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Siemens rolls out mega-sized VoIP

Siemens' new VoIP call management software can handle 100,000 users and takes advantage of presence-based apps like instant messaging. An analyst says it holds up well against competition from Avaya and Nortel.

Siemens Information and Communications Networks Inc. today announced the availability of an Internet telephony system for large enterprises that takes advantage of presence-based applications and reins in costs by requiring only a few servers.

The software, called HiPath 8000, from the Boca Raton, Fla.-based subsidiary of Siemens AG is designed for businesses with more than 15,000 employees. It builds on Siemens' strategy of using Internet Protocol (IP) to help companies enable their employees to communicate effectively, whether they are at home or in the office.

HiPath 8000 is deployed and managed in the customers' data center. It scales up dramatically for large organizations, so it does not require the same kind of server bundling that other vendors' systems require. According to an audit by the Parsippany, N.J.-based research firm InfoTech (paid for by Siemens), the Siemens system can serve 100,000 users with only six servers, compared to the 246 servers needed for Cisco CallManager, the voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) call management software from Cisco Systems Inc.

The entire system is based on open standards, such as Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and SIP for Instant Messaging (SIMPLE), which simplifies integration with standards-based back-end systems and end-user devices.

The power of presence

The HiPath 8000 is one of the first of what analysts refer to as a second-generation IP phone system. It goes beyond merely substituting an Internet Protocol Private Branch Exchange (IP PBX) for a traditional PBX. This system takes advantage of presence-based applications, such as instant messaging.

Ken Landoline, a voice technology analyst with the Robert Frances Group, a Westport, Conn.-based research firm, said that by offering presence-based applications on such a broad scale, Siemens has leapt ahead of many competitors.

Siemens does not have the sizable installed bases of market leaders such as Nortel Networks Ltd.. and Avaya Inc., but Landoline said that Siemens has done a good job of advancing its technology.

"Siemens has a good chance in the market," said Landoline.

The competitive landscape

Tom Valovic, program director of IP telephony with Framingham, Mass.-based research firm International Data Corp., said that unlike many other telecommunications vendors, Siemens understands what the end user needs.

While data networking giant Cisco has been making a strong push at VoIP, it faces sales challenges because Cisco's contacts are all within enterprise IT departments, not telecommunications groups.

"I have been underwhelmed with Cisco's ability to come up with a large enterprise case study," Landoline said.

While Siemens is targeting the world's largest businesses, those companies have been cautious with VoIP rollouts. In research conducted by IDC, Valovic said it found that large businesses are likely to roll out systems slowly, often mixing VoIP with traditional telephone systems.

For more information

Read why AT&T's CEO says the company's future hinges on VoIP.

Learn why Avaya's CEO says 'we have to win' VoIP.

Landoline said a client company that he works with was able to quickly convert eight of its 36 locations around the world to VoIP. But the majority was more of a challenge. Part of the problem was finding qualified people to deploy and manage the system in locations such as Africa and the Far East, along with connectivity and quality of service struggles.

That's one reason why VoIP implementations will take longer than many enterprises anticipate, Landoline said.

Separately, Siemens announced the availability of the hiG 1100 media gateway for branch offices. It supports up to 2,000 users per site and automatically fails over to the public switched telephone network in the event of a failure.

"We are offering a unified end-user experience that is powerful and scalable enough for enterprises," said Ralph Riley, Siemens' national manager of HiPath.

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