Cut through to sharp convergence
The recent Computerworld article 'VoIP technology a double-edged sword' (CW, March 22, p1), certainly provoked discussion within my team in relation to the teething problems many companies experience as they integrate converged communications tools into their business - a growing enterprise-level trend.
Fundamentally, the piece as is represents a critical need for good IT governance and business management in these major IT projects and deployments. Effective network readiness assessments are critical for organizations that simply cannot afford the downtime of system testing during deployment. In a 24x7 business environment, these assessment tools will be essential in ensuring the creation of a final architecture and user migration plan that aligns the proposed IP telephony network with business needs and requirements.
Labelling many IT managers as 'slack' in the effective management of their networks is missing the point - the core of the problem more often that not really lies in IT, searching for the tools they require to provide visibility into the overall application flows, interactions and characteristics of the network.
Through Compuware's work in assisting companies to manage the development, deployment and ongoing maintenance of such systems, the team has worked alongside a number of organizations in similar situations, only to find that once tools for network management and performance visibility are employed, the guess work is taken out and an effective IT management partner comes into play.
Different applications have different requirements regarding the handling of their traffic in the network. In managing VoIP deployment, it is imperative to ensure that its existence will not clash with or compromise the performance of existing business-critical applications. In prioritizing applications and service needs, the goal should not be to optimize service to each application to each user individually, rather the goal should be to maximize the utility of the network across all applications and users.
As technologies and business landscapes continue to change, pre- and post-deployment network planning and subsequent monitoring should be an ongoing learning process in the effective management of the VoIP network. Many applications are more active at certain times of the day; others are bullies, while some are struggling to develop consistency in their behaviour. It's important to be aware of these patterns and how they change over time. Analyzing different types of traffic and observing their tendencies and response times enable network managers to continually and proactively devise control strategies to maximize application and network performance.
If VoIP is to provide the cost-efficiencies and converged communication benefits that vendors and system integrators promise, the key factor in its success will be the effective planning and readiness assessment across the preparation, development and management stages of deployment. VoIP technology needn't be a double-edged sword as implied; instead it should be a razor-sharp solution for converged communications that when effectively managed, will deliver the process and productivity benefits it promises.
Mike Hicks Principle consultant Compuware Asia-Pacific