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Publisher's Outlook
December 2002

Rich Tehrani

IP PBX Shootout -- An Unqualified Success


While the telecom industry as whole continues to skid and bump along, certain segments of the market continue to enjoy some measure of success. A recent report from Allied Business Intelligence tells us that IP PBX deployments are on the rise. Specific findings in the study include:

Some form of IP-based systems will represent over 50 percent of enterprise PBX seats shipped by 2003.

Revenues will exceed $12.7 billion by 2007 as more and larger enterprises implement VoIP telephone systems.

At the recent Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO in San Diego, TMC was proud to play host to seven of the IP PBX industrys most influential companies, in our first-ever IP PBX Shootout, a forum designed to allow the leading manufacturers to debate the benefits of their particular IP PBX systems in the face of tough questions from a moderator and an extremely knowledgeable audience.

The Shootout began with introductions. The panel was made up of the following vendors representatives:

From Mitel Networks, Christian Szpilfogel;

From Shoreline Communications, Barry Castle;

From Vertical Networks, Scott Pickett;

From Avaya, Marisa Rosato;

From Citel, John Drolet (also representing the views of 3Com);

From Cisco Systems, Hank Lambert; and

From AltiGen Communications, Richard DeSoto.

The debate began with a warm-up question, asking the vendors to state what sets their product apart from the competition. The responses ranged from specific technological differences to a focus on user experiences. One theme that cropped up here, and that was repeated throughout the rest of the Shootout, was the importance of a migration path from TDM-based systems evolving into fully IP-centric solutions. Vendors all found common ground, agreeing that technology alone was not enough of a justification to move users of traditional PBXs and key systems into an IP-based solution. Attention to real-world business issues, ease of use, ROI, increased productivity, and the potential benefits of IP applications were all cited as reasons that people would wish to consider IP PBXs.

Next, the conversation turned to features, specifically features that the manufacturers did not currently offer, but felt were important enough to pursue in future versions of their systems. By far the most talked about features/applications were increased use of presence and increased collaboration capabilities. All agreed that instant messaging held promise as a future feature of a next-generation phone system. Beyond specific apps/features vendors hit all the right notes and included increased reliability, lower price points, and standardization -- most notably an automated discovery process and more attention to power over Ethernet -- in their laundry lists of elements on their near-term roadmap.

When pressed for their views on SIP and standards in general, most vendors agreed that SIP was an important standard, but that todays solutions were not yet likely to adhere to that still evolving protocol. While SIP holds tremendous potential to help developers create new applications in collaboration and presence, proprietary protocols are today providing business values and ready-for-market applications. A final point on standards was that standardization would in time drive prices down, both for the IP PBX solutions themselves as well as for IP phones, and that, most certainly, would be a good thing.

On the issue of wireless, everyone seemed ready to support 802.11, with most offering solutions incorporating clients from either Symbol or Spectralink. Bluetooth, the emerging personal-area networking standard did not elicit much of a response from the panel. In fact the general feeling regarding Bluetooth was that the standard needs to mature somewhat, and that customers were not demanding the technology.

Questions from the audience drove the conversation towards security, in fact several members of the audience seemed perturbed that the issue of security was not as high up on the vendors checklists as they thought it should be. The panelists did say that increased media encryption was definitely possible, but at an increased cost. Audience members persisted however, and some panelists were left positioning the security issue in terms like, If someone wants to hack a system badly enough, theres nothing that can be done to prevent it. To be fair, work is being done in encryption and were likely to see some real movement on this issue in future IP PBX releases.

The final question of the debate, regarding IP phone support, drew a varied response from the panelists -- while most of the participants support at least two IP phones (Polycoms was the most cited), some vendors supported as many as 11 phones. This final topic also produced the most memorable exchange of the Shootout, with Shorelines Barry Castle arguing that a debate centering on phones was inappropriate:

Its about the apps. Its not about the phones. The industry has been tied to phones for years. People are paying $650 for an IP phone today -- its insane! Its mad! Get away from it!

The audience seemed to support this view, if applause was an accurate barometer.

All in all, the first-ever IP PBX Shootout was a smashing success; so much so that we decided to bring the event to our next Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO in Miami, this coming February 57. For details on the show, for conference registration, and for more information on the next IP PBX Shootout, please contact Bruce Hirsch at 800-243-6002 x130 or visit the Web site at www.itexpo.com.




For a list of the Best of Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO Fall 2002 award winners from San Diego, click here.

[ Return To The December 2002 Table Of Contents ]

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