SMBs Get Crack at VOIP with New Offerings

IP vendors target lower end of market with simpler, less costly alternatives that can fit into existing infrastructure.

The Voice on the Net Conference opens in Santa Clara, Calif., this week amid a redoubled VOIP buzz spurred in part by the federal governments interest in regulating Internet telephony. The momentum has numerous vendors offering simpler, less costly, standards-based alternatives to the major manufacturers voice-over-IP offerings, targeting the lower end of the market.

Focusing on companies with multiple offices of 10 to 100 users each, 14-month-old Anta Systems Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., this week will launch its first two products: a plug-and-play IP PBX system for enterprises and switching technology for carriers to provide IP Centrex-like services to small and midsize businesses.

The name Anta is derived from the Greek word for pillar. "We see ourselves as supporting infrastructure," said CEO Frank Ip.

Antas Simplicity SME IP PBX comes with phones and a Linux-based server appliance with interface cards. The small-scale, standards-based technology makes it affordable for small enterprises that want to add voice service to the data network already in place, Ip said.

"Were very nonintrusive," Ip said. "We want to fit into the existing infrastructure."

Anta champions an advanced audio processing capability to deliver superior voice quality. "Even with a very noisy network with a lot of packet drops, we can still maintain a call with reasonable voice quality," Ip said. "In order to deploy our solution, you dont have to worry about the underlying network."

Sold through resellers and other partners, the system can cost as little as $200 per user, said David Tang, co-founder and vice president of sales for the company.

Another option for SMBs is the system introduced last week by startup Zultys Technologies. Like Anta, the Sunnyvale, Calif., company, which last week launched a new phone, aims to make IP communications easier to implement, said Iain Milnes, president of Zultys.

"Do you want to make a career of managing your communications system, or do you want to use it?" Milnes asked.

Zultys approach to simplicity differs somewhat from Antas, integrating a number of its own security and connectivity functions into the phone. The latest version, the ZIP 4x5, incorporates a VPN, data switching and routing, a firewall, analog connectivity to the public switched network, encryption, and support for Bluetooth.

Anta and Zultys are trying to appeal to the lower end of the market seeking an alternative to Cisco Systems Inc.s more expensive, and more proprietary, offerings.

To help enterprises ensure that whatever IP equipment they choose to install will comply with standards, Spirent Communications Inc. will unveil a VOIP Conformance Suite this week. The tool, which tests for SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) compliance, among other things, is particularly useful in the predeployment stage, said Bahaa Moukadam, vice president of IP telephony at Spirent, in Rockville, Md.

In addition, Spirent is planning to unveil upgrades to its IP telephony test migration system called the Abacus 5000. These upgrades include new testing metrics and an integrated SIP configuration capability. The enhancements were added to help enterprises verify that VOIP products from different vendors work together, which is important because vendors are implementing SIP differently, Moukadam said.

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