Guest column: A challenge to the champions of convergence

Quiz Time: Is convergence inevitable in the LAN and the WAN?

A: Yes for both.

B: Yes for the WAN; no for the LAN.

C: Yes for the LAN; no for the WAN.

D: No for both.

E: Define convergence, and explain what's in it for me.

If you're like me, you chose E. (Unless, of course, you added your own "F: Leave me alone." Perfectly reasonable.) I've heard telecommunications equipment providers talking about convergence in the WAN and datacom vendors talking about convergence in the LAN. I've heard about "everything over IP", as well as convergence over ATM and frame relay.

I'm still not clear on which customers really need a converged LAN and why; whether the service providers' networks will converge on a single protocol or infrastructure; and whether customers should care, as long as they are getting reasonably priced, flexible services.

But rather than whine, I'm doing something about it. I'm staging a Convergence Showdown at NetWorld+Interop in Atlanta in September, and I'm going to be challenging the leading generators of this convergence hype to stand up and explain what convergence is and what's in it for Network World readers.

By now, you're probably familiar with our showdowns. They are presidential-style debates in which the vendors' top technical executives field questions from a panel of experts, each other and the audience. We've done showdowns on switching, network/systems management, thin clients and, at the most recent N+I, network operating systems.

But I need some help here. Who should I challenge? I'm leaning toward a panel (no more than six vendors) comprising the telecomms and datacom equipment vendors -- companies such as Cisco, Nortel Networks, Lucent and 3Com. They've all been promoting visions of convergence that play to their own strengths in one discipline and undermine their rivals' positions.

But what about carriers? What about the likes of Sprint, MCI WorldCom and AT&T? Is there anyone else?

Drop me an e-mail with your answer to the question up top and thoughts about convergence, along with your rationale. And let me know who you want me to challenge and why.

John Gallant

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