically earn a margin on the equipment and sell the install and maintenance contracts directly. Referral options also are available.

Another important capability of the VMA is it provides mediation between varying protocols for any-to-any connectivity, says Krueger. SHOUT’s VMA enables a SIP and H.323 device to talk to each other. “For the partner, this provides long-term revenue in terms of services and maintenance and upsell opportunities,” he says.

This is key to the platform’s potentially long-term role in the network. Krueger says Microsoft Corp., for example, deployed VMA to connect some 800 disparate PBXs around the globe. Now, they are starting to connect other apps to it like Microsoft’s document-sharing software, SharePoint, which is used in its intranet. When hooked up to SHOUT, Microsoft’s new presence server, Live Communications Server, will allow employees presence on the network, on the phone or even a cell phone. Krueger says the cell phone application requires dualmode handsets, but VMA is capable of facilitating hand-off of calls from the GSM to wireless LAN.

“It’s an evolutionary product,” says Krueger. “It’s a long-term play as companies figure out their VoIP strategy.”

Links
AccessLine Communications Corp. www.accessline.com
Cisco Systems Inc. www.cisco.com
Microsoft Corp. www.microsoft.com
Net.com www.net.com
Nortel Networks Inc. www.nortelnetworks.com
SAVVIS Inc. www.savvis.net

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