For several years the term Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has been used to identify the transmission of voice signals over any IP-based network. In the business context, VoIP now refers to the transmission of voice and/or video communications over a managed WAN or LAN.
Avaya was spun off from Lucent Technologies in the year 2000, so that the company now provides voice and data network products primarily for enterprise customers. Through its acquisition of Octel, Avaya is the world’s largest supplier of voice mail systems.
When the early IP-PBXs first came onto the market, from data switch suppliers, Avaya appeared officially to denigrate these products and to emphasize the power of its Definity systems. After a period of uncertainty about its direction, the company now describes the migration to IP telephony as being “an imperative and a necessary strategy for business.”
Avaya introduced a family of media servers and gateways in mid-2002, as its second generation of IP telephony systems, under the name Enterprise Class IP Solutions (ECLIPS). All the features of the Definity range of PBXs and contact center functions are implemented with MultiVantage software that runs in these servers. Some of the capabilities of the three media servers are summarized.
Avaya defines the call processing power of its systems by the number of busy hour call completions (BHCC), which very much depends on the complexity of the processing for each call. For this reason the BHCC number is lower by a factor of two-fifths for contact center calls than for the general mix of calls.
Avaya sells three different softphone packages—one for a desktop or laptop PC, another for pocket PCs that use Windows CE software, and also the IP Agent, which is intended for contact center personnel. There are five IP phones in Avaya’s 46xx range, all with built-in speakerphone and power over the LAN technology. The most expensive model has a full-color, touch-sensitive screen for Web access browsing and six integrated telephony-related applications. A three-port switch base is available for three of the Avaya IP phones, so that a PC can share one LAN outlet with the desktop phone. All of these phones, except the basic model, have an infrared port for communication with a PC or PDA.
Avaya has developed its reputation as North America’s leading supplier in of call center solutions, which are integrated with the Definity PBXs. The company now sells a multimedia contact center system that can interwork with several other major PBX and IVR systems. The modular architecture of Avaya’s Interaction Center software provides for the management of voice calls, e-mail, Web-based interaction, and contact center agents, while providing computer telephony integration to the three most commonly used database systems.
Avaya supplied 25 ECLIPS servers to the month-long World Cup of football/soccer to connect 7,000 voice endpoints in Japan and South Korea. The IP WAN for this event successfully carried about 100,000 phone calls each day, in addition to conventional data traffic, thus proving the viability of the mass adoption of Internet telephony.
Cisco Systems cannot claim to have invented IP-PBXs, but it certainly established the market for these systems by making IP telephony legitimate. Cisco’s IP-based system is known as the Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data (AVVID), and this product started shipping in mid-2000. Two years later Cisco claimed to have shipped 800,000 IP phones and, more impressively, to have equipped 6 million ports with power for IP phones.
Cisco’s CallManager is the software-based call processing component of the IP telephony solution, extending features and functions to packet.
telephony devices such as IP phones, multimedia applications, and VoIP gateways. Additional data, voice, and video services, such as integrated messaging (the Unity product), multimedia conferencing, collaborative contact centers, and interactive response systems, may be linked with the IP-PBX through an open telephony API.
Cisco’s CallManager is installed on a media convergence server (in the MCS 78xx series), which is a standard computer from manufacturers such as HP-Compaq, Dell, or IBM, with the exact specification set by Cisco and absolutely no applications other than telephony running in the MCS. Release 4.0 of CallManager can support up to 50,000 users and a conceptual network, with multiple voice servers, as illustrated in Figure 4.3. This software release also supports SIP, but Cisco believes that media gateway control protocol (MGCP) will be the protocol of choice within an enterprise for IP telephony.
Concerns about availability and reliability are addressed by using multiple servers, which may not be in the same location, and by having dual gateways to the WAN.
While the typical IP-PBX configuration is deconstructed into multiple components (communications server, LAN switch, trunk gateway to the PSTN, line gateways for digital and analog phones, and router to the IP-WAN), Cisco does have an all-in-one-box chassis-based CallManager 7750 system, for branch offices with from 50 to 250 users. There is also a 4225 system, for up to 20 users, serving phones and PCs, with a built-in data switch and router.
Cisco sells a number of models of desktop telephones—including the 7960 (6 lines), 7940 (4 lines), and 7910 (single line), together with an IP conference phone that was developed jointly with Polycom. Each of these phones includes a three-way switch, for 10- or 100-Mbps Ethernet connections, and can be dc-powered over the LAN from a Cisco distribution unit, situated in a telecom closet. The softphone product is good for collaborative working between PC users. Cisco was expected to have its own wireless phone, designed for the IEEE 802.11a standard, on the market in 2003, while wireless phones from Spectralink and Symbol, working to the 802.11b protocol, may be used with AVVID.
For users to do their own system administration, such as call routing and screening, Cisco’s Personal Assistant has speech recognition navigation with all its options linked to the class of service established for each user. Since an IP phone may be moved to any corporate network outlet, a report sponsored by Cisco and published by the Telecom Applications Research Alliance (TARA), in the spring of 2000 optimistically claimed that “the effort required for Moves, Adds and Changes is only 25% of that typical for a PBX of the same size.”
We should note that Cisco’s Unity voice mail system can connect simultaneously to CallManager and to legacy PBXs. On the other hand, it is still difficult to integrate between Unity and existing voice mail systems, so owners of Meridian Mail and Octel systems will need to replace these with the Cisco product, in those configurations where CallManager has been installed with TDM PBXs.
Cisco’s well-known CEO, John Chambers, has been quoted as saying, “Data-voice-video integration is huge for us because it forces my customers to redo their networks,” and this certainly appears to be coming true.
Cisco has signed agreements with several large service providers to support convergence of multiple networks with the AVVID solution, even while the users retain ownership of their systems. These situations may be classified as managed IP-PBXs and managed IP-Networks, but will not be the same as IP-Centrex.