Cisco expands IP telephony portfolio

Cisco has unveiled a range of hardware and software designed to make IP telephony systems more secure, easier to manage and...

Cisco has unveiled a range of hardware and software designed to make IP telephony systems more secure, easier to manage and fault-tolerant.

CallManager 3.2, the latest version of the company's IP telephony management software, offers upgraded security and supports 11 European languages.

The software uses digital certificates to authenticate phones and users on the network, and prevents hackers from disrupting business and making free calls, said Phil Dean, EMEA marketing manager for Cisco's voice products.

"We haven't had any reports of IP telephony systems being attacked. But as the world becomes more familiar with IP telephony, it is something people will get into. We want to close the door before it happens," Dean said.

"Customers want to have their voice systems secure, so you're sure you have dial tone all the time," added Hank Lambert, director of product marketing for Cisco's enterprise voice and video unit.

He added that IP telephony systems are as vulnerable to viruses as any other application.

Cisco unveiled a number of other VoIP products including Cisco Conference Connection, which allows users to set up conference calls; and Media Gateway Control Protocol (MGCP), which supports Cisco's 2600 and 3600 routers. The product allows connections to third-party products, such as private branch exchanges (PBX).

The networking giant also announced an addition to its Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data (AVVID), the Survivable/Standby Remote Site Telephone (SRST) upgrade to the router. The 7200 router could be deployed at a remote office, and is able to service as many as 500 telephones.

"A user can have centralised call management with resilience. If the connection breaks between the call manager and the remote office, you still have service," said Dean, adding that a local 7200 router equipped with the SRST can take over when the connection with the central call manager is lost.

For smaller branch offices, Cisco developed the Cisco Catalyst 4200, providing support for IBM's Systems Network Architecture (SNA) and Novell's IPX networking protocols.

Cisco has also added products to ease migration from a PBX to an IP-based system. Traditional telephones at remote sites can be connected to an IP network using the Cisco VG 248 Voice Analogue Gateway, Dean said.

High Density Analogue Voice/Fax Network Modules, which plug into the 2600 and 3600 routers, allow users to connect existing hardware. To support the plug-in modules Cisco sells the Advanced Integration Modules (AIM) Voice-30, providing processing capability for compressing voice and digitising faxes.

The Cisco 7914 Expansion Module, which connects to the company's 7960 phone, allows users to manage large numbers of incoming calls.

Targeted at service providers, such as telecoms companies, the Cisco ISN (Internet Services Node) 1.0 can be the basis of a voice response service.

Cisco also unveiled a calculation tool to help its internal account managers determine return on investment for its customers.

"A lot of our customers want to understand how they're going to get a payback on IP telephony," Lambert said. "We can predict what [a customer's] results would be if they bought IP telephony from Cisco."

The IP telephony market is continuing to grow, Lambert said, adding that Cisco has shipped more than half a million IP phones to 3,000 customers. However, he said many members of the IT community are not sufficiently skilled to install and service IP telephony systems.

"It's a different skill set, because it combines knowledge of IP data systems with knowledge of telephone [technologies]," Lambert said.

However, advanced applications are opening users' eyes to the value of VoIP, said Bill Carey, product marketing manager for Cisco's customer contact business unit.

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