The benefits of voice/data convergence may be finally starting to filter down to end users, but resellers are still in a quandary over the most efficient way to access the skills needed to deliver the technology to market.
Resellers contacted by ARN last week after Nortel Networks' `Velocity '99' Conference on the Gold Coast said they would initially look at partnering to solve the dilemna.
NetStar's manager, business development and marketing, Mitch Radomir, said data vendors were trying to gain voice capabilities and voice vendors were trying to gain data capabilities.
`With traditional LAN/WAN data vendors and traditional voice carrier vendors now entering each other's space, voice/data convergence has become possible.'
In the next 24 months, he sees partnering as the most viable approach for many, with resellers being flexible in order to find solutions. However, when it really starts to take off, Radomir believes other options, such as buying companies or merging, will also be considered by those wanting to offer converged solutions to their customers. He said that because there is going to be so much change, people are going to be flexible.
Approved Systems director Jim Willis believes voice/data convergence is something which is on the way, but that the technology is not understood well enough to have what he considers to be a full take-up yet.
Willis said many end users had read a bit about it but didn't really understand what to do with it. `They will come to it like they've come to all other types of technology - it's like osmosis,' he said.
Currently, Approved Systems foc-uses mainly on the data side. Willis envisages it will approach convergence by looking at increasing its own skills in the telephony side, as well as using the partnering route.
Another reseller, ABC Consultant Services, believed that voice/data convergence would have a gradual uptake in its particular client base (accounting software), although it had seen some acceleration recently.
ABC Consultant Services proprietor Graeme Noonan said it had attended a number of seminars held by vendors. Currently the company also focuses more on the data side, and Noonan said it would probably look at subcontracting the telephony side to specialists in that area.
Nortel's director of channels, enterprise solutions, Gary Starr, said voice/ data convergence offers resellers an exciting new opportunity.
Starr believes that the channel will use three main approaches to tackling the voice/data convergence issue: companies will either acquire other companies who have the skills required, will merge with companies who have the relevant skills, or partner.
`I think we'll get a combination of all three,' Starr said. He said that we are seeing it already with partnering, and will increasingly see this route used over the next six months.
According to Starr, it had been approached by partners on both the data and voice sides for ideas about who they could approach for acquisitions. `Clearly that would be the quickest way to get up to speed, but it's also an expensive way.'
He said its data partners had been very keen to learn about telephony solutions and voice partners had been keen to gain skills in data.
Starr added that resellers also needed to understand their own customers, and whether they were ready for convergence. `They need to understand that as they map out their own strategic plans. They need to be thinking about their own customers because that's where it starts,' Starr said.
He thinks that there will be consolidation in the channel, with some of the bigger companies buying into the skills they need. `People will stop talking about voice and data - they won't make the distinction as much as they do today.'