IP and the WAN: the time is now

With all of the choices companies have in telecomms products, services and strategy, coupled with stringent economic conditions, it’s sometimes easier to do nothing than to make a change for the better. The problem with the do-nothing approach is that, although seemingly risk-free and comfortable, it does nothing to accommodate the rapid changes taking place in applications (knowledge management, CRM, supply chain integration and more), storage (IP storage-area networks), and computing and middleware (blade servers and grid computing) — all of which are based on TCP/IP.

Many, if not most, of today’s corporate WANs continue to rely on what one might term “legacy” frame relay and/or private-line services. Time-tested and trustworthy, they serve as the backbone for existing internal corporate data communications. And, although IP is used for Internet connectivity and some supply chain integration, companies have been reluctant to migrate internal data applications, let alone their public switched telephone network (PSTN) voice services, to the world of IP.

However, competitive advantage, especially in times of economic and technologic turmoil, can be gained by taking calculated risk. For corporate WANs, perhaps the advantages by a move to an IP WAN now are worth the effort and short-term expense, for three reasons:

- Companies that have leveraged IP are realising significant productivity gains over their competitors. According to The Net Impact Study by the Momentum Research Group last year, US businesses have saved more than $US155.2 billion and increased revenue by $444 billion by adopting Internet business products. The study also found that the more such products a company adopts, the greater the return.

- IP WAN products bring back the original “single voice and data applications networking” approach that the PSTN established more than 100 years ago.

- IP WANs are flexible and expandable by their very nature. Frame relay committed information rates, permanent virtual circuits and switched virtual circuits were designed to protect and make more efficient the carrier’s network, not yours.

Companies should make their move now to an all-IP network infrastructure. Flexibility, interoperability and ubiquity are intrinsic to IP. Cost effectiveness and simplicity are key features. It might not be time to take big risks, but it is time for IP.

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