: Avaya"> Avaya Avaya responded to the RFP with a set of products and services from the companys ECLIPS (Enterprise Class IP Solutions) portfolio. Avayas RFP response (and our subsequent work with its telephony equipment) confirmed that the ECLIPS system will work with nearly any vendors data networking equipment. During an on-site visit to its research and development facility, in Denver, we observed Avaya telephony equipment being tested with a wide variety of data products, including products from industry networking heavyweight Cisco Systems Inc.Like most of the major VOIP vendors, Avaya offers a broad range of servicesfrom design and planning to implementation, management, maintenance and support. Expectno, demandextensive consultation with whichever vendor is selected. Savvy chief technology officers and IT and telecom managers will balance the vendors recommendations with the real-life experience of telecom staffers and station users needs. We found that vendors often got all "blue sky" on us, with promises of vastly improved telephony applications. We kept coming back to our RFP to stay grounded in the business objectives of our VOIP evaluation. Avayas MultiVantage call processing software is used on the companys S8700 Media Server to centralize voice and data operations while also distributing voice application features across the network to all locations, including the call center, manufacturing facilities, branch and home offices, and mobile users logging in from hotels and other remote locations. MultiVantage provides user and system management functionality, call routing, and application integration. Our work with the Avaya ECLIPS system showed that focusing on the MultiVantage software was critical to understanding the upper limits of the Avaya system. And those limits are impressive. A single Avaya S8700 that was listed for $20,000 in the RFP response, along with the $25,000 MultiVantage software, can support 300,000 BHCCs (busy hour call completions) in a general, mixed-call environment. The Avaya system also can support as many as 12,000 IP stations, well exceeding our specifications. Of course, the S8700 Media Server must be equipped with additional Control LAN cards, Media Processor boards and additional software licenses to achieve this capacity. Avayas Media Servers, including the S8700 used for this project, are Linux-based and optimized for the MultiVantage call processing software and for security. None of the recently announced Linux-based worms, including Slapper, would have been successful against an Avaya Media Server. Media Gateways, which are integrated into the system, provided connectivity to the public switched telephone network and switching from packet to TDM (Time Division Multiplexing) end points. TDM is the transmission and coding standard used by all current circuit-switched PBX systems. Avaya uses QSig, or Q Reference Point Signaling, a long-standing telephony standard from the ISDN Private Network Systems Forum designed to allow different PBX systems to interoperate. QSig thus provides seamless communications among the various call centers and headquarters detailed in our RFP. In our evaluation, the important standards we wanted to see supported included H.323, which covers voice and video transmission over packet-switched networks. We also looked for support of H.323s G.711 and G.749, which govern voice codecs. In addition, Power over Ethernet 802.3af should be on any check-off list (see Tech Analysis, at www.eweek.com/links), as should QSig, RTP (Real-Time Transport Protocol), SNMP, DiffServ and RSVP (Resource Reservation Setup Protocol) to handle call setup over the WAN. IT managers should also press potential vendors to lay out their plans to support and implement Session Initiation Protocol, an Internet Engineering Task Force signaling protocol for establishing real-time voice and conference calls over IP networks. The standard is still in development, but its interesting because of its potential to exceed the established, but more limited, H.323 call routing and signaling protocol. Although we did not request it, Avaya pointed out that we could have equipped each of the remote Media Gateways (in this case G700s) with an S8300 Media Server running MultiVantage software in Local Survivable Processor mode. This would have provided added reliability in the event of a WAN failure. We recommend that IT managers add this capability to their RFPs for any business-critical site.
IT managers should ask about interoperability among any potential VOIP providers systems and the data equipment already installed in the enterprise. In most cases, there are few technical reasons for sticking with the same vendor for voice and data, although IT managers can be sure they will hear otherwise from sales representatives.