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Rich Tehrani’s Executive Suite is a monthly feature in which leading executives in the VoIP and IP Communications industry discuss their company’s latest developments with TMC (News - Alert) president Rich Tehrani, as well as providing analysis on industry news and trends.

The past year was a prosperous one for many companies in the communications space, among them Aculab. Aculab released its IP media processing technology in various form factors and with many new features, and it continued to deliver against its heritage of being the top vendor for worldwide protocol support. Recently, Rich had the opportunity to speak with Aculab’s Managing Director Alan Pound regarding how the company plans to leverage its recent success, including how it plans to grow its new ApplianX product.

Alan Pound





 

Alan Pound

 
 
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Aculab’s Managing Director Alan Pound


RT: Following on Aculab’s successes from 2006, what can we expect in 2007?

AP: That’s right; we had an amazing year last year. We launched our Prosody X IP media processing card in PCI, cPCI, and, last month, we were the first hardware vendor to release an IP media processing card in PCI Express form factor. The next form factor that can be expected from Aculab is MicroTCA (News - Alert).

In a nutshell, our main focus for 2007 is on video, mobility, and security. These are the three functions that we will be enhancing on our entire Prosody media processing product range. Prosody is available as Prosody X (DSP cards) and Prosody S (host-based) they will each have the same features and functionality, so the choice of DSP or host will be with our customers. Linux houses will be pleased to learn that Prosody S will soon be available under Linux. Finally, Aculab announced last month the introduction of ApplianX.

RT: In your opinion, how is the transition from PSTN to IP proceeding?

AP: If adoption of Aculab’s Prosody X IP-based media processing platform is anything to go by, the transition is progressing well. There is evidence of a healthy market and solid adoption of IP. There isn’t a consumer of ‘voice boards’ that hasn’t developed an IP capability and is not now looking to add video and mobility to their products. As calls originating in IP continue to increase in number, through Skype (News - Alert) and others, there remains a need to connect to the PSTN. This is where gateway appliances come in. Sales of gateways are set to grow steadily, for at least the next three to four years, according to some analysts, and that is another sign of healthy convergence. Don’t ask me when the transition will be complete, though.

RT: What is Aculab’s position on the newer form factors, such as PCI Express, AdvancedTCA (News - Alert) , and MicroTCA?

AP: We have envisaged the industry’s prompt migration from PCI to PCI Express for quite some time and were the first company to release a media processing and signalling card with PCI Express bus compatibility to the market. This allows our customers to take advantage of the new computer bus benefits — mainly better performance and lower price.

AdvancedTCA and its spin-offs, AMC and MicroTCA, are both compellingly attractive to us. In fact, the entire ATCA architecture is ideally suited to the IP-centric approach we have taken with our range of media processing and signalling platforms — Prosody X. It is as if ATCA were designed for it. It lends itself ideally to distribution, parallelism and resilience — it is practically perfect. High availability, managed redundancy, and resilience are all strategic development areas for us. Aculab is planning to introduce ATCA compliant products later this year.

RT: What differentiates you from the competition?

AP: Essentially, Aculab is an R&D company. Our focus is on rising to the engineering challenges presented to us through developing leading edge hardware and software technologies. We focus our resources on continually enhancing and developing our products to give customers who have chosen to develop on our products a good return on investment. At Aculab, we can now provide our customers with a range of low to high density solutions, offering maximum flexibility.

In addition, we support our customers through offering comprehensive pre-sales technical consultancy, customer training services, post-sales and technical support. We also provide them with strong marketing support in taking their Aculab-based products to market. Our customers benefit from the fact that Aculab is a privately owned, long established, debt free company, focused on establishing long term relationships.

RT: Which country or region holds the greatest potential for growth for Aculab over the next three years?

AP: We have increasing penetration in the Americas, an ever-expanding Europe is our own back-yard, but apart from Australia, where we have enjoyed a presence for some time, increasing our footprint in India, Singapore, Malaysia, and China, of course, is probably our biggest challenge. We have some partnership agreements in those territories and are continuing to develop those.

RT: You recently launched the new ApplianX product range. Can you explain the strategy behind the launch?

AP:
The strategy behind ApplianX was set against the backdrop of a dramatically changing market for hardware- and software-based enabling technologies. A growing pool of solution providers are looking to take advantage of leading enabling technology but, for a number of reasons, do not wish to incur the associated development costs or dedicate the time to write C-based applications. Rather, they prefer to stay focused on their application.

The ApplianX range has been designed with this trend in mind, offering deployment-ready products based on Aculab’s award winning Prosody X IP media processing cards. Each ApplianX product plays an infrastructure role in the converged networks of enterprises and service providers, and as such, can address a number of service provision needs.

ApplianX products share a number of common features that together contribute to a low total cost of ownership along with an exceptional return on investment. This includes the 19” rack-mount presentation, which eases installation and co-existence with other infrastructure equipment. Configuration and administration is facilitated by the use of an integrated HTML Web server for remote configuration and monitoring, plus support for SNMP, RADIUS, CDRs, and event logging. Extensive standards compliance ensures maximum compatibility with other systems. Resilience and robustness is assured by the use of replicated facilities in areas that are critical, or traditionally prone to failure: dual IP traffic interfaces, hot swap power supplies, RAID arrays when hard disk drives are absolutely necessary, otherwise preferring the use of reliable solid-state Flash memory. Finally, high performance and rich functionality are achieved by design, focussing upon specific tasks within the converged network, and delivering solutions that address those tasks in breadth and depth, rather than attempting to be a ‘Jack of all trades’.

RT: What can we expect to see from ApplianX moving forward?

AP: ApplianX will include a range of voice and video IP gateways, SIP trunking gateways, media servers and associated devices. The portfolio of products will be available in both enterprise class and carrier class presentations of highly resilient, scalable, high availability configurations, with capacities of up to four trunks in a single 1U server and 80 trunks in a cPCI, carrier-class chassis.

The first two products available are ApplianX IP Gateway and ApplianX VoiceXML (News - Alert) Media Server. ApplianX IP Gateway comes with 1, 2, or 4 E1 or T1 trunks supporting a wide variety of E1 and T1 protocols and approvals, plus PBX integration protocols DPNSS and Q.SIG. ApplianX VoiceXML Media Server is a deployment-ready, standards-based media service platform for service center and enterprise deployments that is able to attach to either TDM or IP (SIP) networks and execute applications written to VXML 2.0 and CCXML 1.0. The ApplianX website carries all the latest information on current and planned appliances: www.applianx.com

Rich Tehrani is President and Editor in Chief at TMC.

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