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Making The Case For IP Centrex
BY WILLIAM FLANAGAN
There is no question that businesses of all sizes are migrating to
IP-based telephone systems. The battle lines being drawn are over how
business communications services will be managed and delivered to these
new systems -- via IP PBXs or network-hosted IP Centrex? After a decade of
losing significant market share to PBXs and other CPE, IP Centrex is
poised to make a serious challenge, for a number of business and technical
ï¿½ Enterprises demanding immediate cost reduction -- business are
looking to lower the cost of voice and data communications while still
accommodating the distribution of their workforce through the
implementation of teleworking policies. Enterprises would like to have
four-digit dialing and other flexible call routing options to lower voice
costs between locations, universal VPN access to proprietary applications,
and a simpler way to do moves, adds, and changes.
ï¿½ Businesses emphasizing disaster recovery -- ongoing concerns about
the safety and integrity of communications networks have pushed disaster
recovery to the top of every businessï¿½ communications wish list.
Enterprises will look to service providers to offer them solutions that
can ensure the integrity of their applications and communications.
ï¿½ Enterprises converging voice and data for efficiency -- in a
growing number of businesses, combining the attributes of both voice and
data services into new converged services, such as find me/follow me and
integration with e-mail and calendar applications, is essential to
increase productivity and efficiency.
ï¿½ Service providers implementing sensible packet networks -- service
providers are deploying IP- and service-based networks to complement and
enhance their existing infrastructure. With the wholesale replacement of
circuit switches a distant inevitability, service providers are now
looking to IP-based platforms to offer converged services alongside and
through circuit switches.
ï¿½ Service providers focusing squarely on enterprise customers -- for
practically all service providers, competition for business customers
remains fierce and the need for differentiating on the basis of new
features and services paramount. With ILECs, IXCs, CLECs, and now cable
MSOs vying for enterprise dollars, service providers must offer the most
adaptive and wide-ranging services to consistently match the unique
business needs of each customer, in order to succeed.
But beyond these particular developments, the success of IP Centrex as
a service offering depends upon the service providerï¿½s ability to not
only sell the service to new enterprises, but also to carefully migrate
existing Centrex customers with traditional CPE. Whether service providers
can build a bridge to IP Centrex services for those customers with
traditional PBXs, POTS phones, and analog IADs, will help to ensure IP
Centrexï¿½s success as a service offering with a future.
PUSHING INTELLIGENCE CLOSER TO THE CUSTOMER
In order to accomplish this, service providers have to begin thinking
about their networks as being more than just physical onramps for
customers. Every part of their network, from access to core, must contain
the ability to offer and customize features and services. That is the only
way service providers will have the flexibility to deliver complex,
network-hosted voice and data features to every single enterprise customer
in every location. And as more businesses and teleworkers disperse into
suburban industrial parks and neighborhoods, network-wide intelligence,
particularly throughout access and edge networks, serves to reduce the
costs of feature creation and provisioning.
Service providers are recognizing the need to deploy equipment that
allows them to combine the physical access, switching, and service
creation and control closer to enterprise customers. In addition, it is
essential that service providers support both new and traditional CPE and
traffic types, so they may offer converged voice and data services to both
IP- and traditional, TDM-based CPE. Service providers must be cognizant of
the fact that every enterpriseï¿½s timeline for the addition of new CPE is
different, and that the goal is the availability of the service,
regardless of the CPE.
The support for a range of CPE also puts an end to one of the chief
complaints against network-hosted IP Centrex: unlike IP PBXs, you canï¿½t
migrate gradually, on a department by department basis, because of the
coordination necessary between the service and CPE. With service providers
pushing network intelligence closer to their customers through network
elements that consolidate service creation and management and physical
access, the per-line CPE migration that so many enterprises require can
occur without difficulty.
Another longstanding benefit of Centrex has been the consistent
delivery of new features and services on a network-wide basis. Enterprises
never had to worry about upgrading their PBX and then managing multiple
versions of software should there be any difficulties. IP Centrex through
intelligent access network elements only enhances this benefit by managing
software upgrades and implementing them on a per-CPE basis. Because
network intelligence resides much closer to the customer than before,
individual enterprises can choose how they would like network-wide
software upgrades implemented throughout their communications network.
This feature is essential for the effective management of converged voice
and data features.
With the addition of network elements that push service creation and
control closer to subscribers, service providers offering IP Centrex can
deliver it not only to enterprises, but also to small- and home-office
customers. With DSL, many of these customers have been forgoing second
lines for Internet connectivity and fax machines, negatively affecting
service providersï¿½ revenues. In response, many carriers are now pursuing
a strategy of offering derived lines over which they are offering much
more cost-effective second line services. Primarily being marketed as teen
lines, these derived voice lines can just as easily be dedicated to
providing IP Centrex services for home offices, offering a full range of
Centrex features without necessitating the need for the user to purchase
an IP PBX.
For some time, the enhanced functionality of IP PBXs, when compared to
traditional service provider Centrex offerings, made the choice for
enterprises very simple. The range of calling features and the ease with
which they could be customized clearly outweighed the overall reliability
and disaster recovery benefits offered through Centrex.
But now that businesses view data as an equally essential method of
communications and see their workplaces becoming virtual entities,
stretched across multiple locations, managing multiple PBXs amidst
constrained budgets seems less desirable than ever before.
By implementing IP Centrex using network elements that push subscriber
access, intelligence, and management as close to the enterprise as
possible, service providers can regain many of the coveted business
customers they have lost over the years. By melding the traditional
benefits of Centrex, including scalability, reliability, and disaster
recovery, with the multilocation and Web-enabled change capabilities of IP
Centrex, service providers have a differentiated and proven service to
secure enterprise customers.
William Flanagan is vice president, product management at sentitO
Networks. sentitO Networks is a leading provider of convergence solutions
delivering access, switching and service creation to global communications
service providers. For more information, please visit the companyï¿½s Web
site at www.sentito.com.
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