Siemens' networking group has announced it will focus its efforts on moving companies towards converged voice and data networks based on the Internet protocol (IP), but promised to let companies `go at their own pace.'
At a press conference in Munich, executives from Siemens' I&C Networking Group introduced HiPath, which they described as both a strategy focus and an ensemble of products and services.
These products, some of which already exist and are being used by companies, are designed to enable easy interoperability between software components and applications, regardless of whether they stem from voice or data networks, the executives said.
The products should be as reliable as those that corporate customers expect of telephone networks, said Anthony Maher, member of the Siemens board responsible for Siemens I&C Networking.
Although companies have been somewhat slow to move toward the market, Siemens expects growth over the next three years. `There hasn't been a massive uptake of voice over IP, but the market is beginning to take place,' Maher commented.
The overall concept behind what Siemens is calling HiPath is to make the switching functionality reside in a company network, rather than in an outside switch, so that the there are access points all over the network, Maher said.
The approach is to start with SMEs (small and medium-size enterprises), which have less complex networks and can thus more easily migrate them to IP-based networks.
But even the Siemens executives themselves conceded that a portion of the HiPath architecture is still just an concept, using the example of one missing link being system management tool to make a converged network work smoothly.
`That's a high goal, and there's a lot to be done,' they said. `We are making large investments in this technology and want to achieve leadership in the IP space.'
Siemens has moved its focus from traditional telecommunications systems toward the data networking market over the past several years. Last year, it founded a U.S.-based data networking company, Unisphere Solutions Inc., to develop data networking applications mainly for carriers that want to offer services over public networks.
One analyst sees Siemens as a viable player in the converged networking market, even though it is up against data networking giants like Cisco Systems.
`It is much easier to go from telecommunications to data networking than the other way around,' said John Delaney, IP-services analyst with Ovum. in London. `Voice is hard.'
Siemens' Unisphere subsidiary does have some specific convergence products in the works, Delaney said, such as a softswitch, a workstation that controls calls on IP networks.