Voice over IP services come calling on networks

Cisco Systems Inc. began integrating IBM Systems Network Architecture networks with IP
networks eight years ago. Its InterWorks Business Unit now controls nearly 80 percent of
the SNA router market.


“We’re going to be repeating that process” in bringing voice services
onto IP networks, said Paul Sikorski, InterWorks product line manager for the San Jose,
Calif., company.


Sikorski said the convergence of mainframe SNA and IP was a precursor to integrating
data and voice on a single network infrastructure.


“It’s getting harder and harder to rationalize keeping the three
separate,” he said.


Cisco hopes to take advantage of what it expects to be a burgeoning voice over IP
market by developing hardware, software and systems in five phases.


Since last October, it has introduced branch-office and enterprise network products for
three of the phases.


But Cisco is playing catch-up to Northern Telecom Inc. subsidiary Micom Communications
Corp. of Simi Valley, Calif., which recently bundled hardware and software in a turnkey
product called V/IP Gateway System. The separate components have been available to systems
integrators and value-added resellers for several years.


Micom product manager Jeff Tyre called the bundled turnkey system the next phase in
deploying voice over IP.


Federal users have been hard sells so far for companies integrating voice and other
forms of data traffic on IP.


Despite Cisco’s success in the past two years providing IP access to mainframe
databases and applications, federal data centers have been slow to adopt it and do not
appear to be integrating voice any faster.


“We haven’t seen a rapid deployment of voice over IP by any agency,”
Tyre said.


One reason is that federal users have enjoyed low prices and advanced voice services
from telephone companies in contracts negotiated by the General Services Administration.
There has been no financial incentive to invest in voice over IP.


Also, federal information technology managers have been devoting most of their
attention to year 2000 corrections rather than new technology, Tyre said.


Sikorski predicted government adoption of voice over IP will be driven by telephony
applications such as embedded telephone links on Web pages.


Agencies will be forced to employ them in order to extend services over the Internet,
he said. Voice over IP products already introduced by Cisco include voice modules for the
3600 router series, the MC3810 Access Concentrator and the 2600 series modular access
router a gateway for remote offices.


Micom’s Gateway System comes in 10 models of four- and eight-slot platforms that
can handle up to eight or 16 analog lines, respectively, or 16 to 30 digital voice
channels.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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