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VoIP Vendors Tackle the Branch Office Conundrum

You didn't see it on the show-floor, but in backrooms at Interop, VoIP vendors were quite candid about how they intend to solve telephony's scaling problem. I'm sure you know what I mean. You deploy a small IP PBX or...

You didn't see it on the show-floor, but in backrooms at Interop, VoIP vendors were quite candid about how they intend to solve telephony's scaling problem. I'm sure you know what I mean. You deploy a small IP PBX or key system, save on upfront costs, but end up getting slammed with having to purchase a new IP PBX (and throw out the old one) once the system outgrows the old switch's capacity. ShoreTel has always pushed hard on this message and for good reason. Shoretel claims its Voice Switches (thin appliances) can be incrementally scaled from 24 to 10,000 users. But traditionally ShoreTel has been unique in that regard.

Not for much longer. Both Avaya and Siemens demonstrated and discussed ways that they too will achieve this sort of scalability. It's important for them because Cisco's story for small, branch office survivability is so compelling: Avoid placing a nearly full IP PBX in every branch. Drop in a call processing blade into the existing Integrated Services Routers (ISRs) and gain most of the functionality that you need at a significantly lower price point.

Avaya's moving strongly into the small office and mid-market solutions with very competitive offerings. The peer-to-peer telephony solution, dubbed One-X Quick Edition, allows users to plug up to 20 Avaya phones equipped with the Quick Edition software into their Ethernet switches, and have the phones locate and configure themselves. The phones will cost around $485 to $585. With Avaya's Communications Manager hosted solution, companies could now use those phones to incrementally scale above 20 users. Eventually, enterprises can bring Communications Manager onto the site for further economies of scale.

Behind closed doors, Siemens was talking a similar game. The company just announced their own peer-to-peer solution within the US despite earlier claims that the technology would only be available in Europe. The phones are expected to sell for $450 to $600. The exact distribution channel is still being finalized and extremely important for Siemens. The company in the past has not succeeded in selling through the channel.

What they didn't publicly talk about were the plans to port their uber-switch, the HiPath 8000, into the mid-tier. The 8000 is Siemens' SIP server, aimed at carrier's with the ability to scale to 100,000 users. The software code base could be scaled to smaller deployments, but the hardware needed to run the 8000 ran around $100,000 In March, Siemens quietly introduced a version of the 8000 aimed at the mid-tier enterprises of 800 to 1000 that ran on conventional servers. The company will announce that version of the software in June.

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