ITPRC NEWS - May, 2002 - http://www.itprc.com/
Voice over IP We hardly knew ye'
By Irwin Lazar
This week's Network+Interop conference
was notable for what wasn't covered in great detail as opposed to what
was. Major focus areas of vendors included products and services for
content delivery and web-application optimization, wireless LAN
services, and network security. What wasn't prevalent at this show was
Voice over IP. What happened?
A year ago the future of networking was
the vision of a converged network capable of supporting voice, video,
and data via a single unified infrastructure. While that vision remains
unchanged for most service providers and vendors, there is a small but
growing number of individuals questioning this approach, and even more
importantly, a marked lack of decline in interest in this topic among
both enterprises and service providers.
There are three factors driving the decline in momentum for VoIP
cost, maturity, and management.
Cost - VoIP was touted years ago
as a way of saving money. By leveraging the existing data network
infrastructure organizations could eliminate much of their phone bill.
In addition, convergence on a single unified infrastructure offered cost
savings by eliminating redundancy and the cost of operating separate
networks for voice and data. The reality that many organizations have
discovered is that many current data networks aren't ready for voice.
They lack the resiliency and QoS features that are required to deliver
voice at an equivalent level of existing services.
Maturity - Organizations are
discovering that VoIP solutions are still maturing. Call manager
applications are frequently upgraded to add new features, yet the
feature list of many VoIP solutions is still not as broad as that which
one can find in a traditional PBX or key system. Embracing VoIP in the
current environment may mean a loss of functionality, and will most
definitely require many upgrades as feature sets mature.
Management - Managing voice
is unlike managing most applications. VoIP requires end-to-end
application performance management capabilities that many organizations
lack. Call quality is dependent on a number of factors, including
congestion, latency, jitter, and server load. Supporting voice services
requires the tools, systems, and methodologies to troubleshoot the
entire conversation path. For network managers, the days of saying
"the T1 is up" are over the minute that they decide to deploy
Does this mean that VoIP is dead? Hardly. Organizations still view
VoIP as their future method of delivering voice. SIP and its
accompanying architecture may enable a new class of services that will
drive demand for VoIP. For new installs where networks can be deployed
with resiliency and performance features to guarantee voice quality,
VoIP still makes sense. For organizations with a large legacy network
that requires significant investment to support voice, the justification
for VoIP may not exist.
As we've seen numerous times in this
industry, the hype curve often far exceeds reality. Migration to VoIP
will be a long and slow process. Many organizations may decide it isn't
necessary; most will still implement it in some fashion. However, it
just may take longer than we thought.
For More Info:
The ITPRC "Voice and Data" page contains dozens of links to
information on voice and data convergence. Visit it at www.itprc.com/voice.htm?newsletter
Irwin Lazar is a Senior Consultant for Burton
Group where he focuses on strategic planning and network
architecture for Fortune 500 enterprises as well as large service
providers. He is the conference director for
MPLScon and runs The MPLS Resource Center
Information Technology Professional's Resource Center.
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