The company will introduce its new Handset Provisioning Module at VoiceCon, in Orlando, Fla. The software module delivers greater levels of automation to securely and reliably connect voice-over-IP handsets to ports on its Ethernet edge switches, Extreme Networks said.
Scott Lucas, senior director of solutions marketing for Extreme Networks, in Santa Clara, Calif., said the module allows the network to automatically detect when IP phones connect to the network and then "apply a default profile to the edge port" to which the phones are attached.
The module will initially support VOIP handsets from Avaya, ShoreTel, Nortel Networks, Cisco Systems and Mitel Networks, representing about 65 percent of the handset market, Lucas said, but Extreme Networks intends to add support for more handsets later in 2007.
The default profile, created once by network administrators, can include "the authentication protocol the handset has to go through, access control list profiles, VLAN [virtual LAN] membership for net topology control … things you would have had to do by hand," Lucas explained. "Now with the Handset Provisioning Module the system can detect [the handset] and apply a default profile."
Early users at Kansas State University who are currently deploying a production VOIP system using the Extreme Networks module estimate that the module will initially save roughly $85 per handset in reduced labor costs, according to Nathan Beemer, assistant director of Computing and Telecommunications Services at the university, in Manhattan, Kan.
Although thats a "really rough estimate," Beemer believes further labor savings will occur with adds, moves and changes, he said.
"The value is in allowing clients to connect to any port without any intervention on the client or the support staffs part. If someone is relocating, we dont have to pre-provision them," Beemer said.
If the handset supports the IEEE standard LLDP (Link Layer Discovery Protocol), it can be automatically configured along with the Ethernet port. "LLDP allows us to have a richer set of communications with the edge ports when we detect that a handsets been connected. We get more details on the handsets such as how much power it needs, what server its looking for and which manufacturer its from, and the switch can respond with configuration to the phone," Lucas said.
That capability is the result of Extreme Networks joint development work with Avaya. The two vendors also worked together to enable IEEE 802.1x multisupplicant support, which treats traffic flows that come from a handset separately from flows that come from a laptop or PC connected to the handset. The effect is to split the traffic as if there were two separate physical ports, so that when traffic enters the network from the laptop, it is placed into a data VLAN. Voice traffic from the handset can be placed into a voice VLAN where QOS (quality of service) parameters are applied to it.
Extreme Networks also announced its plans to put the source code for the module into the public domain. The intent is to "encourage our users and others to add their own handsets, change the profile or even expand this to other things besides handsets," Lucas said.
Extreme intends to test and then re-release user-developed enhancements. "As a company we will take on the responsibility [of creating] stable releases for the Provisioning Module and [making] them available to the entire community," Lucas said.
The new module is due at the end of March.