Recently we had the opportunity to interview Tim Joint, Commercial Manager for Aculab.

Aculab provides IP and media processing boards, software and gateways to the global communications market. Aculab partners with VoIPon to distribute the ApplianX brand of VoIP gateways in the UK/WorldWide.

Listen to the podcast or read the transcription below.

[VoIPon]  I’m aware of Aculab but have only recently starting to hear talk of ApplianX (Pronounced: Appliance), is this a new product direction?

[Tim Joint, Commercial Manager, Aculab] Well, ApplianX is a brand started by Aculab for the enterprise market, offering telecom appliances. The products are unique in the market, because they are by in large single purpose devices, designed to address specific issues in specific environments. Not only to simplify the design of the product, but also resulting in a much more cost effective solution for both the channel partner, and the end user perspective. We think there’s much less complexity with ApplianX than there are with competing products, which seems to make both the end customers and our distributors very happy which is an important part when operating in today’s channel environment.

Specifically, ApplianX has two main products today, which are both gateways. There’s a DPNSS to Q.SIG Gateway, which is primarily for the UK market, and that enables legacy DPNSS based PBXs and services to connect to other devices or services, which don’t support DPNSS but they do support Q.SIG.

So, for example Cisco’s Call Manager that doesn’t support Q.SIG, but it does support DPNSS, which is pretty important to get to if you want to connect to PBXS over here in the UK. The second gateway takes that a little further and directly into the VoIP world by converting any of our TDM protocols into SIP. These protocols can be as we said before, DPNSS, DUS2, or perhaps the more standard Q.931 in UK, or even MFCR2 or T1 protocols for other parts of the world.

[VoIPon] Are there any disadvantages of moving into a SIP based environment?

[TJ, Aculab] Well, the early days of SIP were much like of the early days of ISDN, where interoperability issues were a main factor. But having said that, I think today, things have moved on a long way and today, certainly, with the ApplianX products, we’re confident of being able to work with most other vendor’s SIP implementations.

One area of development for SIP still would be in the area of supplementary services. For instance, such as call transfer or divert, and have direct equivalents now within SIP, although again they didn’t have in the early days.

Although sometimes again, there is more than one way to achieve those supplementary services, however in other areas those standards are still emerging.  So it’s often possible to implement a feature by using different means.  For example, our latest software release for ApplianX, actually supports one of the very low level features, so that means you can actually, when you have got a PBX connected to one of our gateways, you can use some of those lower level DPNSS features like that.

[VoIPon]   Does the move towards VoIP and UC affect ApplianX, given your obvious strengths in the older TDM-based world?

[TJ, Aculab] Well , Aculab have been involved in VoIP technology actually since the very early days they started. So we also do have considerable experience in IP as well.  Um, it is inevitable, that the voice market that we operate in moves further and further toward becoming IP centric, if you’d like.

However, given today’s financial climate, the old days of “rip and replace” as a strategy to get into new technologies, doesn’t really hold any more for a number of reasons. Users are very weary of new technologies and they have more say in what goes on with those technologies, and they have more say in those technologies being put on their PCs and telephone equipment.

Also, there are now many poor implementations of UC and VoIP. Where a migration strategy towards that would have by smoothing the transition and allowing a more controlled move into IP and that is exactly the strategy we had in mind with ApplianX. It’s basically a migration strategy that allows company to try and move into new technologies using proven products, but without having to throw away the not so inconsiderable investment in existing PBX infrastructure.

And also, the stark reality today, is that most businesses need to gain the most of their existing infrastructure, as possible.  So, customers just don’t have the resources to experiment with new technology. What they do need is a firm return on investment, and ApplianX really provides that by bridging between the IP and the traditional, old TDM world.

[VoIPon]   How do entrants into the UC market such as Microsoft and IBM affect ApplianX, for instance how do you perceive Office Communications Server?

[TJ, Aculab] Microsoft or IBM, as well as all the legacy PBX vendors, all have the potential for prospering as the UC market matures, as things progress. The key, we believe, will be in delivering those capabilities in a way that is logical, palatable, for those businesses, the end customers. I think most customers are really looking at slowly integrating the tools that come with UC today, and that’s where we come in. For instance, we’ve worked very successfully with Microsoft on many voice projects over the last ten years, including recently with Office Communication Server.

And the same arguments apply there as with all UC offerings really, is that in today’s business world, it’s unrealistic to move entirely to Communication Server without allowing for an integration path to the existing legacy PBXs that are already installed. And that’s exactly where we believe ApplianX fits today.

[VoIPon]   What about SIP trunks, can they offer cost savings and does that remove the need for gateway products?

[TJ, Aculab] Absolutely. Again, it’s almost an inevitable move for voice to become carrierless between offices and remote locations. In fact, many larger corporate companies that we’ve been talking to, such as financial institutions, etcetera, already have large data networks in place today.  And a gateway, a SIP to TDM gateway, does allow them to connect their existing PBX into IP-based data network, so there is no separate voice and data network required.

The advantage of the gateway is that it allows a gradual migration, so that the PBX and all of its associated functionality remains there for the users to benefit from.