A few pointers on convergence

If you're like a lot of network executives, you've begun to look seriously at deploying a converged infrastructure. And you're probably aware that successfully deploying convergence means more than rolling out an IP PABX. It requires rethinking not just the phone system but everything from service provider service-level agreements (SLA) to network operations -- and even more importantly, assessing the ways that converged applications can help improve the business bottom line.

Here are some best practices and lessons learned from companies that have successfully deployed convergence -- or learnt the hard way what doesn't work:

  • Review carrier contracts. If you're tied to separate voice and data minimum annual revenue commitments (MARC), moving on-net traffic from your voice to your data network can expose you to unanticipated and expensive contract shortfalls. Make sure you've got enough flexibility to avoid them.
  • Double check carrier SLAs. Voice and other real-time converged applications are exceptionally sensitive to latency, jitter and packet loss. Get stringent SLAs in place.
  • Converged infrastructure and applications require specialized testing and management throughout the project life cycle, so plan to spend 2 to 5 percent of the project cost on testing alone.
  • Converge staffs. If you haven't already done so, make sure your voice and data teams report to the same person.
  • Review physical infrastructure. Issues such as missing inline power or insufficient redundancy can cause unexpected headaches.
  • Benchmark your voice and data networks before the rollout. Organizations typically report a 30 percent increase in overall traffic -- but your mileage will vary.
  • Don't forget security. Most of the IT executives I work with assume that VoIP security will be handled by the security organization -- yet the security people assume VoIP security is handled by the convergence team. Make sure it's clear whose responsibility converged security is. But guess what? That's all the easy stuff. The real challenge in ensuring the success of a VoIP rollout lies in making sure that the business overall sees a tangible benefit from convergence.
Johna Till Johnson is president and chief research officer at Nemertes Research, an independent technology research firm

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