Polycom's mix of IP phones hits the high notesFollow @pvenezia
Not so long ago, I wrote an article on Asterisk and open source VoIP in general. In my discussion with Mark Spencer, the founder of Digium and the Asterisk project, he recommended Polycom as the phone vendor he would choose for an Asterisk deployment. In the same article, I profiled Summer Bay Resorts, which runs Asterisk across multiple call centers and hundreds of agents, all with Polycom phones. You might think Polycom is onto something.
[ Polycom'sIP phones were selected to receive InfoWorld's Technology of the Year award. See the slideshow of all the winners in the networking category. ]
Polycom is known to most as the producer of the “boomerang” conference room speakerphone. With their instantly recognizable tricorner shape, these phones can be found in nearly every conference room in the United States. The rest of the product line hasn’t received the same level of attention, but my time with the Polycom SoundPoint IP 650 executive phones shows that they deserve it. In addition to its wired sets, Polycom recently acquired SpectraLink and its VoIP Wi-Fi technology. I tested several SpectraLink Wi-Fi sets, a few IP 650 sets, and yes, the VoIP version of that ubiquitous speakerphone.
All three phones were tested with Asterisk running under Trixbox 2.0, and used with a variety of trunks, from ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter) bridges to the PSTN to pure SIP trunks served via BroadVoice. As with all VoIP phone tests, I tend to use my Cisco 7970 phone as the touchstone, since it’s arguably the most advanced IP phone available on the market today.
SoundPoint IP 650 SIP desk phone
The IP 650 phone is Polycom’s flagship model. Boasting a large paper-white display, six line buttons, a speakerphone, headset jack, and SIP functionality, the IP 650 is meant for the executive desk. It also features a direct-in power source, PoE, CDP (Cisco Discovery Protocol), and a 10/100 PC switchport with 802.1q trunking.
Setup and configuration of the IP 650, as for the rest of Polycom’s SIP line, uses an FTP, TFTP (Trivial FTP), or HTTP server to deliver configuration files to each phone based on the phone’s MAC (media access control) address. This means you can feed global configuration files to every phone simply by listing the file name within the appropriate XML tag in the phone-specific configuration file. This method permits a truly modular configuration platform to be developed and delivered, although as with any XML-based configuration, the files can get somewhat unwieldy when they reach a certain size.
The basis of the phone’s configuration and application set is the Polycom firmware release. The phones will not function without a valid app set that is loaded on boot, and firmware upgrades are performed in a similar fashion: If the phone boots and one of the configuration files references a newer release than the phone is currently using, the new release is pulled down and loaded into the phone’s flash.