Group Publisher Rich Tehraniï¿½s column in the inaugural
INTERNET TELEPHONY outlined the mission for this magazine with the
always-yellow cover. It would focus exclusively on ï¿½Internet telephony and
the related convergence of voice, video, fax, and data.ï¿½ And it has always
been true to that convergence theme.
This month I wind down my five years of writing Industry Insight (yes,
this is my last regular column). As I come to this crossroads, I find myself
thinking more about convergence.
Interestingly, after five years, I feel like Iï¿½m actually hearing more about
convergence these days than I was back in 1998. But what is convergence
really? Does it mean the same thing now that it did then? Since weï¿½re still
talking about it, are we making any progress?
Good questions all. In 1998, the reality of convergence simply meant a PSTN-to-IP
gateway. There were still two different kinds of networks, but convergence
provided a way to convert traditional telephony traffic to IP packets and
vice versa, interconnecting those networks and allowing them to trade data.
So the killer convergence application -- rate arbitrage -- was born. But
that killer app had an Achilles heel: if traditional telephony rates came
down, its appeal would diminish. And this is exactly what has happened.
Yet Internet telephony and convergence are still here. Why? Because the
definition of convergence morphed and grew. Convergence using a gateway was
just the beginning. The original definition was just about connection
convergence, but soon convergence became about application convergence that
grew out of the connection convergence. That is, because of converged
networks (even if, back then, a gateway was the connection mechanism) and
their united infrastructure, exciting new applications became possible.
Connection convergence enabled the birth of interesting new applications.
Once an enterprise (including its phone system) is running on an IP network,
then the phone system, e-mail, application server, and Web server are all on
the same network. The systems can fairly easily talk to each other and
exchange data. This led to new and exciting converged applications like
communications Web services apps that converged the Web and voice portals
into a unified application, and voice over IP-over-VPN applications that
allowed true home offices to flourish ï¿½ enabling home-based telecommuters to
enjoy the same four-digit dialing and conference calling as their on-site
And so today, application convergence makes the idea of convergence still
interesting and relevant. This is the true measure of convergence and why it
is ultimately so powerful. It enables new offerings that deliver
flexibility, time-to-market advantages, and more economy. And thatï¿½s why
people are deploying these converged applications.
What I have described so far applies mostly to the wireline market segment
and applications. But today, much of the IP telephony hype is about
wireless. In the wireless market segment, todayï¿½s action is about connection
convergence. Wi-Fi and WiMax are IP connection points. This is probably why
Iï¿½m hearing ï¿½convergenceï¿½ more and more. Even many of my most recent columns
have touched on this in some way. Wireless connection convergence is sort of
a rerun of the wireline connection convergence. Once IP gets into the
wireless sphere, then application convergence will undoubtedly be coming.
But weï¿½ll still find ourselves talking about convergence.
And this brings me to my final point. Are we making progress toward
convergence? If we really were truly converged, we probably wouldnï¿½t be
using the word anymore -- things would just...be that way. Everything would
be interoperable on the same kind of network. So once we get the wireless
applications converged on an IP network, then we will be truly converged and
wonï¿½t need to say the word anymore, right? Possibly, but I doubt it. Iï¿½m
sure by then someone will come up with something new that will challenge the
existing infrastructure. And, once more, we will need to converge.
So maybe Rich had it right -- voice, video, fax, and data. Is it generic
enough to live forever? I think so, since weï¿½ll never be truly converged on
anything in this industry. Even in these times of reduced CapEx spending, we
must continue to respond to the market forces shaped by the usage patterns
of real people. Usage patterns show more broadband use, more Internet use,
and increased mobility patterns. Evolution of both enterprise and public
network solutions will continue, with convergence as the big driver. (Letï¿½s
not overuse the word, though -- I still want it to mean something.)
Though my regular column may be missing in future issues, you may actually
find other articles from me from time to time. I want to thank Rich and
Editorial Director Greg Galitzine for giving me the opportunity to write
this wide-ranging Industry Insight column for five years. Iï¿½d also like to
thank the readers whoï¿½ve always been there, putting up with my ramblings
about the Giants and
Mets, sending in questions, and engaging
me in conversations at tradeshows and the like. Iï¿½ll see you around.
Jim Machi is director, Product Management for the Network Processing
Division of the Intel Communications Group. Intel, the worldï¿½s largest
chipmaker, is also a leading manufacturer of computer, networking, and
communications products. For more information, visit
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