'Survivable' VoIP for the Enterprise

VoIP solution provider Quintum bolsters its adaptable Tenor device line with ability to carry on when IP networks fail.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Sep 29, 2006
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New Jersey-based Quintum Technologies has, over its eight year history, built up a global business "delivering VoIP solutions at the edge of the enterprise network," according to vice president of marketing, Chuck Rutledge.

The core of Quintum's business is the Tenor product line, a group of adaptable edge devices the company calls "Multi-Path Switches." These are typically deployed by enterprises in remote or branch offices or by IP telephony service providers as CPE (customer premise equipment).

Does this sound a bit imprecise? Perhaps, but the highly configurable and adaptable nature of the Tenor's core architecture makes it a "perfect fit" (to quote Quintum's ad slogan) for a number of different roles in the IP telecommunications scheme of things. There are two basic Tenor models, scaled to meet the varying capacity requirements of small and medium-size offices. The AF models are aimed at "the 8-port market," according to Rutledge, with 2, 4, 6, and 8-port configurations available; the AX models scale upward, with 8, 16, 32, and 48-port models available.

What both models have in common is the ability to mix and match FXS and FXO ports. Rutledge explained to VoIPplanet.com that FXS-only configurations are available, typically serving as VoIP gateways, as are FXO-only configurations for trunking applications.

But it's the combined FXS/FXO configurations that make the Tenor a flexible enterprise VoIP telephony tool.

"The Multi-Path configuration has matching FXS/FXO ports embedded, making the Tenor essentially an integrated switch. It's why we don't call it a gateway—the gateway is just one component of what's here—we call it a switch." Rutledge told VoIPplanet.com.

"It has a lot of switching programmability built into it," Rutledge continued. "We have some of the softswitch functions—and some of the hardswitch functions as well. It's capable of handling circuit switched calls. This is what gives it part of its ability to be transparently deployed in a variety of configurations—enables it to adapt to the routing configurations and to the dialplan that the network currently has."

Here's why the circuit-switched capability is crucial to the success of the Tenor product line: In a typical deployment, an enterprise has made the move to a centralized IP PBX, installed at corporate headquarters, and then deployed a Tenor in each branch office as a gateway that is compatible with that central PBX.

"They can now utilize that intelligence for their telephony systems in their branch offices. They're not deploying a PBX in every office; they're deploying one IP PBX, and deploying IP phones in their offices. But [in addition to IP devices] they've got a number of other things that need to be addressed in those branch offices, as well," Ruteldge explained. "They need to be able to integrate in legacy equipment like fax machines, modem-based equipment, cordless phones, PA systems, elevator phones. All these types of things need to have connectivity to the local telephone network. With our architecture, we have a device that will provide both of those [kinds of connectivity]."

Moreover, for any of a number of reasons, an organization may wish to route local POTS traffic, even some low-cost long-distance, directly to the the PSTN, not to mention E911 calls. The Tenor handles all of this circuit-switched traffic in parallel with the organization's IP-based phone service.

In a new development with the Tenor product line, Qunitum this month introduced the S, or "Survivable" series. Each Tenor S model incorporates a full local SIP proxy, which adds some highly significant capabilities under emergency conditions.

If, for whatever reason, WAN connectivity between headquarters and the branch office—between the PBX the branch's IP phones—is interrupted, the SIP proxy maintains connectivity within the branch's VoIP system. Moreover, it can intelligently route IP calls between any other branches that remain on-line. Without this, the organization's entire IP phone network would be dead in the water for the duration of the IP service interruption.

In addition to keeping local and other-branch IP service up and running, the Tenor S can further maintain phone connectivity with headquarters by routing all traffic to those extensions via the PSTN. In this way, the Survivable Tenor device is able to keep much of an organization's phone service running, regardless of what happens on the WAN.

Incidentally, the Tenor S functions just as well in maintaining phone connectivity during an IP service interruption when deployed by a an IP Telephony service provider as customer premise equipment –which represents a large portion of Quintum's overall business..

Chuck Rutledge summed it up: "The original Tenor was designed to provide an easy-to-deploy VoIP solution at the edge of the enterprise network," he said. "The new Survivable Tenor S brings the same ease of deployment to the remote office with the added benefit of providing survivability of the remote IP telephony network, thus assuring that business processes can continue unimpeded."

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