Oceanside makes waves with virtual PBX

Oceanside makes waves with virtual PBX

California city's IT manager says he no longer worries about bandwidth

By Trudy Walsh

GCN Staff

Oceanside, population 155,000, is one of California's top resort towns, renowned for its beach and balmy ocean breezes. But some officials are trading in their beach towels for bandwidth as the city makes waves with an asynchronous transfer mode network that supplies data, voice and video over desktop PCs at OC-3 speeds.

Two years ago city officials decided to consolidate voice, video and data traffic on one platform, said Michael Sherwood, Oceanside's information technology manager. They wanted to blend the city's three separate T1 lines into one sleek network and ditch the 7-year-old PBX system.

Oceanside, Calif., telecommunications officials converged the city's voice, video and data traffic onto an ATM network that users can tap from the city's Compaq Deskpro EN PCs.

'We tested gigabit Ethernet, but it just wasn't there yet,' Sherwood said. The city chose an ATM backbone network from Fore Systems Inc. of Warrendale, Pa., that converged the three lines into one 155-Mbps OC-3 network.

Oceanside was also facing that end-of-the-century brick wall, year 2000. 'We had to get rid of the PBX system, whether we wanted to or not,' Sherwood said.

City officials sought a virtual PBX that would run under Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 and make the most of their new ATM network. After a painstaking search, Oceanside officials selected Sphericall from Sphere Communications Inc. of Lake Bluff, Ill.

Sphericall lets the city's 2,000 employees in 16 departments access voice mail, e-mail messages and faxes through a single window on the city's standard-issue PC, the 500-MHz Compaq Deskpro EN 6500+ with a Pentium III processor and 128M of RAM.

I hear you

City clerks, engineers, police, firefighters, harbor patrol agents and lifeguards click on an icon to retrieve messages. Another side benefit of ATM is that it ensures true-to-life voice quality, Oceanside officials said.

Not only was the new system easy and smooth, but the return on investment was fast, Sherwood said. The city needed only one experienced person to handle all three types of data.

'People have been led to believe that ATM over desktop is difficult and expensive, and that's just not the case,' he said. The city will make up the cost of the system in a year and a half, compared to seven years to recoup the costs of separate voice, video and data networks.

'The real beauty of ATM is that we're not limited by bandwidth restrictions,' Sherwood said. 'I can run multiple videoconferences simultaneously without worrying about bottlenecks. I can run whatever I want, whenever I want.'


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