ITEXPO begins in:   New Coverage :  Asterisk  |  Fax Software  |  SIP Phones  |  Small Cells
February 2007
Volume 10 / Number 2

Internet Communications Administrator:
The New Hi-Tech Career Covering Both Email and Voice Communications

By Jon Doyle, Feature Articles


We’ve heard for years now about so-called convergence: the fusion of the enterprise IP and telephony departments. Take a peek over the side of the desk and you can see there are two jacks in the wall. Chances are that one of these jacks is for your computer’s Ethernet line and the other is a jack for the phone on the desk, either for the proprietary signaling of the PBX, or a POTS line in smaller companies. Nowadays, most companies have two separate networks and often two separate departments managing these “systems.” Small companies have a closet for telephony and a room for IP servers (i.e., file servers, enterprise applications, processing, etc.), but the two are not really related at all. What happens when these two previously isolated departments merge as one?

For about a decade now we have been moving all of our business communications to an open standards-based IP or “Internet” solution, such as Web services and email. Thinking back to how business was done ten years ago, you will quickly laugh and realize that email servers, themselves, have become the dominant platform for business communications, and the people running these systems are nothing short of critical for daily business operations. Over time, these systems have helped usher in a new way of doing business, even adding to our lingo and changing our behavior (note the frequency with which we use such terms as ‘drop me a note’ or ‘shoot me a PDF’). Systems became highly complex, and storage requirements dominated IT budgets; security, regulatory processes, and flow control have become the new challenges for IT departments. Now, imagine what the next ten years will bring as we move to new forms of Internet Communications, such as voice, chat, presence, and video. These new media types still use the same Internet structure of open standards and Domain Name Services, but will radically change our lives and necessitate the creation of new business models for the industry, especially with regard to telecommunications.

First, think about the closed network of telephony today, and imagine the Internet being your phone system — a scenario in which anyone, anywhere can call you, with little ability on your part to control it. The notion or concept of toll and location goes completely out the window. Imagine how that opens up communications for the user; conversely, imagine the impact that it has on the IT department, and more so on the telecommunications industry.

According to Insight Research Corporation, IP networks promise many new capabilities but “are also far more complex to manage than the legacy time division multiplexing (TDM) networks associated with the public switched telephone network (PSTN).” They claim this complexity arises from several areas, including:

Voice, data, and video traveling across the same network,

Broadband traffic replacing narrowband,

End user mobility across multiple wireless platforms, and

New customer premises, network edge, and network core architectures. (Additional relevant info can be found at: http://www.insightcorp. com/reports/manserv06.asp)

However, not everything about closed networks is obsolete. Closed networks have some benefits, such as accountability and security. Think for a moment, if you started getting spoofed calls from the U.S. Government on your POTS line, with a recording to buy vegetablebased boosters for your health, or worse, pornography. Worst case, the FBI would track down that company and deal with them on the PacBell Network. But now, with VoIP, (define - news - alert) that caller happens to be from some sham company in a remote country with few commercial regulations — now you need to buy some technology, similar to spam control for your telephone system. This certainly presents a negative perspective of the new generation of Internet communications and VoIP.

Like it or not, the whole model of telephony is changing before our eyes. There is no concept of location or toll with VoIP. My phone in São Paulo is nothing more than a Sipura box registered to my server in San Francisco. People call that line in California and it rings here, I call people there, and they see me as if I was there by the caller ID. If I register my soft client on my laptop, I can do that in Paris, Dubai, or Shanghai, and it doesn’t matter. I am mobile and my ID is just a registration; I can call anyone, anyplace, just as one does with email. The whole concept of communications has changed, like it did with email; you and I have access to the network and consequently, we talk and message each other, anytime, anyplace. Fact is, the network is in place now, it uses DNS, and transfer protocols like SIP, no different from email; just closer to real time, and more aware through presence data.

The concept of presence will change our usage models by way of communications. It allows one to view the status of any user and to determine whether he is available for communications via phone, email, IM, or video. The user can have multiple devices, such as a PDA, laptop, and cell phone, distributing his or her presence information for a single address ([email protected]) and setting rules about what status applies to which communications request (e.g. busy, in a meeting but available to certain people, etc.).

This presence information can be determined by users or applications, providing an opportunity for integration into the business processes. A good example is the calendar and the router: Based upon certain events, the inbound signal or message can be handled in specific ways, like going to voice mail, or triggering a notification, such as an SMS, to a device the user account has registered.

Internet Communications are, by the very nature of the term, open standardsbased. While there are various closed or proprietary forms of communication on the Internet in use today, such as Skype, MSN, and others, the notion of using these in a business setting is flawed. If you look, for instance, at how the Web and email have evolved into an open standards-based environment, we believe the same will apply to new media types, specifically chat/IM, voice, video, and presence information.

So what does this mean for enterprise IT departments and management? First, your systems simply need to converge and support protocols that do IP Communications beyond email; you need to SIPify them... or as we say, “teach your email to talk.” You also need to merge or meld your administrators into the new role of “Internet Communications Administrator/ Director” and away from the previous titles of “Email Administrator” or “Telephony Administrator.” What skills will this new IT role require? The following are skills that are commonly seen in today’s IP departments, including some prerequisites required to run an Internet Communications solution:

  1. Understanding of call flows
  2. Productivity and collaboration programming of IP Communication systems
  3. Real-time/low latency techniques of networking knowledge
  4. Router and WAN QoS skills
  5. Power over Ethernet
  6. Provisioning of devices (IP Phones)
  7. IP Communiations Security (systems are exposed to the Internet)
  8. Good UNIX/Linux skills
  9. Solid Internet skills for DNS, email, and applications
  10. Solid Web skills for file sharing, http services, and scripting

The solutions that this new IT department must deploy are IP-based Communications for all forms of media, voice, IM, presence, video, email, and calendaring (with close data and Web application support). Consolidation, touch points with open APIs, and tight integration will allow IT departments to run this set of new services without many of the painful issues we saw with email. The key to a good IP communications solution is the Platform, and having a strong scalable foundation based on open standards will allow adoption as the market and the business operations change.

Many certifications and trainings will begin to appear on the market, but nothing should take the place of solid hands-on experience. With time, workers with good administrator skill sets will become more available on the market. In order to take full advantage of the next generation of IT-savvy graduates, companies moving to IP communications should look for former messaging administrators, particularly those from ISPs and large universities that have battle tested skills on the Internet.

Just as email has transformed our businesses operations, increased adoption of comprehensive IP Communications solutions will increase our reach and productivity over time. With the migration to consolidated services on IP, the administrators managing and deploying these systems and applications will build skills that simply did not exist, just as how the Email Administrator role was formed ten years ago. This new IP Communications Administrator will be a central part of the organization, tying in communications with business applications, and services like customer care and sales. This new job will be one of the most sought after and powerful positions in the IT market.

Jon Doyle is Vice President, Business Development at CommuniGate. (news - alert) For more information, visit the company online at

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