Along with the usual lineup of new product offerings, the buzz at the 2006s VoiceCon Fall conference on Aug. 21 will be about the changing shape of the industry, unified messaging and about securing IP Telephony applications.
With Microsoft entering the VOIP (voice over IP) space earlier in the summer of 2006 with its Unified Communications Initiative and partnership with Nortel; a new CEO at the helm of Avaya; the proposed merger of Alcatel and Lucent; and much speculation swirling about Siemens Communications Enterprise Group being acquired or merging with another company, the industry is in flux, according to VoiceCon General Manager Fred Knight.
"Consolidation and the entry of new, well-financed players changes the landscape. Voicecon will be the first place those issues will be publicly on display and the subject of discussion in forums," he said.
At the same time, whether the promises of unified communications, where all types of messaging are brought together, matches the rhetoric, will be another theme for the conference, Knight said.
As for new vendor offerings, a long laundry list of new products will debut. Among them is a new version of Avayas VPNremote for IP Phones software that allows users of its IP phones to use them from home and still securely access all the features of Avaya Communications Manager available in the office.
Version 2.0 of the software allows enterprises to embed third-party virtual private network functionality into Avaya IP Phones.
It works specifically with VPNs from Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks, allowing users working from home or in temporary locations to securely access VOIP features without requiring the installation of additional equipment.
It connects to the Internet just as a laptop would: using a power source, a broadband router and a password.
"Its always been possible to put a separate VPN box in your house, but no security manager would ever let you do that. It would be a nightmare to an IT manager to have an open port out there," said Lawrence Byrd, director of IP telephony and mobility at Avaya in Milpitas, Calif.
"It will plug into your Cisco PIX [firewall] or your Juniper SSG with security, firewall and VPN, and you get to the Avaya Communications Manager on the other side [of the link]," he added.
Not only is that useful for the growing workforce of communications intensive teleworkers, it can also be used as a part of an overall business continuity plan for businesses.
"The ability to have people working at home in an emergency situation has become more important to business continuity planning," said Byrd.
Early users working with the new software release at Coventry Healthcare agree.
"We have offices all across the U.S., including places susceptible to hurricanes," described Kevin McPhee, manager of network control, converged solutions in Richmond, Va.
"In Tampa and Houston weve begun to deploy this technology so that people can take their telephony devices home and work without having to travel to the office if a disaster happens. Plus we have another group of teleworkers in other locations that can take calls [from a disaster] area. So we gain from a business continuity standpoint," he added.
Avaya is considering extending the VPN support to other vendors, although Byrd would not specify which vendors. For Coventry Healthcares McPhee, it will hopefully include Nokia and soon.
"Were waiting for Avaya to support Nokia so we can deploy to a broader range of our base," he said.
Avaya at Voicecon will also update its one-X Quick Edition small office IP Telephony offering with new support for Session Initiation Protocol trunking, allowing voice traffic to be securely routed over the Internet from small office locations.
The one-X Quick Edition product implements the functions of an IP-PBX within the phones themselves using SIP-based peer-to-peer technology. It is aimed at locations with 20 users or less.
The new version, available now, also supports centralized provisioning, allowing upgrades to be installed on remote IP phones.
Also on tap for Voicecon is a new IP PBX from Toshiba America Information Systems Telecommunication Systems Division intended for small businesses and small branch offices.
The new Strata CIX40 IP PBX, which completes Toshibas move to VOIP in its product line, supports up to 16 station ports and eight IP channels.
It can be networked with larger members of the CIX product family, and it supports a range of phone types, including IP phones, IP wireless phones, IP soft phones on laptops as well as digital and analog phones.
It is available now.
Other new product news slated for Voicecon includes a new Managed IP Telephony Service offering and contact center platform from NEC Unified Solutions; a new release of Clarus Systems ClarusIPC Operations automated IP telephony testing software with improved security; a SIP network interface on Alcatels OmniPCX Office IP communications server; and a new multi-link WAN switch intended to help managed services providers create reliable and cost effective VOIP services from Aspen Networks.