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December 1998

An Industrial Leap for Telephony Gateways

When ITXC (Internet Telephony eXchange Carrier) Corp. had to find servers to run their worldwide Internet telephony gateways, the company realized how crucial choosing the right platform would be. ITXC needed servers that were not only reliable, but fully integrated to process millions of real-time calls. The company, which recently became the operator of the most extensive international wholesale Internet telephony network, experiences a serious financial impact if its network goes down or is interrupted, since customers can simply switch to another carrier. After a fair amount of research on industrial computers, ITXC discovered the CS500 five-slot and CS1000 ten-slot computers from Crystal Group, Inc., of Hiawatha, IA.

"We were very skeptical about what servers would be best for us because we need a commercial strength network," said Brad Miller, vice president of operations for ITXC. "We made the decision to go with industrial computers because of their high reliability factor. We require a lot of redundancy and reliability." The company, based in Princeton, N.J., provides wholesale Internet telephony services worldwide to resellers, prepaid calling card companies, facilities-based telephone companies, and other members of the telecommunications industry. Resellers use ITXC's services to offer discounted international calling to their customers.

While an interruption of services can lead to customer frustration and delays, many of these problems can be prevented. Carriers are beginning to replace some of their switches with PC-based switches, and issues of reliability, serviceability, flexibility, and space efficiency are becoming very important. Industrial computers are designed to address these concerns. "We had a two-fold need," said Miller. "We needed a server that would allow us to manage and manipulate our worldwide network as well as originate and terminate Internet telephony minutes on our gateways.

"I came to Crystal because I needed an industrial strength server that was a fully integrated gateway and didn't look like a desktop," said Miller. "Crystal was particularly attractive because they put the ITXC certified logo on the gateway, and they do computer gateway setup configuration. We make changes almost constantly, and they are able to support us in that regard." Miller said he was initially skeptical about Crystal's claim of server strength, reliability, and integration, but the company ultimately impressed ITXC with its testing procedures and ruggedness.

Each CS500 is compact at 8.75" (H) x 4.35" (W) x 16.91" (D), while the CS1000 is slightly larger at 8.75" (H) x 8.75" (W) x 16.91" (D). A monitor, keyboard, switches, and 24 Crystal computers will fit in one rack, and the machines typically occupy as little as one-sixth of the space of traditional offerings. The gateways utilize Crystal's QuickConnect cable management system to allow up to 32 computers to reside in a single 19-inch rack without cable confusion. The system combines all cables coming from the computer into a single connector on the back of the rack, and all cables leading from this connector are wired in place. QuickConnect eliminates many cable-related failures and allows removal or installation of a computer in less than ten seconds.

"Crystal's rack system and QuickConnect were really attractive to us," said Jay Meranchik, Director of Network Services for ITXC. "You don't have to unhook a bunch of cables, you just slide out a box and put a new one in." Server size is also an advantage for ITXC's customers. "Our customers are paying for space. Anytime we can save our customers space, the solution becomes a real benefit to them," he said.

Miller said the new servers enabled ITXC to save money by colocating gateways at expensive PSTN carrier houses where many telephone companies meet. The company can now fit three times as many servers in the same area. In addition to saving space, ITXC has saved hours of critical manpower previously spent sending employees off-site to configure and test gateways, and install cards. The extra time has allowed ITXC to focus on building its network and providing quality customer service. "We cut 16-20 man-hours per gateway of testing, troubleshooting, rolling out, and those sorts of things," said Miller. "We're able to purchase a fully configured gateway with Crystal versus a computer, a computer card, and a piece of software. They've helped us to bridge the gap.

"We really have a gateway that's a little black box and doesn't look like an ordinary computer," he said. "This really helps when we roll out our gateway because desktop computers are notorious for being unreliable." "Crystal's a perfect match," he added. "When we pick [up] the phone to call them, it's a done deal at every step. We don't have to worry because they understand their product and our needs. You can't ask for anything better than that."

Curtis Nelson is executive vice president of Crystal Group, Inc., a leading manufacturer of industrial grade fault tolerant computers for the fast-paced networking and communications market. Crystal's computers occupy as little as one-sixth the space of traditional offerings while maximizing flexibility, reliability, serviceability and space efficiency.


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