Army calls on VOIP to place all base's messages on one system

Army calls on VOIP to place all base's messages on one system

BY DAWN S. ONLEY | GCN STAFF

Thousands of soldiers stationed at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey will be able to get a lot more use out of their telephones when the Army upgrades the base's ancient system with about 500 IP phones.


Workers such
as network manager Bob F. Donnelly and VOIP manager Jackie Barnum can get fax, voice mail
and e-mail messages over the phone on the Picatinny Arse-nal's new voice over IP system.
The base, which has been around since the Civil War, recently began rolling out a unified messaging system developed by Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif.

Using Cisco Unity software, users can talk over a common IP network on Cisco's Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data. The technology lets soldiers access their voice mail, e-mail and fax messages all in one mailbox, said Bob F. Donnelly, network manager at Picatinny.

The architecture also employs videoconferencing equipment'a selling point, Donnelly said, since the base has been using desktop PC videoconferencing for the last five years.

The multiservice networking is a standards-based, open-system architecture that uses multiprotocol routers and multilayer LAN switches to let soldiers retrieve messages either on the Internet or by using an analog phone.

Message on the road

A voice mail message stored as a WAV file can be downloaded as an e-mail attachment while soldiers are traveling, said Stephen Orr, systems engineer at Cisco Systems' Defense Department East Army Division in New York. And e-mail can be retrieved via a telephony user interface and transfigured from text to speech using a cellular phone.

'When they check their voice mail, they can do it through a Web interface,' said Orr, who added that Cisco Systems is helping Picatinny add other functions to its current system.

The base, which employs more than 3,000 workers, including a large percentage of systems engineers and logistics support staff, will save money and time by running only one network instead of two, Donnelly said.

Base officials started looking at voice over IP technology because many of the old copper phone cables were going bad, he said.

Worth the switch

In fact, it would have cost the Army more to upgrade its old government proprietary phone switch than to roll over to the voice over IP system, Orr said. Cisco's IP phones cost $600 each. 'This is leveraging your information technology network,' Donnelly said.

The base is going from asynchronous transfer mode to Gigabit Ethernet using Cisco 6509 and 4006 switches. A Cisco 3524-PWR-XL switch provides in-line power to the VOIP phones.

'They're doing controlled deployment,' Orr said. 'They're migrating the employees over, from an analog phone to IP phone. It's kind of a transition period. Their goal is to turn the entire base over to voice over IP within the next two years.'

The current network design is a fully meshed Cisco ATM core. The distribution layer is a mix of 5500 and 2924 switches providing 10/100-Mbps service to the desktop PCs, Orr said.

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