Skype Enters the Enterprise

By Ted Stevenson | Feb 23, 2007 | Print this Page
http://www.enterprisenetworkingplanet.com/unified_communications/Skype-Enters-the-Enterprise-3661746.htm

If you're a skier, you know the K2 brand. And if you're interested in voice over IP, you know the Skype brand. This week, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Actiontec Electronics announced that K2 Inc. had deployed Actiontec's new VoSKY Exchange product in its Carlesbad, Calif. world headquarters to implement telephone-based Skype calling between its satellite offices in ski country the world over.

Actiontec announced the VoSKY Exchange 9140 and 9180 earlier this month—four- and eight-port upgrades to its rack-mounted 9040 and 9080 Skype gateways. The two appliances operate with any PBX—traditional TDM or IP-based—bringing Skype connectivity to an organization's standard desktop phones.

Actiontec director of product management, David Tang explained to VoIPplanet.com that the VoSKY Exchange is "the only solution on the market today that's Skype certified for business."

Tang further explained that a companion server runs the Skype software, housing both global, organization-wide directories and individuals' private Skype address books.

For the global directory, IT administrators set up outbound calling numbers as speed dials. "[The VoSKY Exchange] supports up to 10,000 preprogrammed speed-dials," according to Lesley Kirchman, Actiontec's director of marketing.

In operation, end users don't have to know they're using Skype for inter-office—or any other outbound calling—Kirchman said. "You have to set up the PBX to work with the Exchange. You tell the PBX, 'Okay, instead of somebody dialing 9 for an outside line, now, when they dial, say 8 [or any other designated digit], it's going to go over Skype.' "

The most obvious benefit of this system is cost savings. But another virtue of the VoSKY Exchange is its reduction of technological complexity. The K2 installation addressed both factors:

"We have long been interested in using Skype to reduce our long-distance bills, but initially we were discouraged because we faced the prospect of installing Skype software on every user's desktop, having to issue headsets and managing each Skype account individually," said Sean Andrew, IT Director for K2's Carlsbad headquarters. "VoSKY Exchange enabled us to painlessly extend our existing PBX system to incorporate the power of Skype without the complexities and headaches associated with other VoIP solutions. The upshot is that we were able to achieve a return on our investment within one month and are continuing to save thousands of dollars on landline and mobile phone charges each month."

Kirchman also pointed out that with traditional voice over IP equipment, you need infrastructure at each location where you want to make in-network calls. "If you're a big multinational company, you have to have an IP-PBX at each location to get free calls between them all." With the VoSKY Exchange, however you can get pretty much the same benefit with just one unit, installed at a key office. Workers in small remote offices—or on the road—can dial in with their Skype IDs, and the calls are still free.

While companies can, theoretically use Skype to their hearts' content—without added infrastructure like the VoSKY Exchange, David Tang pointed out that the Actiontec product gives IT managers "a little bit more peace of mind, taking Skype off the desktop and isolating it in a centralized server. They can put it behind their firewall, they can put it in a separate subnet, or whatever. Basically, you're taking Skype off of the LAN," Tang said.

In deploying a centralized approach to using Skype, Tang explained that Actiontec recommends that its customers provide dedicated bandwidth for the voice application. "Skype takes up a maximum of about 30k[bps] per call, so we recommend that they have at least 128k dedicated for a four-port Exchange box," he said. This can be done in a number of ways without installing separate—or managed—connectivity. "Some customers can segment that off of their router. They can create a separate VLAN for it, or they can have a QoS box out there in the network that they can use to allocate the necessary bandwidth," Tang said.