VOIP Vendors Get Vocal

VOIP, not yet as pervasive as some would have us believe, is demanding more and more attention in service provider and enterprise boardrooms these days (see Probe: VOIP Goes Mainstream and Sonus Touts VOIP Survey).

And along with the increased interest, and greater capex outlay on VOIP systems, comes wave after wave of vendor announcements. Those waves have grown into a tsunami in the past few days, so we've picked out a few of the more telling tidbits.

Session Controller Firms Spew News
These vendors, whose products interconnect multiple IP networks and manage IP sessions across those networks, are never short of something to say.

Take Kagoor Networks, for example. It announced a beefier product, the VoiceFlow 4000, which, it claims, will deliver 750 calls per second, five times more than its 3000 box (see Kagoor Boosts Its VoiceFlow).

The firm's marketing VP Jim Greenway says that, having launched their initial VOIP services, many carriers will need to scale up their VOIP systems in the next 12 to 18 months, "and we're getting ready for that." He adds that a key feature of the product, available from early 2005, is that the box is small, just a 4U-high chassis. "This means it's small enough to deploy at the edge of the network as well as at the core," claims Greenway.

One of Kagoor's chief rivals, Netrake Corp., also announced a product enhancement (see Netrake Upgrades Session Controllers). It is pushing its credentials in the residential VOIP system sector and talking up the ability of its nCite session controller to handle the flexible bandwidth requirements of multiple SIP-based applications, such as video conferencing.

NexTone Communications Inc., meanwhile, announced a new customer in the form of VeriSign Inc. (Nasdaq: VRSN), and a demo with an MPLS router vendor (see VeriSign Picks NexTone for VOIP and NexTone Demos MPLS Control). VP of marketing Dan Dearing says NexTone now has more than 150 users, and that it is experiencing about a 30 percent growth in the number of ports shipped quarter on quarter.

Dearing says the current challenge is to help carriers deliver services to their business customers. "It's a much more complex challenge than delivering VOIP to the residential market, as there are many more technologies, such as PBXs and video systems, to interconnect with, and the end users are much more mobile," says the NexToner.

Meanwhile, all these vendors are looking over their shoulders as other VOIP-related vendors, such as softswitch vendor Veraz Networks Inc., encroach on their territory as the market cranks up a few notches (see Veraz Gets More Controlling and Report: Session Controllers in Demand).

Now Network Equipment Technologies Inc. (net.com) (NYSE: NWK) is getting in on the act at the edge of the network by adding session control functions to its ShoutIP platform (see Net.com Offers SIP Session Control).

"And your host for this evening..."
Service providers are developing a taste for hosted IP services, if the news from a number of application server vendors is anything to go by. Sylantro Systems Corp., for example, has just announced another customer in the form of PowerNet Global Communications Inc., which has 500,000 residential and 50,000 business customers (see PowerNet Uses Sylantro for VOIP).

That follows last month's gig at Lightyear Network Solutions LLC, which will push hosted VOIP services at its 60,000 residential customer base (see Lightyear Uses Sylantro for VOIP).

A Lightyear spokesman says it chose Sylantro over main competitors BroadSoft Inc. and VocalData Inc., because "we felt Sylantro had a good track record of working with smaller organizations, and we were sure they could support us as we roll out the service."

Sylantro has also just announced support for WLAN handsets and SIP-based video telephony (see Sylantro Supports Video, WLAN Phones).

Not to be outdone, VocalData, now part of the growing Tekelec Inc. (Nasdaq: TKLC) empire, has also bagged a new customer, albeit one from the Tekelec stable (see Telekenex Uses VocalData for VOIP and Tekelec Connects With VocalData), while Broadsoft has announced a partnership with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) that will see the pair integrate their respective hosted VOIP and instant messaging and presence technologies (see BroadSoft, Microsoft Team Up).

Up and coming applications server startup Ubiquity Software Corp. has also been busy this week, launching its VOIP Plus service creation solution and some customers (see Ubiquity Launches VOIP Plus, Endavo Uses Ubiquity for VOIP, and SipStorm Offers VOIP With Ubiquity). And VOIP gear vendor Verso Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: VRSO) launched itself into the IP Centrex market with a platform aimed at service providers that target SMBs (see Verso Launches Hosted Voice Software).

Alcatel and Verizon Cozy Up
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) have launched a joint assault on medium-sized businesses, those with between eight and 100 voice lines, pushing a managed services package that includes the vendor's hybrid PBX, services, support, and maintenance (see Alcatel, Verizon Team for VOIP).

Verizon spokeswoman Catherine Lewis says that while the RBOC already has partnerships with other PBX vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and NEC Corp. (Nasdaq: NIPNY; Tokyo: 6701), those deals involve the delivery and installation of the product but not any follow-on support.

"This is much more complex than a simple resale deal, and we're unaware of anyone else offering such a total package. This gives small and medium-sized businesses, which often don't have the resources to manage their communications systems themselves, one point of contact for services, support, and equipment," says Lewis.

The package is on offer in Boston and Phildelphia to begin with, and will be rolled out to other "key cities" during the next year, says the Verizonette.

And finally, a little test...
It's just as well for the environment that companies don't send their news releases by fax any more (or do they?), otherwise there'd be a few more trees reduced to pulp after the past week or so's flurry of announcements.

Empirix Inc. and Spirent Communications were most prominent (see Spirent Ups VOIP Test Ante and Empirix Hammers on Carriers' Doors), but to get all the news, check out our Testing Technology Channel.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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