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Arthur M. Rosenberg

[March 22, 2004]

Unified-View (Part 2)

By Art Rosenberg & Blair Pleasant

Enterprise Migration Was Moving At VoiceCon 2004

Back | (Part 2)

Everyone at the conference was in agreement about where next-generation voice communications is going, but the challenge to the enterprise is how to migrate gracefully and cost effectively from current technologies. Several of the speakers described their different approaches to the problem and it was clear that there was no one way that would work for everyone. Some companies put in a VoIP-enabled network as a foundation transport across all locations without any communication applications, while others upgraded to a hybrid IP-PBX and selective VoIP networking for installation of IP phones and communication applications.

A “Great Debate” pitted Cisco against Nortel Networks as to what migration approach to VoIP is most practical. Although Cisco VP Michael Frendo tried to characterize the hybrid IP-PBX as trying to drive an automobile with a horse tied to the rear, Nortel Network’s Phil Edholm endorsed the practical and cost-effective approach of “graceful” and selective migration that can safely keep pace with the still evolving technology. 

The Great Debate

One critical point that everyone agreed about is the need to assess current or planned WAN/LAN IP networking capacities to support voice applications. Just because voice can now be treated as data, doesn’t mean that overall traffic capacity, Quality of Service (QoS), and new security requirements for voice communications can be supported by existing LAN/WAN data networks. In some cases, it may very well be that voice applications will not necessarily share the same network transport resources with other business processes, but they will still benefit from common network management and ease of application integration at the server level.

Communications convergence will have an impact on how the enterprise will manage the application technologies and support end users. Although there was only one “birds of a feather” discussion devoted to this issue in the program, several of the speakers in the formal sessions did make mention of the challenges they encountered in migrating their telecom staff to a VoIP environment.

The basic problem is that telecom staffs no longer have to be responsible for a separate TDM voice network and must instead work with IT data network staff that will support enterprise voice communication application and device needs. On the other hand, data network people don’t get involved with end-user communication applications and device interfaces the way that telecom staff traditionally do. So, it really means that the two groups have to work cooperatively together. It also means that telecom personnel will have to learn more about QoS and authentication requirements that will become important considerations for both traditional voice and multi-modal communications.

All the speakers from enterprise organizations indicated that they had converged organizational responsibilities for both IP networks and voice communications, and they were therefore able to insure that both the IT and telecom personnel worked cooperatively together on all aspects of migration.  They also confirmed the need for retaining telecom skills in supporting voice communication applications.

At the “birds-of-a-feather” session, about a third of the attendees indicated responsibility for both voice communications and IP networking. Some said that their end users were mainly interested in retaining the same telephone services they currently have. Their biggest challenge was in how to train telecom personnel to work effectively in a VoIP/IP telephony environment.

One of the more impressive user presentations was given by Fred Spulecki, Director, Global Voice, Contact Center, and CRM Infrastructure, which is within IBM’s Office of the CIO. Fred described IBM’s massive migration of all their global voice communication applications to a VoIP infrastructure as a precursor to converging their communication applications at over 1,500 sites in 160 countries.

This project, described as “On Demand Telephony,” will migrate 400,000 phones attached to 900 TDM PBXs via gateways to IP telephony server complexes around the world. This network will also service the current 35 percent of IBM’s workforce who are mobile or work at home. The key to their new communications network will be to provide SIP-based presence for all forms of ad hoc contact and conferencing, as well as unified messaging. However, IBM is dealing selectively and cautiously with various providers’  “proprietary” SIP extensions to insure maximum interoperability across their network  

From an organizational perspective, IBM has started shifting internal technical support responsibilities for communication application integrations with a variety of technology products. In addition to utilizing new VoIP data networking skills, they still rely heavily on voice telecom expertise to deal with end user needs in a converged environment. They have created a skill category for a new breed of combined communication technical support that they call “Application Deployment Specialists.” According to Spulecki, “This vertical orientation took time!”

Although all enterprise communications may end up sharing the IP data networks and integrate through SIP, we don’t see technology procurements for converged communications ending up in a single, giant RFP. This was confirmed in my discussion with Allan Sulkin, who led a workshop on RFPs for an IP-PBX at VoiceCon. He agrees that each “communication application” will have its own set of functional requirements that will be dictated by enterprise management responsible for operational usage. However, we see such requirements also including integration/interoperability capabilities with other applications and devices, as well as QoS traffic demands for voice or video on the shared IP network transport. 

With the growing shift to multi-modal user devices and interfaces, the next generation RFP that simply asks if specific functionality is provided by the products will not be adequate for evaluating the design of such critical interfaces. For this reason, enterprise organizations will have to be prepared to do more hands-on evaluations of all such functions from an end-user application and device perspective.

The message is clear but the enterprise migration challenges for communication convergence are still great. Every organization will have to carefully evaluate how and when they will make their migration moves from existing TDM networks and communication devices to the more personalized, multi-modal communications of tomorrow. The communication world has become more about software than hardware, which means that things can change a lot faster. Traditional telephony has also become more “open” and with new standards, there will be choices between “best of breed” and software “suites” from the technology providers. The telephone is changing its spots, so think about those desktop sets, PC softphones and wireless devices! Think also about the new role for traditional telecom management. The final challenge is up to each individual enterprise organization to start realigning their operations to exploit the benefits of converged communications. I always ask,  “If the new technologies were all free and simple to install, how will your enterprise be prepared to use and support them?”

What do think your first migration step for communications convergence will be? What kind of ROI will be most important for your organization? How will you transform your telecom staff to support a VoIP environment?  Do you feel that a single provider for all communication applications will be better than from multiple vendors? Send your comments to artr@ix.netcom.com. You can also participate in our forums.

The Unified-View has started a comprehensive survey initiative to track the migration of enterprise organizations towards converged communications management. The ongoing survey is accessible through CMP Media’s CommWeb and is open to enterprise technology managers responsible for current telephone or messaging communications migration to a converged network infrastructure and multi-modal communication devices.

Participants in this study will be rewarded with up-to-date perspective reports of the results of the survey focusing on how enterprise organizations are selectively migrating from their current communication technologies to support user needs for enterprise-wide mobility and multi-modal communications.

To participate in this survey now, go to: http://cmp.inquisiteasp.com/surveys/e42wy8 and be sure to type in “TMC” as your Group Identification Code on the first page.

Art Rosenberg and David Zimmer are veterans of the computer and communications industry and formed The Unified-View to provide strategic consulting to technology and service providers, as well as to enterprise organizations, in migrating towards converged wired and wireless unified communications. They focus on practical user requirements, implementation issues, and new benefits of multi-modal communication technologies for individual end users, both as consumers and as members of enterprise working groups. The latter includes identifying new responsibilities for enterprise communications management to support changing operational usage needs most cost-effectively.

Considered to be objective industry thought leaders, Art Rosenberg and David Zimmer have been publishing their highly-acclaimed syndicated column on unified messaging and unified communications for over four years to a worldwide audience of consultancies, technology providers, service providers, and enterprise technology managers. Both principals are popular speakers at leading technology conferences and organized the first programs in the industry focused on the subject of unified messaging/communications. The Unified-View's website (www.unified-view.com) is also considered to be a leading source for information on the evolution of unified communications.

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