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In the CEO Spotlight section in Internet Telephony, we recognize the outstanding work performed by exemplary companies. Each month we bring you the opinions of the heads of companies leading the Internet telephony industry now and helping to shape the future of the industry. This month, we spoke with Marc Zionts, Chief Executive Officer of Excel Switching Corporation (news - alerts).


EAS Group, parent company of Excel Switching recently announced the acquisition of Brooktrout, Inc. The combined company now has greater resources to invest in technology that enables service providers and enterprise customers to develop new products, introduce new services and cost-effectively transition networks to IP.

GG: What is Excel Switchings mission?

MZ: Excel Switchings mission is to deliver the broadest range of products to enable those creating and delivering communications solutions to develop new products, introduce new services, and help them cost-effectively transition their networks to IP.

GG: What is your vision for Excel Switching and how is the company positioned in the next-generation telecom market?

MZ: My vision for Excel/Brooktrout is to create the telecommunications industry leading provider of enabling technology and to continue to expand into open-source standard-based technologies such as IMS, IP video, and beyond. We want to continue to provide our customers and partners with our proven expertise and experience to help them bring their innovative solutions to life. Excel is positioned quite well in the next-generation telecom market. We address the needs of both enterprises and service providers and have a variety of products that can help them as they make their transition from traditional networks to IP-based solutions.

GG: Now that it appears that growth and opportunity are the trends in the VoIP industry, what possible hurdles do you see that might upset this momentum?

MZ: The past year we have certainly heard a lot of hype about IMS and have seen companies invest in the new technology. If IMS does not take off as quickly as people expect it to, then we could certainly see an upset in the VoIP momentum. In addition, it is a crowded marketplace with many companies seeming to offer similar products. Customers will need to ensure that they work with a company that has proven products, strong partners, and a stable environment. One of the major trends in the industry is the continuation of the outsourcing of various corporate functions. For example, you can expect to see more collaboration between companies when it comes to research; more commodity hardware and software; and more sharing of ideas. We are still in a very challenging time for the telecommunications industry. Many of the network equipment manufacturers are teetering on bankruptcy and have historically low market capitalizations. The incumbent service providers are seeing their cash flows becoming dramatically reduced due to new technologies and new competitive and regulatory pressures. Even though theyre still making billions of dollars, their profits for the first time are being seriously challenged.

GG: What are some of the technology areas where Excel Switching is increasingly focusing, and why are these areas important to the future of your company?

MZ: Excel is continuing to focus on emerging technologies, such as speech recognition, and is certified to work in Microsofts Speech Server platform. We continue to develop our IP Video messaging solution by growing our partnerships with companies like Openwave and a deployment at Portugals largest mobile provider, TMN. We also invest in emerging technologies such as IMS gaming with partners like IBM. In addition our media gateway product helps companies making the shift from TDM (define - news -alerts) to IP. We dont see all IP as a reality yet, and our unique position in both TDM and IP allows us to help our partners as they make their transition.

GG: Please describe the acquisition and integration of Brooktrout Technology. How does this affect your future plans?

MZ: The acquisition creates a combined company that has greater resources to invest in the research and development of the enabling technology that customers service provider and enterprise require to develop new products, introduce new services, and cost-effectively transition legacy networks to IP. We are pleased to be able to deliver our customers a wide array of enabling technology products. We will continue to look for opportunities to grow and strengthen our business. We plan to officially launch the company in March and will be excited to share more of our mission and plans for the future then!

GG: Describe your view of the future of the IP telephony industry.

MZ: At the start of 2006, we are going through another change in the telecommunications ecosystem. The reality of disaggregating services from location in the network is far more profound then we had envisioned in 2000. In 2000, we believed VoIP would dissolve the distinction between long-distance and local providers, as well as blurring the distinction between a network offering and a service bureau offering. However, we have come to learn that for many services they can be equally deployed as network services or as enterprise, premises services.

This change in how services are being delivered is impacting our traditional business models. Today, we find demand for products that was traditionally sold to carriers also within the enterprise. For many enterprises, they need the scale and reliability of the traditional products. However, theres an even larger number that will require the reliability, but not the scale, of the traditional products.

The availability of tools such as .NET, SALT, and Live Communications Server from Microsoft, is a manifestation of the promise of voice just being another modality to access enterprise applications. Likewise the popularity of service-oriented architectures is bringing technologies such as VoiceXML and the stimulus markup paradigm to the enterprise. What is different is that rather than simply building telecommunications applications with these new development paradigms, we see the application model turned upside down. These new technologies are allowing a different, less technical set of people create telecom applications. This will help grow the telecom industry and provide opportunity for new and exciting applications. IT

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