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5 Questions with Cisco Systems' Telephony Expert Anne Smith

Telephony Expert Anne Smith talks about Cisco CallManager, the core of a Cisco IP Telephony (CIPT) solution, and the future of IP telephony.
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  1. You co-wrote Cisco CallManager Fundamentals. What motivated you to write a book focusing specifically on Cisco CallManager? Who is the intended audience, and what are you hoping to share with them?

    Cisco CallManager Fundamentals was a very important book to me, and to many of us at Cisco. At Selsius Systems, the company at which CallManager was born (prior to Cisco's acquisition of Selsius), we had provided documentation only for the client side of CallManager—how to add users, phones, configure your system, etc. What we really wanted to offer, but as a small start-up company lacked the resources to provide, was the server side operations. For example, how does CallManager process calls—what messages are sent by CallManager to make the phone function normally, how is digit analysis performed, and so on. So documenting all those server side operations was always an important goal of mine. Having the opportunity to write about it with the original system architects—Chris Pearce, Delon Whetten, and John Alexander—was such a fantastic opportunity.

  2. What are the typical hurdles to setting up, learning, and administering Cisco CallManager?

    My perspective is that planning and design is the number one most important aspect of a successful CallManager system. So much work needs to be put into the system design and network integration prior to even installing CallManager, phones, gateways, or applications. This planning and design must be completed to ensure a stable infrastructure that's ready for voice and to take advantage of all the benefits voice over IP has to offer.

  3. How can the effective management of an IP telephony network lead to increased efficiency and become a competitive advantage to a company?

    Well, it's not just about effective management. It's also about planning and design, which must take place prior to installing a system and must be an ongoing task as new company sites are added and business expands. Good design and planning ensures that companies take advantage of all the cost-saving benefits available to them. With a Cisco IP Telephony (CIPT) solution (of which CallManager is the core call processing component), advantages over PBXs and increased efficiency can be found at nearly every turn. For example, CIPT eliminates the fees old-world telephony vendors charge for moves, adds, and changes. Now administration of your system is completed via CallManager Administration (a Web-based interface that can be accessed from anywhere in the world). Companies reduce toll costs because calls to various company sites now travel over the company's existing LANs and WANs, rather than through the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). These are just two examples of the benefits of Cisco IP Telephony.

  4. What are your predictions for the future of IP telephony? Will we eventually see this type of system totally replace existing legacy phone service, or is it strictly a business solution?

    Definitely I expect IP telephony to eclipse PBXs in terms of business telephony, and that is already happening. But Cisco also functions in the service provider market which could someday see Cisco IP Phones in the home—and not just as a home office solution.

  5. What is the biggest challenge in IP telephony right now? A technological hurdle? Customer knowledge and acceptance?

    I suspect the biggest challenge remains proper design and comprehensive planning prior to installation. Also, there's a knowledge ramp-up required because in old-world telephony, the data network and the telephone network were managed by separate departments or individuals. With CIPT, the network becomes converged for both data and voice and so the administrator must understand how to effectively manage both aspects.

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