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Cisco refreshes CallManager for video, VoIP interoperability

Feb 18, 20043 mins
Cisco SystemsNetworkingVideo

New features in Cisco’s CallManager software promise to make the IP PBX platform more secure and interoperable with standards-based VoIP equipment, while adding native support for video phone calls, the company says.

CallManager 4.0, announced this week, supports Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), an emerging VoIP standard, which promises to make CallManager more interoperable with carrier and third-party enterprise VoIP equipment and applications. On the security front, CallManager now supports VoIP encryption, as well as Cisco Security Agent (CSA) certificate technology, which could help protect CallManager from network attacks and intrusions.

Video support has also been added to CallManager, allowing users with a Cisco IP phone, a PC and a USB camera to make simple IP video calls from the IP PBX, the company says.

SIP support on CallManager enables the IP PBX to communicate with other SIP-based applications, servers and gateways. This could allow CallManager to interface with SIP-based conferencing applications, such as the MeetingPlace product from Lattitude, which Cisco acquired in November. SIP support could also allow CallManager to send voice traffic directly to SIP-based softswitches in a carrier VoIP network, allowing enterprises to bypass the PSTN altogether.

Cisco says SIP support on CallManager does not include SIP endpoints, such as third-party SIP phones, or softphone clients, but this support will be added in the future.

In addition to SIP, Q.SIG signaling, a legacy PBX interfacing protocol, has also been added to CallManager. Q.SIG can allow CallManager to interface with legacy PBXs, such as Nortel’s Meridian M1, and support more features from the PBX, such as Caller ID and conferencing. Previously, CallManager could link to PBXs via a PRI ISDN connection, but only minimal features were supported, Cisco says. 

Call signaling authentication can ensure that intruders aren’t attempting to spoof traffic sent to CallManager, while voice traffic encryption can keep calls from being intercepted, Cisco says. Call and signaling encryption uses 128-bit secure RTP encryption. An upgrade to Cisco CallManager allows phones to download these features.

Cisco has added support for its CSA certificate technology on IP phones and CallManager servers. When installed, this would allow only authorized Cisco IP phones to authenticate to a CallManager server before making calls and accessing the network.

Cisco’s VT Advantage feature in CallManager 4.0 allows users to make IP video calls to other Cisco VoIP users by dialing an extension on their Cisco IP phones. Clients require a Cisco USB IP camera, an IP phone, and IP video client software on their PCs to make the IP video calls. Calls are set up by the phone when a number is dialed, then an option on a PC client asks if the user wants video with the call. The system also allows for IP phone calls to be transferred among users, Cisco says.

In addition, Cisco released the MeetingPlace 8106 Rich-Media Conferencing Server. The hardware/software platform could be used as an in-house alternative to teleconferencing services, Cisco says. The system allows clients to schedule conferences and check conference schedules via a Cisco IP phone or through a Web portal.

Security enhancements to CallManager include encryption of call signaling and voice packets, as well as security certificate technology for authenticating IP phones to a call manager. 

CallManager 4.0 with Media Convergence Server hardware costs $6,000 and is available now. MeetingPlace 8106 Rich-Media Conferencing Server will ship next month, starting at $70,000.