Three tips for convergence

Three tips for convergence

Resellers eyeing the convergence space can help enterprises prepare for the mingling of voice, data, video and storage by offering consulting, implementation and design, a Gartner analyst at ITxpo said.

Some value-added services can include NAS services, utility services, managed services, collocation services, Web hosting, content/content arbitration, VPN services, ASP services, and VoIP hosting.

As network integrators help enterprises prepare for converged networks over a wired and wireless infrastructure (and assess the associated costs and risks), the trick is to develop a strategic plan.

“This is the main item to consider,” said Bob Hafner, Gartner’s chief of research based in Toronto, Canada, during his address on the Gartner networking scenario.

He said that despite the fact that IP telephony would have a dramatic impact on existing data networks “most clients neglect the plan – they don’t understand where the business is going.”

Once the plan was in place, Hafner suggested casting cast an eye to training, operation, implementation, professional services and equipment.

“The lowest risk is with the equipment,” he said. “The reality is all the major vendors, every single one, can build the network you need. The risk of choosing the wrong one is pretty small.”

Understanding the end game was where the problems occurred.

Hafner said there was no right order in terms of converging today’s networks — voice (PBX), WAN, data and LAN.

“Ethernet, voice, data — it’s all IP over the WAN and LAN,” he said. “It could be now or 10 years, but strategically know where you are going.

“We’ve been talking about convergence for a while, but I think we’re just getting to the edge of it — and we’re adding much more than voice.”

When prepping a network for IP telephony, resellers need to consider other issues in addition to the traditional considerations such as redundancy, policy on the network, traffic classification and nonblocking.

Other issues include emergency services, 802.3 af, voice over Wi-Fi, softphone, voice over Wi-Fi/cellular roaming, security, road warrior softphone, and emergency power.

Factors to consider include choosing between what Hafner calls an evolutionary player (such as Nortel and Avaya — companies that IP-enable the PBX phone system) versus a revolutionary player (such as Cisco and 3Com that replace the entire system from scratch and IP-enable it).

“If you don’t need to replace all phones [and central processing] go the evolutionary route,” Hafner said.

But it all comes down to choice and cost, he said.

“Convergence is the battle of technology and money,” Hafner said.

And while the likes of Cisco and 3Com left the gates early on and attracted a following, the traditional evolutionary players were seeing an up-tick in sales as customers didn’t want to “rip out” their networks, he said.

Looking beyond the issue of network plumbing and vendor selection, he said IP telephony offered some real business value in terms of applications, including unified messaging, application integrated notification, workflow communications and instant messaging, to name a few.

“The applications, cost, availability and security needs will start driving which solution you choose,” Hafner said.

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