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Editor in Chief

IP PBX debate brings on fireworks

Apr 07, 20033 mins
Cisco SystemsNetworking

The back and forth at the Network World IP PBX Showdown at the Voice on the Network conference in San Jose last week was, in a word, spirited.

The goal of the presidential-style debate – hosted by yours truly and Mike Hommer, manager of consulting for Miercom – featured speakers from Alcatel, Avaya, Cisco, Mitel and Nortel. Here are some outtakes:

• Tony Pereira, director of enterprise solutions marketing at Nortel, asked Bill King, Cisco technical marketing manager, how Cisco can keep up given “we’re building to the future and you’re trying to catch up to stuff we already have.” King said there are some features Cisco will never add, like support for rotary phones, but admitted there is a shortfall and “we are addressing the feature gap. We’re investing heavily. Our R&D spending is as high as Avaya’s total revenue.”

• Avaya encrypts packets at the phone, making for a secure environment, so we asked Alcatel about its security story. Jeanne Bayerl, director of product marketing, said the real issue is availability, keeping your call controller from getting hacked. Alcatel, she said, has that licked.

• Cisco’s King asked why a lot of Avaya bids are TDM with a little IP thrown in, even in greenfield installations. Avaya’s Mack Leathurby, director of converged system and unified communication applications, came back: “Customers typically have lots of legacy gear in other offices, and this hybrid approach is the easiest way to support it.”

• Avaya’s Leathurby to Nortel: You sold off your CRM company so how do you address questions about customer contact centers? Pereira: “Our contact solution is as good as yours, probably a little better. Our professional services organization will work with customer and third-party vendors to address any and all needs.”

• Mitel’s Christian Szpilfogel, director of product line management, accused Cisco of not playing fair: “You own the Layer 2 and 3 switch market, and we want to make sure our systems work in that environment, but you won’t give up things like the Cisco Discovery Protocol. We have to reverse engineer that to use inline power in Cisco environments. Why?” King said, a little sheepishly, “it isn’t public because it is one of the things that we use to add value.”

And so it went. At the end a person in the audience asked when IP would bypass TDM in terms of line shipments. Alcatel was most optimistic, saying this year, Cisco, Mitel and Nortel put it at 2005, and Avaya at 2008. That’s quite a range.