Vertical Communications, Inc., headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is an example of a company that has grown and expanded by joining forces with other successful firms. The company was formed when Artisoft acquired Vertical Networks in 2004, renaming the firm Vertical Communications. Vertical Communications then acquired Comdial in 2005, resulting in a combined business with over 270 employees, plus more than 1,200 distributors and resellers worldwide. By joining their experience in next-generation telephony/networking technologies with a large marketing channel, Vertical now claims an installed base of over 400,000 customer sites, with annual revenue of approximately $70 million.
The combined firm is also better able to serve their customers, serving—as the company name suggests—vertical industry groups within two broad horizontal markets: large distributed enterprises (LDE) and small and medium-size businesses (SMB). Within the LDE segment, Vertical targets retail, restaurant, financial services, and healthcare organizations, while focusing on legal, real estate, and banking firms in the SMB area.
The LDE side of the business is focused on Vertical’s InstantOffice product, which consolidates voice, data networking, and voice applications into a single integrated platform that can be centrally managed.
For SMB customers, three switching products are available: The Comdial DX-80 is a voice communication system with PBX features for smaller firms. The Comdial FX II supports both voice and data communications for small and midsize enterprises. The MP5000 is targeted at growing organizations with remote sites and road warriors, and supports any mix of analog, digital, and IP telephony.
Vertical Communication’s TeleVantage system is the company’s flagship IP telephony solution, targeted at SMB firms that require a feature-rich communications environment. The system hardware is based on a PC platform running an Intel Pentium II or higher processor. The software is loaded onto a Windows-based server on the office LAN, much like any other application, making system upgrades no more difficult than any other software update. Voice processing is handled by either Intel Dialogic hardware or Intel Host Media Processing (HMP) software. A variety of line and trunk interfaces is supported, including loop start analog, T1 and E1 digital, plus Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) Primary Rate Interface (PRI) and Basic Rate Interface (BRI) lines. In addition, VoIP trunks can be used for connections between remote locations, or for remote employees, such as teleworkers, that have access to VoIP service. The system can be expanded to support configurations of up to 720 handsets and 288 trunks.
TeleVantage also supports the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), and is therefore compatible with a variety of third-party SIP phones—either hardware or software-based—plus traditional analog telephones. It also supports the ITU-T H.323 standard for VoIP systems, and can be integrated with any e-mail system that is compatible with the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP).
The Windows-centric nature of the system provides a familiar interface for both end users and administrators, reducing the time that both groups need to become comfortable with its operation. The Administration functions can be accessed from any PC on the network, or by a remote PC login, which facilitates management for distributed enterprises. Another interesting feature is that TeleVantage allows moves, adds, and changes to be made on the fly, while the system is running, so that basic maintenance services no longer require a system shutdown—or for administrative upgrades to be scheduled over a weekend.
The Windows-based architecture also provides benefits for the end users, allowing for user interfaces from a number of familiar applications, including e-mail clients, web browsers, and contact management applications, such as Microsoft Outlook. Vertical Communications also markets a number of industry-specific applications, including: a small office edition, which includes advanced PBX features; a contact center for call agent/customer interaction; a conference manager for automated conference calls with up to 60 participants; and an enterprise manger, which seamlessly integrates employees and their applications across geographical boundaries.
Further details on the Vertical Communication’s architecture and products can be found at www.vertical.com. Our next tutorial will continue our examination of vendors’ architectures.
Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2006 DigiNet ® Corporation, All Rights Reserved
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet ® Corporation, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.