Network Convergence accelerating, GartnerGroup says

New technologies coming onto the market next year will accelerate the convergence of voice and data networks within enterprises, said Terry Wright, an analyst with Gartner Group's Dataquest speaking Tuesday at Gartner Group Symposium/IT Expo98.

In an effort to reduce telecommunications expense and improve the functionality of voice systems, corporations will increasingly look to converge their voice and data networks, said Wright. PBX systems and data-only local area networks, will be replaced with integrated networks that will handle data and packetized voice. Eventually, most of these networks will use IP (Internet protocol) technology. "Having an optimised (converged) network does provide competitive advantage," said Wright.

It won't happen rapidly, however, he said. "It's not something that will happen overnight. It's a slow migration." By 2002, only about 3 per cent of desktops in Europe will be able to use telephony from the desktop, predicted Wright.

In order for companies to gain the expected benefits of voice and data convergence, however, they will have to purchase new hardware and software, including upgrading their desktops and increasing their network bandwidth, said Wright. Some PCs will have to be upgraded to the next generation Intel Corp. processors in order to handle video and other expanded functions, said Wright. Local area networks, routers and servers will have to be beefed up as well. Companies will also have to purchase IP telephony to telephone gateways.

In order to provide these integrated systems, vendors will have to form partnerships, suggested Wright, since no one vendor can provide the hardware, software and services required to implement a converged system. Vendors are currently realigning their product offerings to be able to gain some of the business, he said. "Telecommunications carriers, hardware manufacturers, software houses and consultants all have a role to play," said Wright.

This doesn't mean that the current handset/telephone hardware we use today will be replaced any time soon, said Wright. "I don't see the telephone disappearing for the next 10 or 20 years," said Wright. The telephone handset makes ergonomic sense, he said.

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