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Voice And Video Join Data On VPNs

Cisco's updated routers let users combine traffic on a single connection
For businesses that want to give remote workers voice and video along with data, Cisco Systems has added multimedia handling to its virtual private network routers.

Previously, VPNs that incorporated IPSec encryption could be used only for data traffic, including applications such as LAN access, E-mail, and Web surfing, because IPSec introduced latency that interfered with delay-sensitive voice or video traffic. The addition of voice and video capabilities means that off-site workers such as telecommuters and branch-office employees can use their VPN connections for all voice, data, and video traffic.

With the modifications to its VPN products, Cisco is keeping the latency as low as possible so the encryption doesn't slow down the voice or video packets, says Dave Kosiur, a senior analyst at the Burton Group. Vendors such as Avaya and NetScreen Technologies have products that carry voice and video on Multiprotocol Label Switching VPNs, but MPLS doesn't provide the security that comes with an IPSec VPN, Kosiur says.

chartVPNs are becoming the standard for linking remote workers to a company's headquarters, and adding voice and video gives customers a way to combine all of the traffic on a single connection, says Scott Pope, product manager for site-to-site VPN products at Cisco.

The less-expensive multimedia VPNs are especially attractive to businesses that want to replace expensive private line and frame-relay services at remote sites even though these older technologies can carry voice and video, along with data, Pope says. Businesses also can take advantage of voice-over-IP phone systems, because the updated VPN eliminates the need for separate voice and data lines to those sites. The VPN products also enable other applications such as voice and data collaboration and unified messaging, he says.

Voice and video support on VPNs is built into Cisco's Internet Operating System software, a foundation of all Cisco routing products, and is available now on all Cisco VPN routers without charge. Cisco also upgraded its 7400 router to include the VPN support. The 7400 is priced at $18,500.

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