Despite several years of valiant marketing efforts to create a successful buzz around the notion of voice and data convergence, Internet Protocol networking has not taken off as well as the pioneer vendors had hoped. Many have found that before enterprises embark on a mass migration to IP, the gear must become more flexible, more scalable and more reliable.
The discovery was not lost on Avaya Inc. While by no means unique in trying to build products that allow businesses to migrate to IP more smoothly and more cheaply, Avaya is particularly candid in touting the technologys potential and its limitations.
"[IP] is not going to make anything magic happen about voice," Don Peterson, Avayas CEO, told eWEEK in an interview last week. "What weve found is that in itself it isnt a solution to anything."
From the perspective of Peterson, who remains a stout proponent of IP while downplaying the hype that surrounds it, the value of IP-based infrastructure will be found in the performance and productivity gains that it enables enterprises to achieve. This week, the Basking Ridge, N.J., vendor is adding a new generation of gear to its Enterprise Class Internet Protocol Solutions in the hope that it will jumpstart wider adoption of IP telephony.
The new ECLIPS products include telephony software called MultiVantage, an upgraded PC softphone, media gateways and media servers. They are standards-based products, allowing businesses to keep their existing telephones and infrastructure, and they enable a single administrator to manage an entire distributed network.
The MultiVantage software is designed to give business users the kind of telephone features and reliability that are the hallmarks of traditional telephony infrastructure. It also brings those same functions and reliability to branch offices and mobile workers. With the new Personal Digital Softphone, users have full telephony services over PCs and laptops, including built-in conferencing feature for automatic conference calls without external operator involvement.
The modularity of the new gear is also designed to add flexibility to IP adoption. The modular components can be added to the data infrastructure of any major vendor. The media servers support offices from as small as a 20-employee branch office to a large enterprise headquarters with 1 million users.
"I think theres been a FUD factor around voice over IP thats driven a hesitancy," Peterson said. The FUD factor is diminishing, he said, and at the same time, network operators are going to have to take another look at the mass of network upgrades put in place before the turn of the millennium. "Were getting farther away from Y2K," he said. "That installed base is going to need attention."
Avaya is also developing IP-based products for platforms other than Windows, including Linux, Peterson said.
This spring, Avaya will have a chance to put its expertise to the test on a very large and very visible scale at the 2002 World Cup soccer championship in Japan and Korea. Connecting 20 stadiums and 10,000 communications devices, the network, while operating, will be one of the largest enterprise networks in the world. "This is a huge opportunity for us to demonstrate what we can do," Peterson said.
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