There is a communications gap between vendors who would like to teach
the world to talk over IP systems, and the many firms that do not see
the advantage, says Martin Courtney
This is an industry dominated by a growing roster of buzzwords. Some
become firmly established in ITs vocabulary, while many more fade into
obscurity. There are others, however, that appear to have been with us
since the days of the first LAN without quite moving into the
mainstream. One of these is IP telephony, or LAN telephony or voice over
IP (VoIP), or any of the other aliases that IP voice calls over data
network technology have been known to assume. By my reckoning, this
category has existed in a type of IT purgatory, lingering between
mass-market heaven and failed technology hell, since at least 1995.
This year perhaps more than any other, IP telephony is touted as being on the
brink of widespread acceptance, although how many more years it can
teeter on that same brink is anyones guess.
Reasons for optimism
include a slightly rosier outlook for the IT industry overall.Vendors
envisage that organisations which have suffered the ravages of cost
cutting and downsizing will soon emerge as leaner and meaner buying
machines, hungry to spend newly freed funds on the upgrades they have
stoically denied themselves in the past few years.
organisations see IP telephony as one of those upgrades is questionable,
though. What we also hear from vendors and carriers is that no
prospective customer now buys, or obtains a quote for, network
infrastructure equipment or wide area network (WAN) services, without
first making sure that the products or services can support the
transmission of voice traffic over data networks.
But that doesnt
mean that firms see IP telephony as a must-have upgrade, or that
organisations necessarily plan to implement the technology at any time.
It proves only that some firms see it as a requisite feature in the
equipment and services they are buying now in case a compelling reason
to implement IP telephony surfaces in the future.
And it is now
pretty much impossible to buy advanced network switches that do not
feature the traffic prioritisation and quality of service features
needed to support IP telephony in the LAN. But there remains a very real
schism between vendors who would like to teach the world to talk via IP,
and large numbers of potential customers who really dont see the point.
In the LAN, this is primarily because of the inherent reliability of
existing analogue private branch exchange (PBX) systems and the high
cost of either integrating or replacing them with local IP telephony
Putting VoIP across the WAN is a different argument, as
this can save firms money on the cost of long-distance calls between
national and international offices. But only when the volume of calls
merits the investment.And for most firms it rarely does.
the bluster and the hype that surrounds big IP telephony contract wins,
and what today amounts to no more than plain old wishful thinking by
vendors whose profits depend on selling equipment that firms dont really
want or need. There is still no pressing requirement for most companies
to migrate to converged voice/data networks, and for many there probably
never will be.