Toshiba launches ‘pure’ IP phone system

Enterprise VoIPplanet has been covering the evolution of the venerable Strata CIX hybrid digital/IP phone system from Toshiba America Information Systems (TAIS) for years.

Last week the company announced the release of IPedge, a newly designed phone system that supports IP phones exclusively. It uses SIP signaling and the software runs on the Linux operating system.

Product marketing manager, telecommunications systems division, Jon Nelson gave us the details on the IPedge family, which, he said, has been a long time in gestation.

The developers began the design process by carefully evaluating “all the various competitors’ systems and deciding what things they liked and didn’t like about them—while taking note of current trends in IP phone system design,” Nelson said. “We came up with a design that we thought would be most ideal for the types of applications we are going to be including on this voice server.”

The starting point was the concept that the hardware needed to be a multi-application server; everything—the PBX call processing, the voicemail, the centralized administration suite, and all the optional application packages—running on one box. “That provides cost savings, not only when you’re buying the system, but also as you’re maintaining it going down the road,” Nelson commented.

The options come already installed on the server, lying dormant until activated by licensing.

Unlike the Strata CIX system—which, supports both IP and digital TDM phones—”all the voice applications on the IPedge run over an IP network, so all users have the same capabilities, regardless of whether they’re local users connected to the LAN or remote users coming in over the Internet or the IP,” Nelson said. The same endpoints and applications will be accessible to all users.

The system provides local mobility for organizations that have a wireless LAN—and who doesn’t these days? Softphones on laptops or Wi-Fi phones (which Toshiba dealers carry) can connect with the IPedge when within range of an access point.

Broader mobility is provided by uMobility, the fixed/mobile convergence product from partner company Varaha, which has a client that is compatible with pretty much all current smartphones, including iPhone, Android phones, BlackBerries, Windows Mobile devices, and some of Nokia’s older models.

As mentioned briefly above, the system management software, called the Enterprise Manager, is built right into the server. The entire system—including all the applications—can be managed from one location, even though there might be multiple servers and multiple locations. Moreover, Enterprise Manager has multiple access levels, so, IT personnel can handle tasks like adds, moves, and changes and, where appropriate, end users can manage their own accounts, creating speed dial lists, and the like.

One of the up-to-date trends in IP communications is “survivability”—the ability of a system to place and receive calls when the normal Internet connection is interrupted. This is designed into the IPedge line, at least for organizations that have multiple IPedge servers. “If one of the locations should fail, the phones on that system would seek and find a home on one of the other systems in the network,” Nelson explained.

The IPedge servers are built to terminate a SIP trunk directly. If analog or digital connections to the PSTN are needed, Toshiba dealers carry a selection of appropriate gateways from suppliers such as AudioCodes, Epygi, and ADTRAN.

The IPedge line comprises three models: the EM, which supports a maximum of 1,000 users, the EC, which supports a maximum of 200, and the EP, which will not actually be available until later in the summer, and which will support 40 user, tops.

“Any combination of these models can be mixed and matched in a networked environment,” Nelson said. “You just choose one that fits the size of whatever location is involved.” Licenses purchased are for the actual number of users, not the maximum capacity of each server.

Finally, Toshiba wants everyone to understand that the Strata CIX product line is not going away, it is just being joined by IPedge, and it will continue to be enhanced over the years to come.

“We’re pushing a ‘best of both worlds’ concept,” Nelson stated. “Our strategy is to offer both product lines and let the customers decide with best meets their needs.”

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