SUNNYVALE, CA, December 4, 2002 - An in-depth study comparing enterprise VoIP approaches from Cisco Systems and Shoreline Communications concludes that "Cisco is trying to use its dominance in one market [switches and routers] to force-feed a fundamentally flawed VoIP solution on its enterprise customer base."
"Cisco vs. Shoreline: The Impact of Voice Over IP Architecture on Management, Functionality and TCO," was commissioned by Shoreline and released Nov. 7 by independent test lab The Tolly Group.
The Tolly Group study found that complexity emerged as the single greatest differentiator between the two companies' VoIP approaches. While Shoreline offers "a compact, distributed VoIP design that scales to fit enterprise needs [and is] simple to install and configure," Cisco's AVVID is "enormously complex," with "over 100 product devices and options that must be cobbled together to provide basic VoIP functionality," according to the study. This has significant cost-of-ownership implications, both up front and over the lifetime of the product.
The Tolly Group conducted a real-world simulation of an enterprise VoIP-enabled network encompassing three tiers of the enterprise: a headquarters site serving 500 employees, a regional office with 100 employees, and a 15-employee branch office. The test examined the four primary functions of enterprise VoIP: call management, VoIP gateway service, PSTN interface, and value-added IP functions such as voice mail and unified messaging.
Different Architectural Approaches: 'Invasive Integration' versus Application Overlay
The study found Cisco's and Shoreline's architectural approaches to VoIP to be worlds apart. While Shoreline provides purpose-built voice switches, Cisco retrofits its existing switch/router product line, essentially "ripping open the network infrastructure to accommodate VoIP." While Shoreline's VoIP is an application that can exist on top of any vendor's IP network infrastructure (in The Tolly Group test, Shoreline functioned "flawlessly" on Cisco, Dell, Extreme, Hewlett Packard and 3Com LAN gear), Cisco recommends a Cisco-only infrastructure. And while Shoreline's VoIP functionality is fully distributed, with call-control intelligence residing in every ShoreGear switch, Cisco's CallManager is a centralized application running on a dedicated Windows NT server.
These disparate architectures have wide-ranging implications for the enterprise VoIP user:
With Shoreline's distributed architecture, each switch handles its own call setup/teardown and features, so there is no single point of failure. With Cisco's AVVID, enterprises are forced to buy extra hardware and install server clusters to approach what Shoreline delivers out of the box.
- Installation and configuration
Because Shoreline's solution is pre-packaged in purpose-built VoIP appliances, costly network upgrades typically are not required. Cisco's AVVID takes an "invasive integration" approach that forces the user to install new WAN interfaces, upgrade IOS software and reconfigure VoIP options on routers and switches –often requiring device downtime. For each site, the Cisco user must determine which of 10 hardware platforms is best. And whereas Shoreline deployment can be done by a single person, Cisco requires "a team of specialists to perform open-heart surgery just to get the Cisco switches to support AVVID."
The non-invasive Shoreline solution continues to operate while infrastructure changes are being made. Cisco's AVVID is so closely integrated with IOS that VoIP services may need to be updated every time a new IOS version comes out. In addition, because AVVID depends on a wide variety of different hardware platforms, users must stock a large inventory of "hot spare" blades and modules, and conduct far more extensive training.
While Shoreline supports both analog and IP phones – the user can mix and match as desired – Cisco recommends its own IP phones, which drives the demand for more switch ports and thus more Cisco infrastructure gear.
All of these issues – but especially capital outlay for added infrastructure and more complex support issues – lead to a vast spread in cost of ownership. The Tolly Group study found the total cost-of-ownership of Cisco VoIP solutions to be three to five times that of comparable solutions from Shoreline. (Total cost-of-ownership includes acquisition and installation plus ongoing management and maintenance.)
About The Tolly Group
The Tolly Group, an independent testing and strategic consulting organization based in Manasquan, N.J., offers a full range of services designed to furnish both the vendor and end-user communities with authoritative and unbiased information. Additionally, The Tolly Group is recognized worldwide for its expertise in assessing leading-edge technologies. For more information on The Tolly Group's services, visit its Web site at http://www.tolly.com. E-mail inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org, call 1-732-528-3300 or fax at 1-732-528-1888.
About Shoreline Communications
Shoreline Communications Inc. has been shipping IP phone systems since October 1998, with more than 71,000 IP voice stations installed. The award-winning Shoreline IP Voice Communications System is a platform based on Shoreline's Distributed Internet Voice Architecture, designed to meet enterprise requirements for scalability, reliability, and manageability. In addition, the Shoreline system provides both a rich set of integrated voice services as well as standards-based interfaces to 3 rd party voice applications that enhance personal and organizational productivity. For more information, visit www.goshoreline.com or call 1-877-80SHORE.