Toshiba Unveils Its First IP PBX

The Strata CIX keeps to Toshiba's "leave no legacy equipment behind" philosophy, while offering a toolkit for highly customizable applications.

Toshiba America Information Systems Inc.s Digital Solutions Division has announced its first IP PBX, the Strata CIX. Previous telephone switches have been "IP enabled" through gateways; this is the first to actually switch calls between IP extensions over a LAN or WAN.

Like its circuit-switched Strata predecessors, the CIX demands as little new hardware as possible for users of Strata CTX and Strata DK digital business communication systems, and like the CTX, it supports as many as 672 ports in any trunk-side or line-side combinations.

Digital Toshiba telephones, analog phones, cards, and trunk and station interfaces from the circuit-switched DK system and from the Strata CTX can all be retained when migrating to the CIX. The new systems core is a Linux-based card that performs IP signaling between IP extensions. It also gateways out to, or in from, the PSTN (public switched telephone network), through a circuit-switched backplane, for legacy extensions. No "backplane" comes into play for internal IP calls, according to David Fridley, the divisions product manager, as the voice media travels over the Ethernet LAN; only IP signaling traverses the PBX itself.

While built with the Megaco IP signaling standard, the CIX supports SIP phones, as well as Toshibas own newly announced IP hardware and software phones, and mobile IP handsets. The new CIX comes with all the features familiar to the vendors traditional digital business phone systems, and some that have only recently been seen in open-system PBXes, according to Toshiba officials. These include user-specified call routing to cell phones, IP softphones or other numbers; the ability to pluck callers out of voice mail; and the ability to automatically dial back a voice mail sender, finish the call and pick up the next voice mail in sequence.

/zimages/2/28571.gifToshiba releases IP phones for the new IP PBX. Read about them here.

The key differentiator for the new PBX would appear to be its built-in scripting language, based on TCL (Transaction Control Language), which allows enterprise IT staffs and resellers to craft applications that make use of back-office data or data retrieved from online sources to control telephony functions. This could be used, for example, to build a notification application that automatically dials out to brokers and plays a message if a stock price hits a certain level.

The speech prompts for such an application, as well as any IVR (interactive voice response) application, can be run on the new companion Media Application Server, or MAS, being released together with the CIX. The MAS can also run voice mail, automatic call distribution, interactive voice response and other applications from third parties. Its one of the first announced media servers to run Intel Corp.s Host-based Media Processing technology, which replaces expensive Intel/Dialogic DSP (digital signal processing) boards with Intel processors.

Both Strata CTX and CIX PBXes can be networked via PRI (primary rate interface, T-1) lines across Toshibas StrataNet protocol, its implementation of the IP QSIG standard for interworking PBXs. This supports call transfers, paging, voice mail forwarding and other functions across multiple PBXes, all behaving as one. Networked PBXs can use the same MAS.

The CIX will run from $500 to $800 per user, depending on configuration, and will be available sometime this fall, according to Fridley.

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