ACT Networks Touts 'Unified' Connections


Martin Shum, chief executive of ACT Networks, sees a growing number of corporations doing business on a global level. He also sees more and more employees working from home rather than at company headquarters.

As a result, Shum has seen an increased need for a communications system that can efficiently tie together all these people, no matter where they are located--a system that can integrate voice, data, fax, video and local access networks over the same circuit, regardless of access platform.

Shum recently returned from a two-week tour sharing these thoughts with industry analysts and promoting his company's Unified Access Architecture.

UAA is a structure that can incorporate two existing ACT Networks product lines and another that is under development.

"Traditionally, [corporate] networks tend to be pretty restrictive," Shum said. "What we are trying to do with UAA is to break the barriers. The first barrier we have broken is on the voice and data side of networking."

ACT Networks in Camarillo develops and manufactures network access products for a wide range of voice, data and integrated network uses.

"Corporations more and more are building networks on a global basis--they have commerce not just in the United States but in Europe, China," Shum said.

When these companies interact with foreign companies that don't have a high-quality telecommunications infrastructure, he said, it can be difficult to communicate on multiple levels. In 1996, ACT introduced the SkyFrame satellite network system to simplify communication. SkyFrame represents a line of wireless integrated access devices that falls under the UAA system.

Another major challenge for worldwide telecommunications, Shum said, is unifying employees who work at home with company headquarters.

"When you build a network for today's applications, one thing equipment manufacturers out there are not dealing with is the large amount of the work force working from home," he said. "Telecommuters tend to be left out of the enterprise system."

Through its UAA structure, ACT is working on solving that problem, Shum said.

"The solution we are proposing on this architecture is a product that sits on the edge of the infrastructure," he said.

"We're making progress on that. The big piece, I think, is something that's being talked about today. Most networks tend to be focused on the use of one service or another. The architecture we propose will unify all these services," Shum said. "There's a lot of Internet services. If we can come up with solutions where someone who is traveling overseas is connected by the Internet to the office, he should be able to talk to the office without making a separate call. This is the kind of product that does not currently exist."

To tie everything together, ACT needed to enter the gateway server market. In August the company purchased SourceCom of Westlake Village, which manufactures computer chips that sort and route data over available lines in a network.

"What we are trying to do is tell people, 'Here is our view of the future of enterprise networks,' " Shum said.

"We started doing integration in voice and data in frame relay back in 1992, and now more people are doing it, which is good," Shum said. "But this unifying of the infrastructure is unique."

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