Cisco Unveils IP Telephony Offering For Small, Branch Offices

The new Cisco CallManager Express, a scaled-down version of Cisco's CallManager call processing software for larger enterprise customers, focuses on features most attractive to offices with fewer than 100 users, said Mark Monday, director of product management at Cisco, San Jose, Calif.

For example, a grocery store might utilize paging to contact specific departments or night service capabilities, a feature that allows multiple extensions to ring so after-hours employees can answer calls coming in to unattended phones, he said. In another example, a school system might only allow incoming calls to teachers when they have free time, he said.

"CallManager is best suited for 100 users or more, so if you want to use it for 50 users, it will do the job in the sense that it will work, but it won't be at the most effective price point and it won't always have the features customers want," Monday said.

CallManager Express is available as a software option on Cisco's access routers, including the Cisco 1751, 1760, 2600XM, 3600 Series and 3700 Series routers and the Access Gateway Module available on the Catalyst 4500 Series Switch. It supports the vendor's full range of IP handsets.

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Cisco also launched Unity Express, a small-business version of its Unity voice-mail and automated attendant offering for larger customers. Unity Express is available as a hardware card that plugs into Cisco routers.

Integrating the technology into Cisco routers enables end users to manage their voice systems using familiar tools, such as CiscoWorks, he said.

CallManager Express can be used to provide local call processing for semi-autonomous branches, such as retail stores, or used as part of a centralized solution. It also can be used in conjunction with Cisco's Survivable Remote Site Telephony functionality, which enables the system to process calls locally when the WAN link goes down, he said.

Available now, a CallManager Express license ranges from $750 to $2,800, depending on the number of users. Unity Express is list-priced at $2,995.

Cisco also introduced 10 how-to "blueprints" aimed at customers and channel partners. The blueprints, available online, offer tools and best practices for setting up solutions in areas such as IP communications, security, WAN connectivity and application optimization and mobility.