Many of you may remember the story of my visit to COMDEX back in 1997 to tell the information technology world TMC was going to launch Internet Telephony Magazine. The typical reaction was confusion and in many cases giggles. At the time, the only products in the space were software allowing PC-to-PC calling and a gateway or two.
In 1997 there wasn’t an industry, just a handful of disjointed products. Over time, the IP telephony space which can now be referred to as IP communications became a real market.
Today, VoIP has not only become a growing market, it is a big reason many companies who sell networking products are experiencing growth. IP communications has gone from being a niche to something the IT market can wrap its arms around and thank for helping to grow sales.
In fact a number of networking companies are taking advantage of widespread IP communications adoption by designing products with VoIP in mind.
Case in point is Foundry Networks who is seeing dramatic growth in their networking business due to the widespread adoption of corporate IP communications. In a candid conversation with Gary Hemminger the Director of Product Marketing for the company, he was ecstatic as he told me how business is doing very well and furthermore the company has even recently redesigned the product line to make it better than ever.
What are some of improvements? Well, according to Gary and Pavel Radda, who handles media relations for, they have pushed price/performance, included dual power supplies and lowered the environmental costs. Can you say going green?
One area of differentiation the company is proud of is PoE support which is built-in to the products at the start. This means you don’t need to forklift later to get PoE later. And we all know how important PoE is in IP communications. If you do choose to upgrade to PoE later you can do so in banks of 24.
Gary’s quote on the matter is “Do not buy networking infrastructure that does not support PoE.” And he has a point. Even if you aren’t deploying IP communications today, why handicap your network?
Need more features? The GS and LS product lines have support for MAC-based VLANs allowing a dumb hub to be connected which subsequently enables different devices to plug in and automatically be connected to different VLANs. Certain segments of the market such as the government, universities and at least one country in Asia seem to especially like this feature.
An interesting approach which Foundry has taken which has proved beneficial is to work with the call managers and phones of other vendors rather than developing their own. A few years back the market told them they should have their own suite of telephony products but now it seems the market has changed course and their decision to be agnostic to telephony vendor has paid off nicely. In fact the company estimates 50% of the phones attached to their networking products are actually from Cisco and Avaya.
As a point of trivia, the company uses a Mitel phone system in their own office.
Foundry Networks has LLDP and CDP built into their products and also support Auto QoS which automatically honors the priority bits being sent by phones. Gary says not every company can take advantage of this feature (especially if you have multiple traffic priority levels) but when you can, it eliminates the need to build an access control list (ACL) which takes time and can introduce human error.
As voice continues to permeate corporate networks, the networking industry has come to grips with the fact that IP communications represents a truly critical application which can help dramatically increase their sales. As the networking market embraces IP communications, we can look forward to more innovation making IP voice and video more secure, easier to configure and manage.