VoIP and convergence

Fox Group has been involved in testing and installing numerous VoIP and mobile-converged solutions since the early 90’s. Our goal is to determine the customer value, challenges and benefits from using emerging technologies. It also enables our technology consultants to develop the real-world knowledge

prior to working on client projects.

Stephen Lawson is our vice-president of the enterprise side of the practice, working with end-users of IT, data and voice technologies. He brings 25 years of IT and applications experience to the practice as a former programmer, architect and former IT director. I bring 22 years of datacom and telecom experience as a former field engineer, systems architect, network manager, CIO and telecom industry analyst.

We started discussing what we wanted to test next, what skills would be required to install and configure the next solution.

We were re-organizing our technology test lab and we had what we believe was an epiphany moment about convergence! Our ah-ha’s were threefold:

1. The voice and data equipment we originally used in 2000 took about three feet of rack space. Today’s configuration takes one shelf and about 10 inches of space;

2. The cost of the current equipment and licenses installed is about $60,000 list price. Three years ago, the list price was over $195,000;

3. Either one of us can now install and configure the VoIP server and supporting applications using the browser interface.

In most other organizations, you would have had three people, one for the servers and computers, one for voice and connectivity, and one for data LAN and WAN.

With the current converged VoIP server and applications, either one of us can make additions and changes to the “”system””. Why?

1. The VoIP “”systems”” are combined onto a server with a common IP transport protocol and web browser interface, accessible from any workstation within our secure network;

2. The “”systems”” have a common help library similar to other IT servers so that a person who is unfamiliar with the systems can use the help functions to “”walk them through”” the install;

3. Last, and most importantly for most organizations, this system has two vocabularies, one in “”IT”” speak, and one in “”telecom”” speak. In our current Mitel test system, we can switch the system language back and forth to suit our preference.

What does this all mean to the IT and telecom industries?

We believe that the major impact will be that they will have to re-tool their technology resources with extensive cross-training in telecom, datacom and IT. Telcos will have to teach their voice people about IT solutions. IT companies will have to teach their professionals about voice.

They will both have to develop pre-staging configurations to define the common configurations of client environments so that the on-site time and resources are dramatically reduced. They have to make it easier and faster for installs.

The days of having data, voice and IT technical staff all being on-site for these installs are no longer affordable or reasonable to the customer or the supplier. (We certainly saw this happen in our various test lab installs).

Integrators should also seriously start to examine the ease of installation and configuration management as a major factor of one manufacturer compared to another, and not just features and price as in the past. Systems that are easier to install and maintain provide the opportunity for the providers to reduce their install costs, and perhaps gain margin as these potentially become a value-added service.

The real question is, are there any converged solution integrators out there? If so, where? Our customers are wondering where!

The technology firms that can provide installation and maintenance services for data, voice and IT will be the winners for the long term in the Wild West of convergence.

Roberta Fox is a senior partner at Fox Group and a managing partner-business development at GrayFox Institute. She can be reached at 905.294.2821 xt 1001 or roberta.fox@foxgroup.ca.

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