IP Telephony In The Enterprise
BY LAURENCE J. FROMM
Service providers were first to deploy Internet telephony products. The benefits were
clear: By using the untaxed Internet or private intranets, service providers could bypass
excessive telephone taxes, and offer very competitive long-distance services
particularly for international calls. Now the long-anticipated enterprise deployment of IP
telephony has begun. I have been surveying end users that have deployed IP telephony to
learn more about their deployments.
By and large, enterprises are not yet replacing their circuit-switched PBXs or building
out new telecom switches based on IP. Instead, they are using IP telephony to augment
their existing infrastructure. Typically, this is to save money by consolidating all
interoffice traffic both voice and data onto a single network. Some
deployments, however, are for new features enabled by IP telephony.
WHY IT WORKS
One clear message from early deployments is that users do not care what kind of
technology provides their services. Users only want to make sure they are getting
high-quality, effective services. This should come as no surprise to anyone except
perhaps those companies that built or bought enterprise IP telephony gateways requiring
two-stage dialing. These gateways are gathering dust, while those that seamlessly
interoperate with the existing infrastructure are being used regularly.
The early objection to IP telephony was that the voice quality would not be
acceptable for business communication. With few exceptions, the IT managers with whom I
spoke are satisfied with the voice quality their systems produce, noting few to zero
complaints from end users. In some cases, interoffice calls take place over the public
Internet, and still deliver acceptable service. In almost all cases, the IP network is
shared by voice and data applications still maintaining acceptable service.
Gateways are not commodities. IT managers value some key features. For example,
one Starvox StarGate system user with whom I spoke
is very pleased with the gateways Failsafe and Fallback features. The StarGate
system constantly monitors the quality of service (QoS) through the gateways,
automatically diverting calls that exceed a configurable quality threshold to a PSTN
backup. Calls get diverted less than 5 percent of the time. All calls receive a
predictable service level, even with networks sharing voice and data traffic.
One multinational company I surveyed is replacing a worldwide frame relay network
with an IP-based virtual private network (VPN). It replaced a 96 Kbps CIR/384 Kbps
burst-frame relay connection between the United States and Singapore with a firewall and
T1 connection to the public Internet in Singapore. (The U.S. headquarters already had a
similar configuration.) The company has IP telephony gateways in both locations. Besides
expanding its capacity and giving Singapore users higher-bandwidth Internet access, the
company is saving $90K per year on this single link. Replicated throughout its global
network, IP telephony and IP VPN will deliver better service and save more than $1 million
in service costs per year.
The company did need to change ISPs in Singapore when its original one could not
deliver the predictable bandwidth required. But the end users are now satisfied with the
voice quality going over the public Internet via firewalls.
Another company wanted to offer customers the ability to speak to customer
service representatives using a Web browser. Since the companys IT department had
neither the budget nor the time to install a gateway, the company turned to another
solution. They were able to quickly and effectively add a click-to-talk feature to their
Web site by outsourcing the service via a WebDialogs
server. A service provider hosts the gateway, directing the inbound calls to the
companys ACD for answer by the next available agent.
The telecom managers with whom I spoke are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about
IP telephony. Besides saving money, telecom managers are keenly aware of the communication
convergence advantage, and eager to evolve their knowledge and skills to include the new
world of packet voice communication.
In the early days of IP telephony, every conference organizer wanted to hear from real
people using the technology. I sat through many talks from IT managers considering using
IP telephony. Three years later, you cannot throw a stone without hitting someone who
really is using IP telephony and enjoying all the benefits it delivers.
Laurence J. Fromm is vice president, new business development for Dialogic
Corporation. Dialogic is a leading manufacturer of high-performance, standards-based
computer telephony components. Dialogic products are used in fax, data, voice recognition,
speech synthesis, and call center management CT applications. The company is headquartered
in Parsippany, New Jersey, with regional headquarters in Tokyo and Brussels, and sales
offices worldwide. For more information, visit the Dialogic Web site at www.dialogic.com.