Saturday, 8 August 2009

Barracuda Branching Into Open Source VoIP

Barracuda Networks, long known for its e-mail and Web security offerings, is diving head first into the voice market with the launch of its CudaTel open source VoIP offering.

Barracuda quietly unveiled CudaTel this week, with a Web site offering a glimpse into the company, which promises cheap and easy open source VoIP. CudaTel is a collaboration between Barracuda and FreeSwitch, an open source telephony platform.

"We're starting with a slow release," said Sean Heiney, director of new product initiatives for Barracuda. "The first boxes are shipping today to qualified partners. We expect to be in full throttle by the fall."

The first product planned under the CudaTel name is the CudaTel Communication Server (CCS), an IP PBX and communications platform that the company said offers automated phone deployment, Active Directory integration and a simple Web-based user interface. Barracuda also notes the CudaTel Communication Server requires no per-user, per-box or per-feature fees, calling it "the most innovative and affordable system on the market."

The CCS also features automated handset provisioning, call routing, recording, call queuing, parking, unified messaging and voice mail, conferencing and conference bridges and more, CudaTel said on its Web site. All features can be controlled via the Web interface.

Heiney said the goal was to build an easy-to-use phone system at a lower price point -- "a PBX for the rest of us," he called it, adding, "We're really going to shake things up. We're going to go head to head with some of the bigger players."

The CCS comes in four models, starting at a 25- to 50-person system for about $2,000 and working up to a large enterprise box for thousands of phones and users.

CudaTel's CCS supports any SIP-compliant handset or softphone, but the built-in automated provisioning supports Polycom and Snom handsets. CudaTel also will offer unrestricted and unlimited 24x7 phone and e-mail support with each CudaTel server.

Heiney said the CudaTel Communication Server will be trickled into the channel, starting first with existing Barracuda partners and then widening into VoIP VARs. The voice market continues to evolve, Heiney said, and CudaTel will create opportunities for partners to sell a PBX alternative. Currently, Barracuda has roughly 3,000 partners globally.

Over the next few months, CudaTel plans to get partners up to speed on the CCS.

"We want to make sure our channel partners are trained and educated on this product," Heiney said.

And while a security vendor getting into the IP telephony game is an odd transition, Zeus Kerravala, Yankee Group senior vice president, said companies are looking for affordable alternatives and CudaTel seems to be focused on value.

"From what I understand it's a really easy, cheap VoIP system," he said.

But Barracuda is more than just a security vendor, Heiney said. Over the past few years it's expanded beyond Web and e-mail filters and firewalls to build a portfolio that now includes storage and backup solutions and networking gear such as load balancers.

"I don't think our customers think of us only as a security company," Heiney said. "We're a technology company."

And while buying a VoIP system from a player whose main business is security may sound strange, Kerravala said there are instances where it would be a good fit.

"There may be some cases where they can sell it to small businesses where the decision maker is a single person," he said.

And Heiney said Barracuda's new CudaTel VoIP line will capitalize on eliminating some of the inherent complexities of VoIP while offering a low-cost alternative to other systems.

"We've made probably the easiest-to-use phone system with a price point that's going to be hard to ignore," Heiney said.
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