VoIP application and management tools debut at convergence confabs

Internet Telephony Expo and Cisco's VoIP user group conference provide venues for new VoIP products.

A broad range of enterprise IP telephony gear, software and management tools for VoIP networks hit trade show floors at two IP telephony conferences this week.

The Internet Telephony Expo, running through Oct. 13 in San Diego, was expected to draw 9,000 attendees and around 3,000 exhibitors. Meanwhile, about 350 miles down Interstate 8 in Phoenix, the smaller Cisco IP Telephony User Group (CIPTUG) conference - Oct. 9-12 - drew around 600 members of the independent organization of Cisco VoIP gear users, and about 50 exhibiting companies.

The bloom of large and small VoIP or VoIP-related conventions in North American - at least two dozen have been held so far this year - reflects strong growth, and expected growth, in the market; research firm Dell'Oro Group says sales of IP telephony gear topped $500 million in the second quarter - a 42% year-over-year gain; IDC predicts 34 million homes will have VoIP phones and service instead of traditional Bell service by the end of this decade.

At the IT Expo, Switchvox introduced a new version of its SMB platform, an IP PBX server software package aimed at businesses with 50 to 500 end-users. Switchvox SMB 2.6 includes VoIP call center and call-recording features. For small call centers, the new product includes the ability for a call center manager to monitor phone conversations or jump into calls taken by agents. The software also includes a new tool for managing the recording of calls, and the backing up of recorded-call sound files. New reporting in Version 2.6 includes the ability to create graphic displays of call activity. Switchvox says its software also now supports the ability for remote clients, using different VPN equipment and software, to access the VoIP system from a home office or remote site-to-site office link.

Also a the IT Expo, Sphere Communications introduced an interface module for its Sphericall IP PBX software, allowing the server to push Web-based applications and information screens down to IP telephones with built-in Web browsers. Sphere is also introducing interoperability with Tandberg IP video phones, allowing the devices to make quick video calls over a Sphereicall-based VoIP network.

The new Web server module for Sphericall allows the VoIP server to provide browser-enabled IP phones from Polycom and Astra with XML-based Web applications, such as data entry programs, or ERP system integration, or Web-based information portals.

Qovia, a maker of IP telephony management appliances, announced a new version of its IP Telephony Manager platform at both IT Expo and the CIPTUG conferences. Version 3.0 of Qovia's appliance adds support for Cisco's CallManager 5.0 IP PBX server - based on either Linux or Windows, and includes enhanced report-generation and network monitoring features.

Qovia's IP Telephony Manager sits on a VoIP network and measures voice call quality, the health of IP PBX, gateway and endpoint nodes, and provides report generating features.

New "report packs" are part of the 3.0 release; these pre-packaged reporting templates allow administrators to create quick reports based on data collected by a Qovia device. Report packs can focus on capacity planning, service-level agreement compliance, troubleshooting, performance trending, asset tracking and configuration management. IP Telephony Manager 3.0 also supports the ability to more closely inspect the performance of Real Time Protocol (RTP) streams in order to determine the perceived quality of a VoIP call by end-users, the company says.

The CIPTUG show also included news from PowerDsine, whose new management tool is aimed at controlling the allocation of power-over-Ethernet currents in the company's Midspan product lines. PowerDsine's Midspan 6000 and 8000 series devices sit between a LAN switch and an endpoint device, such as an IP phone or WLAN access point, providing PoE to the devices. The PowerViewPro 3 software from PowerDsine allows administrators to monitor power consumption of attached endpoint devices and automatically activate or shut off devices. Administrators could use the software to reboot a WLAN access point after a remote update, or to power down PoE-capable IP phones after work hours, the company says.

Also at CIPTUG was Sagem-Interstar, which introduced its XMediusFAX SP 5.0 product - a Cisco CallManager-compatible IP Fax server, capable of handling up to 480 fax channels, Web-based fax composition and integration with Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes e-mail gateways.

The SwitchVox IP PBX software includes a Web utility for setting up users with different types of communications devices.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.