• United States

Shoreline becomes ShoreTel, pumps up VoIP

Apr 26, 20044 mins

As Shoreline Communications launches a new line of VoIP equipment to support larger numbers of users and more functional features aimed at midsize to large companies, the IP PBX maker is renaming itself ShoreTel this week.

As Shoreline Communications launches a new line of VoIP equipment to support larger numbers of users and more functional features aimed at midsize to large companies, the IP PBX maker is renaming itself ShoreTel this week.

ShoreTel is introducing a new version of its distributed IP PBX software and hardware, doubling the number of users that can be supported to 10,000. ShoreTel also is introducing a new line of phones, ranging from basic to advanced models. It says the upgrades are aimed at helping companies quickly deploy IP telephony with failover capabilities and converged applications such as presence and multimedia conferencing.

Founded in 1998, privately held ShoreTel is owned jointly by investors Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan and Crosspoint Venture Partners. The company says it has about 1,000 customers and experienced positive growth over the past two years. However, the firm has not been able to gain more than 1% of the total IP PBX market.

Also, some analysts have said that ShoreTel’s original computer-telephony-based interface technology was clunky because it combined analog phones with call control features handled from a PC client. The company has since moved to an IP-phone-based endstation model.

ShoreTel’s distributed architecture for IP telephony involves stackable IP PBXs deployed in tandem with Ethernet workgroup switches. The firm’s ShoreGear switches, based on Media Gateway Control Protocol, provide call control to attached IP phone users and interoperate with other ShoreGear boxes across LANs and WANs. All system users are managed under one administration domain, via ShoreTel software, running on a management server. The ShoreGear boxes support analog phones.

The new ShoreTel5 IP PBX management platform supports up to 10,000 users under a single virtual system, with phones distributed across multiple 120-port ShoreGear devices. ShoreTel5 also includes IP phone failover capability, by which IP phones attached to a local ShoreGear box can continue to operate if the ShoreGear device fails.

The ShoreTel5 system also supports an ad hoc conference and collaboration application. This lets users with PC client software drag and drop names from a directory to easily set up conference calls. Document files also can be dragged into the client software, allowing conference members to view and edit Microsoft Word and Excel files, and view PDFs and Web documents.

ShoreTel5 includes standard business phone features, along with advanced convergence applications and features, such as directory and presence applications, which let users see if other users are available or out of the office, via an IP phone LCD screen.Distribute and survive

ShoreTel also has added a branch-office box, the ShoreGear-60/12, which can support up to 60 IP phone users, and includes WAN interfaces for public switched telephone network and VoIP network connections.

Three new IP phones also are being introduced. The IP 210 is an entry-level, single-line phone. The IP 530 and IP 560 offer three and six lines, respectively, and include built-in Ethernet switches for connecting PCs to the LAN through the IP phone. (This lets both devices work off of one network drop). All the IP phones support 802.3af power over Ethernet, which lets the devices receive power from compatible Ethernet switches.

On the product front, Elizabeth Herrell, an analyst with Forrester Research, says the ShoreTel equipment offers a good alternative to the big-name VoIP players – 3Com, Alcatel, Avaya, Cisco, Nortel and Siemens. ShoreTel also competes with smaller IP PBX vendors such as Altigen, Pingtel and Vertical Networks.

“Their stuff is easy to deploy and manage, and doesn’t have a single point of failure” because of its distributed model, she says. “They’ve built a small but loyal following with these products.”

The ShoreGear-60/12 will be available in May for $3,000. The IP 210 will cost $230, and the IP 530 and IP 560 will cost $330 and $430, respectively.