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Notes from IP'07

More of the exhibitors speak.

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Last week's IP'07 exhibition, in London's Earls Court, gave a good view of what's considered hot in the networking business today.

As you might expect, VoIP and its cousin Unified Communications (UC) were much in evidence (along with Microsoft's Office Communications Server, OCS), and so was network monitoring.

There were also a few unexpected faces, including one Dave Slater, who I recognised from his time at SAN pioneer McDATA - subsequently consumed by Brocade, of course. He is now promoting a tool for show exhibitors and shops called InfoAktiv, which is a touchscreen info-terminal that can also print literature on demand, send it to your email address, or download it onto your USB stick.

Slater says that apart from the green angle of not spraying around so much printed material, half of which is probably binned before the day is out, marketing people love it because they know who took a copy.

He adds that test runs so far show that exhibition visitors prefer email to paper anyhow - though let's hope they are not just using the system to spam their enemies...

So what else was new or interesting? Having already mentioned Vegastream and the Trapeze/Mirage deal elsewhere, here's some of the others I spoke to.

Psytechnics

"Everyone else talks MOS, which relates to network performance," said Anthony Finbow, the CEO of VOIP testing specialist Psytechnics. "But you need to look at the packet contents - the analogue as well as the IP, and you need to understand the phone as well as the network. "

Psytechnics is a spin-off from the BT research labs at Martlesham Heath. Its technology can look inside a VOIP call to detect analogue problems - or digital problems which will manifest in the analogue world - such as hiss.

"For example, a large high street bank rolled out 75,000 IP phones, but had significant quality problems," Finbow said. "Diagnostics suggested the network was OK, but our product identified the root cause as a combination of incorrectly configured gateways and handsets with bad microphones."

He added, "A more common scenario is one call in every seven is bad, say, but the user can't see a pattern. We can see that."

Psytechnics licenses its patented algorithms to the developers of VOIP test and measurement systems. It recently added video support too, and is now selling its own Experience Manager software to IT managers for pre-deployment network testing.

Among the companies it works with is Microsoft, although Finbow wouldn't say if the Redmond giant is a licensee or not.

He warned though that the advent of OCS could bring more VOIP quality problems, especially if it is deployed on an existing IP telephony infrastructure. "Mixed solutions are a common cause of problems," he added.

Avaya

"We have been doing a lot of work on end-point technologies," said Roger Jones, Avaya Europe's convergence business development director.

"For instance, we have the final version of our Nokia client out now with seamless handover - it's linked to our one-number scheme and routes all calls through the company PBX, swapping seamlessly between Wi-Fi and cellular."

However, he added that with the pressure on mobile operators being what it is, Wi-Fi phone calls may not be the best answer for everyone.

"There's a lot of hype around VOIP, but there's definitely a case for looking at you cellular contract before going to Wi-Fi, because there's a lot of optimisation you can do by going to the right tariff," he said.

Jones also talked about two other end-point technologies, the first being Avaya's new web softphone, which is already in use with a few Avaya customers, including Cambridgeshire County Council.

"In effect it's a thin client phone, it means you don't need corporate software to run on a home PC - it helps for disaster recovery too," he said. "We also have a VPN hard IP phone, for home-based call centre agents, for example."

He added: "There are a lot of preconceptions that UC is only for big customers, etc. For us, it is an amalgamation of real-time and non-real-time communications. It's not a continuum, it is looking at which elements would add value to your company and only implementing those, and then it's helping companies develop business cases to do that."


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