Panasonic NS-1000 Unified Communications Server
The Panasonic NS-1000 Unified Communication server has numerous unique features that sets it apart.
The Panasonic NS-1000 is now shipping to distributors; my office has already had one fired up and working on our bench since last summer, as is the case with two of our school campus sites. The NS-1000 is a real cool communications server aimed at SMBs and distributed enterprises. It's been fun to work on this project, especially the aspect related to paging, which is an important issue for schools (incidentally, we're also finally seeing another paging project I wrote about materialize into something meaningful). Both of these projects give us an alternative to our schools paying $56K on average for an IP paging solution.
We deployed the NS-1000 under beta last year, and once we realized the SIP capabilities supported multiple paging zones, we sought SIP paging equipment that would work with the NS-1000. This enabled us to set up 3 paging groups: We reconnected the external PA system and assigned telephone extensions and the external pager to a paging group for All Call (the feature for blasting out a notification to a large group). Then, we placed the extensions in another paging group by themselves; and the external pager in another group by itself.
Altogether, the Panasonic system can support 8 paging groups, and each paging group has up to 8 extension groups assigned to it. One extension group or external pager can belong to several paging groups. An external pager group uses a single RCA mini-connection for an analog external paging system.
There are 96 extension groups, and an extension may be a member of only one extension group. The system supports about 256 trunks/640 users in one cabinet stand alone, or about 600 trunks/1,000 users networked.
Another advantage of the NS-1000 is that it uses a solid-state drive, a key differentiator over platforms using a hard disk drive. The system provides a small blade with choices of two 2500-ports (SLC2) and then another blade (LCOT2) with two POTS lines. One of the POTS lines is assignable in the Unified Communications server as fax and is limited in that it is not a true fax server capable of supporting multiple-fax numbers/addressing. We use the POTS lines for emergency failover--point the SIP trunks to either Port 1 (using a hunting arrangement Line 1 to 2) or to Port 1 for a set of DIDs and Port 2 for a different set of DIDs.
In both campuses we used the 2500-ports to connect to fax machines, to allow the faxes to route over SIP. As I've stated in other posts, Panasonic's Fax over SIP (T.38) is excellent, and we've had great results for years over their earlier product lines: KX-TDA, KX-TDE, KX-NCP, and now the NS-1000.
We also set up inbound faxing by porting the fax numbers over to a provider such as MyFax and then delivering the inbound faxes via email, and this is substantially better than the traditional method. Paper, toner, rebooting fax machines, busy signals and no-answers are avoided with hosted fax.
The management interface (Web GUI) provides a nice feature, called "One Look Network," to manage up to 16 systems under the same interface. The NS-1000 preserves the programming interface that the dealer community is familiar with.
Both of my beta sites, including our system, are using the older IP phone series (KX-NTXX), and according to our customer, audio quality is "crystal clear." Panasonic redesigned their telephones, making two key improvements: first they changed the magnet in the handset, and secondly they changed a chamber in the telephone for the speakerphone. The new SIP phones with HD improve user experience even more. We've used the KX-UT670 and the audio quality is notably impressive. The recently released KX-NT5XX telephones also offer the latest improvements in audio quality.
The system provides all the traditional features--such as TRS (Telecommunications Relay Service), ARS (automatic route selection), and LCR (least-cost routing)--along with tenant services, relays/door phone/door opener (1 each). This last is a sore point for me along with other dealers who have customers who still demand multiple 2500 devices and door phones/door openers to integrate into the system. The alternatives are to use SIP devices (third party), but they cost substantially more and the integration isn't there. This means the soft buttons on the telephones to "OPEN DOOR" will not function and a DSS/BLF (Direct Station Selection/Busy Lamp Field ) button is required for each door unless a DTMF code is used with the SIP endpoint.
Panasonic says that integration of existing products or expansion capability to the main cabinet is planned for future releases, which may resolve the limitation on the number of relays/door phones/door openers, and interconnection with legacy Panasonic systems.
Other key features in the new release include packet trace on the gateways, which proves useful on new SIP trunk deployments, as it will show the details and successes or failures of SIP trunk registrations. The other important feature is ability to enable the "Maintenance Port" as a packet trace (port mirror), so you can connect a laptop and gather information for troubleshooting. There are numerous other tools in the utility that provide Monitor/Trace for ISDN/QSIG, SIP and IP gateways, proprietary wireless, fax, Unified Messaging and T1/E1.
When it comes to integrating with other applications for unified communications, initially we were successful in setting up the Panasonic UC components to integrate with Microsoft Exchange 2008--until the customer moved into hosted Exchange. We still don't have a solution for integrating hosted Exchange.
However, Panasonic differentiates itself with some key UC features that the education vertical loves. First are the door phones that screen-pop the UC client and provide a soft key on the phones to release the door lock (door opener). As noted, the current limitation is one each. Another feature is the integration of Panasonic network cameras that will screen-pop a real-time image of the door area, which appears in the client when the call button is pressed. Access control, while currently limited, is a key driver for our K-12 campus customers. Third party apps to control bell schedules and emergency communications include BellCommander.
Finally, the UC client options include the Communications Assistant PRO, Attendant and Supervisor and Thin Client server licenses. The school secretaries prefer using both the Communications PRO and their phones--meaning they like having a choice to answer calls, transfer, open doors, etc., while switching between the phone and desktop.