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VoIP and Unified Communications may be the future, but it has plenty of pitfalls for networks, phone systems and vendors alike

In many ways I am a traditionalist.  I wasn't the 1st to embrace the UC/VoIP and I have to admit that my personal commercial foray into this has so far left me turning off this technology as the sound quality was not there.  Apparently my 20mb/768kb line is not good enough with my website on the same line :-(

So that is me, but what about others.  Information Week showed that network congestion is a growing problem - most of us don't carefully budget network traffic and while we are aware of "slow" internet connections etc, the impact on internal and external network connection is sometime something left to experimentation rather than science.

A survey of 576 unified communications users found that 75% said one-quarter of their network traffic in the last three months consisted of UC applications like VoIP, unified messaging, and instant messaging. The survey was conducted by Network General Corp., which polled its worldwide customers.

"The ramp-up in unified communications is already taking its toll," the survey stated. "Nearly 40% of companies have suffered application performance problems due to the convergence of communications applications onto their IP network."

Unified Communications Can Cause Network Traffic Jams -- Unified Communications -- InformationWeek

Now once you have decided to go down this path you need to understand several things about your desires - do you want an internal phone system only, a complete replacement to your existing PBX type system or a internet roaming call from anywhere type solution.  There are some pitfalls you need to also of some interesting problems, such as how you handle 999 calls - btw, most of them don't, so you might have to keep a traditional phone on had for emergency call should you loose power.

You then have many choices on how you put together with solutions from many vendors, including Open Source, IBM and Microsoft.  The information and mis-information is growing on a daily basis.  Recently at VoiceCon we saw reporting like

IBM has partnered with Siemens to get the technology IBM needs to connect the Unified Telephony platform, scheduled to ship in the middle of next year, to legacy telephone systems. "It's a natural marriage of skills," Rhodin said during a news conference that followed his VoiceCon keynote. "They're very good at the back-end stuff, and we're very good on the front end."

The partnership also demonstrates a difference in approach to the UC market between IBM and Microsoft, which has yet to partner with infrastructure companies like Siemens in delivering its UC platform in the fall. IBM's announcements came one day after Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate VP of Microsoft's Unified Communications Group, told VoiceCon attendees that Microsoft would ship Office Communications Server 2007, Office Communicator 2007, and Office Live Meeting Oct. 16.

IBM Vs. Microsoft In Telephony Integration Middleware Race -- VoiceCon -- InformationWeek

and

"Usually they go in with both guns blazing," said Brian Riggs, research director at Current Analysis, in Sterling, Va. "In this case they're developing a healthy coopetition model with PBX providers that'll be in place for years to come. This is a very healthy way for Microsoft to approach this."

As a platform for voice, Microsoft's plan for the OCS is to have it work in conjunction with existing PBXes, rather than trying to rip and replace that equipment, at least for the next two years, according to Riggs.

That is a sensible plan, given the lack of credibility Microsoft has as a potential IP PBX replacement vendor. In a survey published earlier this spring of 100 large enterprises, Nemertes Research found none was thinking about Microsoft as a telephony provider, according to Irwin Lazar, principal research analyst with Nemertes Research, in Haymarket, Va.

"There was very little interest in using Microsoft as the telephony platform," he said. "They weren't willing to rely on a new vendor without a proven track record in IP telephony. The history of them is that it usually takes a couple of tries to get it right, and most don't trust Microsoft. The vast majority of them would continue to look to Cisco, Avaya and Siemens for their telephony systems."

Microsoft a Credible VOIP Supplier? Maybe Someday

And I happen to know for Eileen's blog that Microsoft works with a lot of PBX providers as the link goes to http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/2516dac1-dfdc-47eb-8e6f-18b1537a57b2.aspx which has some IP PBX providers listed, but points off to  Telephony Advisor for Exchange Server 2007 Web site which then lists much more (Alcatel,  Astra, Avaya, NEC, Nortel, Panasonic, Siemens, Tadiran Telecom, Ericsson, Intecom, Mitel, Interactive Intelligence, Cisco) - this seems to be quite partner oriented to me!!

Management of quality, networks and load will move from a proprietary hardware solution to a software and networks problem.  To this end, Microsoft's System Center can help.

In his keynote address at VoiceCon, Gurdeep Singh Pall, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the Unified Communications Group, gave attendees an early look at the new tool, intended to help telecom managers better monitor voice and video call quality.

"This server allows you to capture rich information about the phone calls going on in real time, and allows you to analyze that information using off-the-shelf tools," he described.

With the help of Microsoft's Systems Center Operations Manager, the demonstration showed how Mean Opinion Scores that are less than optimal can be flagged and then investigated.

Microsoft Moves UC Ball Forward

Overall I see VoIP moving forward, no matter on what platform, but I think emergency call handling and QoS need to happen before it can take over the world.

ttfn

David

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Posted Tue, Sep 11 2007 8:27 AM by David Overton

Comments

Vijay Singh Riyait wrote re: VoIP and Unified Communications may be the future, but it has plenty of pitfalls for networks, phone systems and vendors alike
on Tue, Sep 11 2007 10:21 AM

Good points.

With the change in telecomms infrastructure in the UK with BT's 21CN Project, then I think this will change (at least for national communications going over BT's core network).

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