Getting Vertical

Cedarville University Branches Into VoIP

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines  |  June 01, 2011

It’s a familiar refrain: An organization has an existing Nortel phone switch that’s nearing end of life and needs to decide where to turn. For Cedarville University, the answer was an open source solution from eZuce.

Dave Rotman, associate vice president of technology at the Christian college in southwestern Ohio, says the school first considered adding VoIP to its existing Nortel switch. It received an informal comment from its Nortel representative that the cost of doing so would be $100,000 more than it expected. The university didn’t want to sink that kind of money into a switch it got in 1992 and was buying parts off eBay (News - Alert) to maintain, especially given the state that Nortel was in at the time. So it started looking for alternative VoIP solutions that would put it on a path to offer more advanced functionality to users.

Rotman and his colleagues quickly became intrigued with the idea of using an open source solution, which wouldn’t require Cedarville University to pay license fees “over and over,” he says. They looked at various solutions on this front and settled on eZuce’s sipXecs system.

“We felt like the sipXecs product was a little more contemporary,” he says. “It’s a pure SIP architecture.”

The server sets up the call, he adds, but it doesn’t stay in line for the call, so the server doesn’t get overloaded with voice traffic, Rotman says. That means the university saves on server resources.

What’s more, the solution provides users at the university with the unified communications functionality Rotman and his colleagues had been seeking. For example, end users can access a web interface to configure their own phones rather than relying on IT staff to do the job. And, down the road, the school expects to introduce presence management.

As of late April there were four buildings and 140 phones – mostly Polycom’s HD-based IP 560 models – being served by the sipXecs system, which came into service at the university in September 2010. They started with 40 phones on the system and expect to add 30 phones a month for the next couple years. Ultimately, the new switch will serve between 1,200 and 1,300 endpoints at 40 buildings, including a new academic site to open next year.

The system consists of two blade servers in a failover arrangement, although voicemail is only on one of the two servers. Analog gateways help to support fax machines, auto dialers and other legacy gear. The university also has a gateway that connects to its Nortel PBX (News - Alert) to allow for the phased implementation of the new eZuce solution; Ronco Communications helped Cedarville University with that integration.

To help get university staff comfortable with the new solution, eZuce put a staffer on site for a couple of days, and both eZuce and Ronco trained Cedarville University staff on how to manage and use the system.

“The expert advice, guidance, and recommendations provided during the installation process were excellent,” says Rotman. “Cedarville staff members were able to learn how to manage the sipXecs installation, deploy handsets, interface to analog devices, and perform other duties.”

He adds that university users appreciate the improved sound quality on voice calls as a result of the HD phones, and they enjoy the ability to manage voice mail, access messages through WAV (News - Alert) file attachments in e-mail, process voicemail via a web page, and use the telephone handset to access voicemail.

As discussed in the October issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY, eZuce is a commercial enterprise established by the men behind SIPfoundry. The company delivers all-software-based telephony solutions akin to what Microsoft (News - Alert) provides. The twist is that the eZuce solution offer the added benefit of being open source and the go-to-market will be 100 percent indirect.

Martin Steinmann, eZuce’s co-founder and president, late last year commented that the company delivers the first open software UC solution to hit the core of the enterprise market. Asterisk was in the SMB market for a long time, and analysts in 2008 said open source had reached about 18 percent share of the SMB market, he noted.

“We are now taking this model into the core of the enterprise market,” he says. “We continue where Asterisk left off. I think we are the only credible successor to an open source product in the broader UC market.”

The privately owned company, headquartered in Newburyport, Mass., was founded in February by Steinmann and Jerry Stabile.

“eZuce is new company, but it’s not your typical startup,” said Steinmann. “We are new, but we start out with a mature product, the product that is in the market, that is in the channel, that is referenceable, that is known to work, and is a really serious solution that competes in the mid enterprise market.”

The idea is to deliver and support a complete solution that replaces legacy PBXs like Nortel CS-1000s, Meridian-1, Aura products and Cisco (News - Alert) CallManager as well as other solutions on the market, he explained.

“We think the software model and open source economics really unhinge the incumbents’ model,” says Steinmann. “I’ve been inside Nortel. I’ve run the P&L. I know how it looks, and the price differential between what Microsoft introduced based on a software model. And that gets compounded as you add the open source economics into this. [So it] is so vastly different from the current established pricing model in this PBX market that the P&Ls of incumbent vendors just can’t compress to that level.

“And then we deliver what customers and partners really want,” he continues, “and that is an IT application, communications as service, and the solution that comes in at a significantly lower cost.”

Edited by Jennifer Russell