Last week I travelled to Huntsville, Alabama to meet with three VoIP companies, including ADTRAN, Digium/Asterisk, and Kancharla. My first meeting was with ADTRAN (~1600 employees) whose headquarters are located in the country's second largest high-technology research park. In fact, while driving through the research park area, I saw several military-related and high-tech companies, including Boeing, Ratheon (of Patriot missile fame), SAIC, Dynetics, Northrop Grumman Corp., Lockheed Martin, Worldcom, and more.
ADTRAN's Gorgeous Campus & Buildings
I was looking forward to my meeting with ADTRAN, which I knew was the leader in the CSU/DSU market, but they are much more than than a CSU/DSU manufacturer - more on that in a moment. Just as an aside, TMC used ADTRAN's CSU/DSU equipment for years for our WAN connection between our two buildings and it never failed.
One of the reasons I wanted to meet with ADTRAN was that I recently discovered that they made VoIP products. When I first discovered this a few weeks ago, I said to a co-worker, "Huh? ADTRAN makes VoIP products? That's news to me. I'm on just about every press list - often listed twice since I write for two publications and I have never seen a press release about ADTRAN developing or selling VoIP products." I was a bit befuddled that such a large corporation has been selling VoIP products and I didn't know anything about it, especially since it's my job to know these things. How ADTRAN managed to stay under my radar is still a mystery to me, but they're definitely on my radar screen now and they have some very interesting VoIP solutions.
First, I asked ADTRAN to explain some of their competitive advantages for their VoIP products. They told me that they are very unique in the marketplace in that they offer "converged solutions for the office" containing such features as VPN, router, switch, Power over Ethernet (PoE), firewall, CSU/DSU, and more all rolled-in-one.
For instance, their NetVanta 1000 Series is a family of managed Layer 2 Fast Ethernet, Power over Ethernet, and Gigabit Ethernet switches. This lineup features the NetVanta 1224R/1224STR—a unique, all-in-one access platform that combines switch, router, WAN interface, and firewall with optional VPN and dial backup. These full-featured, industry-standard devices include management, Gigabit uplink capability, VLAN trunking, and more. Designed to facilitate Voice over IP (VoIP) applications, NetVanta 1000 Series switches offer Power over Ethernet (PoE), Quality of Service (QoS), and other voice integration features. According to ADTRAN's website this solution is "perfect for enterprise-class deployment in branch offices or in multi-site networks, these powerful, cost-efficient switches redefine branch office connectivity, and introduce a new level of value into network operations." Further, they explained in the meeting that they can offer their solutions at about 50% less than competing Cisco solutions.
I should point out that Founder and CEO of ADTRAN Mark Smith will retire on September 10th on his 65th birthday. Mark Smith is one of those guys that has the "Midas Touch". In addition to the success of ADTRAN, in 1970 Smith co-founded data and modem communication equipment manufacturer, Universal Data Systems that was later bought by Motorola. The folks I met with at ADTRAN had nothing but kind words to say about their "leader". Sure, you might say, "Who's going to bad mouth their CEO in front of the press?" but it was more than that. I could tell that there was sincere affection in their voice for their fearless leader. They commented how Mark Smith was obviously extremely well-off, but instead of retiring years earlier and travelling the world, or yachting, Mark chose to say on because of his love for the company he started. His company was his passion and you just have to admire anyone who enjoys their work so much they choose to stay even when financially they do not have to. His passion certainly seemed to rub off on the employees I met with, as they all seemed to enjoy the company.
Finally, I asked ADTRAN to send me their feature-rich NetVanta 1224R/1224STR for a TMC Labs review, so I'm looking forward to putting this product to the test in the near future published in Internet Telephony Magazine with perhaps a "teaser" or even the full review in my VoIP blog.
p.s. A special thanks to ADTRAN's Kim B, Leslie C, Patricia P, Paul S, Ron W, and Tammie D for an educational and informative meeting on your organization!