Small startup thinks big with single-box VoIP device

Jim Rendon

A Sunnyvale, Calif., startup has a small product with a big agenda and, if the company can survive in the tough economy, its gateway may be just right for medium-sized companies looking to deploy voice over Internet protocol.

No, this isn't 1999, and there is no little "e" in the company's name. But even in this ugly economy, tiny Zultys Technologies is thinking big. It has a single box that provides businesses with standards-based voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), video conferencing, an Internet gateway and instant messaging applications.

"Our box is all the customer needs [for VoIP], except for a soft phone and a $29 headset," said Zultys' president, Iain Milnes.

The Internet protocol private branch exchange (IP PBX) uses the increasingly popular session initiation protocol (SIP) standard, which has been adopted by a growing number of vendors, including Cisco Systems Inc. and Microsoft Corp. in its instant messaging application, Messenger.

Jay Lassman, a research director with the Stamford, Conn., research firm Gartner Inc., said that from a technology standpoint, Zultys has a quality product. The MX 1200 is one of the most versatile products available, and he said its scalability puts it ahead of many others on the market. The box scales from 25 to 1,200 users without any hardware additions.

It also incorporates a number of interesting applications using instant messaging. Operators can tell whether people are at their

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desks or available to take a call. They can message back and forth with employees to determine the best person to transfer the call to and can pass the call along by simply dragging and dropping it. These presence-based applications can help to make a product like this more valuable, said Christine Hartman, research director for the Cedar Knolls, N.J., research firm Probe Research.

Because the box has so many features, including an IP gateway and security features like a firewall, it can be a great purchase for companies installing new networks, said John Lynch, sales managers for the Mountain View, Calif., technology reseller ReQuest Technologies.

The biggest question with Zultys is its staying power, Gartner's Lassman said. Zultys has been around for about 15 months. The company is privately held, with 65 employees. Milnes is the major shareholder, and there are no venture capital backers, which Milnes said he prefers, since outside investors will not be pushing for a quick return on investment or threatening to pull the plug when times get tough.

But in this economy, it can be tough for any company, even those with a good product, to survive long enough to reach profitability, Lassman said. "The biggest issue for me is whether Zultys has enough capital to hang in there," he said.

The MX 1200 starts at $20,000 for 25 users.


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