Running a corporate network used to be all about coaxial cable, routers, data traffic, with some peripheral power protection added on for good measure. However, as an increasing number of mid-level businesses jump on the converged networks bandwagon, IT managers are finding themselves increasingly under pressure to ensure corporate networks are running smoother and more reliably.
While the promise of slashing telecommunications bills is enticing, the Quality of Service (QoS) demanded by VoIP networks is leaving a lot of IT managers with unwelcome new headaches. Add to this hotter summers through global warming, and increasingly dirty electricity supplies thanks to utility privatisation, and you add a whole new dimension to the role of the IT manager.
With a background in electrical engineering as well as IT, Cameron Atkinson understands the breadth of this challenge. As sales manager and director of Queensland-based IT integrator, Energy Correction Options, Atkinson said he was increasingly being called upon to provide data-centre level infrastructure to mid-range companies. "When we were talking about corporate data centres there was usually an electrical engineer involved in supplying computer grade electricity," Atkinson said. "These days the IT managers are pretty much on their own, and a lot of the time they don't have the training to deal with power supply issues."
A clean reliable power supply is particularly relevant to VoIP because small fluctuations in flow of electricity powering the network can significantly effect the quality of the voice signal. Such fluctuations may have gone unnoticed on a traditional data network, but on a converged network they can render Internet-based telephones virtually inoperable.
"On a traditional network UPS systems didn't get much focus, it was something that would be purchased after the event," Atkinson said. "Now it's necessary just to keep the network operating."
It's all about taking on increased risk, according to A/NZ marketing manager for Emerson Network Power, Peter Spiteri. He said IT managers were expected to provide guarantees traditionally provided by the telecommunications provider. "Even the plain old telephone system relies on power," Spiteri said. "But, if the power went out in the old days, we could rely on a pack of batteries back at the exchange to keep the telephone system operating. Up until now the traditional IT manager hasn't had to worry about power protection."