Sizing up VoIP servers
3Com, Avaya, Siemens, and Zultys offer rich telephony features, excellent voice quality, and more or less scalabilityFollow @infoworld
it just as you would the phone on your desk. 3Com also supports softphones from X10 and other companies.
The V7000 is a SIP PBX -- you'll need to make sure your firewall is SIP-aware if you plan to contact other PBXes or phones on the other side. Despite SIP's status as a standard, the V7000 has proprietary extensions that kept us from running performance tests using the Abacus tester. We were able to confirm that an earlier version of this PBX, based on Solaris, met all performance requirements.
Avaya S8300 and S8700
Avaya's S8700 is scalable enough to handle nearly any enterprise. Properly configured, this PBX (Avaya calls it a media server) can support up to 36,000 users per server and up to 1 million by networking multiple servers together. The S8300 is much smaller, limited to 450 users per server or 28,800 per network. We tested both PBXes in a networked setting, as though the S8300 were part of a larger enterprise based on the S8700. From an operations standpoint, these boxes are nearly identical, but one important difference is that the smaller S8300 includes integrated voice mail, which is an add-on for the S8700. Both products support the H.323 standard.
The other key difference between these products is that the S8700 is designed to be a high-availability PBX. It includes dual processors and other redundancy features. Because of this, Avaya says that this PBX, normally aimed at the large enterprise market, is also appearing in smaller settings that require high reliability.
In either case, these Avaya PBXes support their users securely. Avaya encrypts both the call setup protocols and the voice stream by default. While this made it difficult to test the Avaya gear (Abacus couldn't understand the encrypted packets) it worked just fine and showed no signs of any operational issues related to the encryption.
What we did notice is the very complete feature set for these products. While some of what we tested is optional, the Avaya PBXes sport features that we didn't find in the competing solutions, such as the ability to extend VoIP connections to cell phones (or any other phone for that matter). This means that it can seamlessly move calls between your IP phone and your cell phone without having to re-establish the call. The S8700 and S8300 also support a six-user conference bridge, so you can make those dreaded, interminable conference calls for less money than if you had to use an external service.
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But even if you don't buy the VoIP Monitor, managing the Avaya products isn't particularly difficult. Administrators will encounter either a plain Web-based interface that's mostly text fields and forms, or a command line interface. Either will give you complete control over the operations of the PBX and the phones. You can change button assignments on the fly and the changes show up on the phone immediately.