A panel of thought leaders representing leading networking vendors and integrators has concluded that while the IT industry will never reach the peaks of the mid-'90s, it is at least on the road to “sustainability”.
Representatives from networking vendors Cisco and Nortel, integrators CSC, IBM Global Services and Netlan, analyst group IDC and security vendor Checkpoint converged on Sydney last week to discuss the Road to Recovery at a roundtable hosted by networking distributor LAN Systems.
Speakers at the event spoke of anecdotal evidence of an industry upturn, but insisted that the upturn should not necessarily be seen as a “recovery”. Instead, they changed the focus of the discussion toward the goal of a “sustainable” industry that delivers on customer needs rather than an industry that evangelises the latest hot technologies.
Regardless, the panel’s discussion did focus on several select technologies earmarked as areas of growth. Alongside the usual ramblings on IT security, the panellists discussed the adoption of IP telephony and wireless technology, and the barriers to adoption of broadband.
The adoption of both IP telephony and wireless technology have been long discussed and little realised until recently.
Director of network engineering services for CSC, Iain McGregor, said that these technologies had been in a development phase for several years. The main barrier to adoption was the applications that gave such infrastructure a business case.
“The lack of applications put the technology in a holding pattern,” he said.
LAN Systems director, Nick Verykios, said that IP telephony would be an important technology in 2004.
“Where customers were formally buying IP-ready switches to prepare their networks for IP Telephony, now they are buying the handsets," he said. "They are not just preparing for it – they are using it."
Business development manager for multimedia convergence at Nortel Networks ANZ, Mick Regan, said that the integration of multiple methods of communicating with a company (such as voice telephony, desktop computing, SMS, video and even physical systems within a building) was driving IP telephony adoption.
The best business cases for IP telephony, he said, were when organisations were moving onto a greenfield sites ( building new premises), or when organisations had PABX systems with zero book value that were coming to their end of life.
IDC analyst Landry Fevre named health, education and Government as verticals leading the adoption.
“Two to three years ago IP telephony was sold on the savings you achieve from managing adds, moves and changes, or the toll bypass,” he said. “Then the carriers started reducing their prices. Now the return on investment will be based on the productivity of utilising new applications on the network.”
Wireless networking was discussed with far less gusto.
Managing director of small network integrator Netlan, Gunter Baurhenn, said people were still hesitant to deploy wireless LAN’s because of security fears and confusion over which of the wireless standards would prevail.
“There has been over-investment in technology in the enterprise, and when cutting budgets mobility is the first to be slashed as many see it as a nice-to-have rather than a need,” Fevre said.
McGregor said that the problem with wireless was that vendors and resellers were pitching mobile access to email as the killer application to sell the infrastructure.
“The email example might only be something that executives can get,” the CSC director said. “It should be sold on customer-facing applications.”
Such customer-facing applications could include a roving sales team that can send orders back to the office or access real-time inventory updates from the road.
The broadband issue also got an airing at the roundtable, and everybody agreed that Australia’s fate now lay in the hands of the Government.
“The Government needs to differentiate between the infrastructure, something that is a public asset, and the services that are provided across that network as a means of generating profit,” Ferguson said.
Verykios concluded that in the next six to 12 months, organisations would release discretionary spending as they learned to place further trust in their systems integrators, who had successfully implemented IT projects with real business value.
“The IT business is now moving into spotty-faced adolescence,” Ferguson said. “I would agree with Nick [Verykios] that this isn’t a recovery, instead we are moving toward a far more sustainable model today than anything we ever saw in the '90s.”