Premises-Based Equipment For organizations that want more control over their voice services, major telephony suppliers continue to look at ways to reduce capital expenditures. In part, this is being done though equipment and functionality consolidation to reduce the number of devices that need to be purchased.Meanwhile, Avaya continues to push its IP Office for the SMB. IP Office costs $540 per user in a 50-user configuration. The solution includes end points for all 50 users, as well as advanced applications including Telecommuter Mode, in which users can turn any phone into a corporate phone; an IP soft phone that will become available in November for off-premises, mobile workers; Mobile Twinning for pairing a cell and office phone; and One-X , a GUI for PDAs. Adding unified messaging capabilities costs another $40 per user. Open-Source Route Another way to cut down the costs of UC is to leverage open-source applications. Open-source PBX implementations, for example, provide increasingly attractive options. Today, most are based on the open-source Asterisk, and there are a number of Asterisk-based implementations-including Digium, Fonality and Escaux-that have addressed the security and support concerns some companies have with open source. These vendors also have built on Asterisk to provide relatively rich UC capabilities. Fonality, for example, couples its Asterisk-based telephony solution with a collaboration platform. Fonality HUD (Head's Up Display) displays the status of users and can let users call, send e-mail or IM with just a click. The Fonality Asterisk solution-along with conference phones, soft clients for remote access and hard phones-runs $32,918 or $658 per seat for a 50-person office. Asterisk has been showing its age, however, which is why a number of vendors and consultants have started looking at sipXecs from SipFoundry as the open-source approach to UC. While Asterisk is a PBX replacement, sipXecs is a native SIP solution architected to switch any kind of media stream. In addition, sipXecs is a SIP proxy, where sessions can go directly between clients; Asterisk, in contrast, uses a back-to-back user agent, where state on every session is held in the switch. Nortel has been using sipXecs in its Software Communications System 500 solution, targeting offices of 50 or fewer users. In August, Nortel acquired Pingtel, the vendor that created and led the sipXecs effort.
Cisco, for example, continues to focus on the total solution play. The company introduced the UC 500, an all-in-one box that provides either eight or 32 IP phone stations; four FxS (Foreign Exchange Subscriber) DID (Direct Inward Dialing) ports for analog connections; four FxO (Foreign Exchange Office) ports for analog network connectivity; optional T1/E1 voice interface (Primary Rate Interface and Channel Associated Signaling); integrated voice mail; automated attendant capabilities; basic call center capabilities; optional wireless access; and integrated VPN, firewall and system management.