The trouble with VoIP

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Despite the widely-publicized voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) implementations at universities, colleges and other organizations, most networks will not support the technology, according to executives at Viola Networks Ltd., which makes network testing and troubleshooting software.


some analysts say 85 per cent of networks are not VoIP-ready, Tony van Kessel, Viola’s regional manager for Canada, said one customer has told him the figure is “”more like 99.5 per cent.””

Many data networks have problems – such as packet delay – that don’t present problems to users unless time-sensitive applications such as voice are added, said Brion Feinberg, Viola’s vice-president of product management. Common problems include routers that are set to drop User Datagram Protocol (UDP) packets or switches that are not configured for auto-negotiation, he said.

Yokneam, Israel-based Viola, which changed its name from Omegon Networks last year, was demonstrating its NetAlly product at ComNet Conference and Expo. It plans to release NetAlly VoIP next month.

Many users, including the London, Ont.-based University of Western Ontario, have been using earlier versionsof NetAlly to figure out whether and how their networks could support VoIP, van Kessel said. As a result, Viola designed NetAlly VoIP specifically for VoIP implementations.


A major issue with voice-over IP is ensuring that voice traffic doesn’t interfere with data, said Lloyd Bloom, product manager with Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Compuware Corp., which unveiled release 8.5 of its Vantage performance monitoring and reporting software.

Another issue is the reliability of the underlying data networks — with or without voice — said Lee Sullins, director of IT Services for Richmond, Va.-based Media General Inc., which operates 25 daily newspapers and 26 television stations in the southeastern U.S.

“Our PBX goes down maybe every ten years, but we have to reboot our server about once a week,” Sullins said. He added some IP telephony systems are designed for “all IP” networks, which are suited for organizations building new systems but not necessarily useful to users with circuit-switched networks to which they plan to add IP phones.

Like many of the conference attendee’s Sullins come to ComNet this year in order to keep up to date on a range of issues key to the communications and networking industry. Storage-area networks and wireless local-area networks held his interest in particular.

His major concern with wireless LANs is security, and industry experts who spoke at the show echoed Sullins’ concerns.

Operating an 802.11-based wireless LAN is like “hanging a cable outside your window,” said Yangmin Shem, director of technical marketing for the Americas for Holtsville, N.Y.-based Symbol Technologies Inc.’s wireless networking group. Although most 802.11 products come with Wired Equivalency Protocol (WEP), Shem warned that hackers can go to one of number Web sites and download tools designed to break into WEP networks.

Wireless LAN hackers have “no shame” about posting their tools on the Internet, said Fred Tanzella, chief security officer of Atlanta-based AirDefense Inc.

“I have yet to see a wireless network that cannot be broken into,” he said.

Both Tanzella and Shem made their remarks at a panel discussion titled Wireless Security: Critical Issues and Solutions. Although hackers are one threat, Shem said “rogue” access points — installed by users without the knowledge or authorization from IT departments — are another threat.

“It’s not always the guy in the parking lot that’s a threat,” Shem said. “Sometimes it’s your best employee.”

One audience member, Linda Seale, said she is “amazed” at the number of executives who make their systems vulnerable by accessing the Internet from public hotspots at airport and hotels without following their company’s IT security rules.

“The need for mobility is so strong, they don’t care,” she said in an interview with ITBusiness after the panel discussion.

Seale, executive in residence at InterWest Partners, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture capital firm, said her company has 30 wireless LAN users. She is not very concerned about security because her firm has a full-time IT administrator and the users are well-versed in the technology.


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