Convergence point in the distance

After what seems like a thousand years (but probably closer to five or six) IP telephony has pushed its way over Gartner’s hype mountain, through the trough of disillusionment and is hauling its way up the slope of enlightenment towards the plateau of productivity.

There were also projections from IDC early last year tipping a VoIP (voice over IP) compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of a whopping 36 per cent, and a Frost and Sullivan report from last August saying that the IP PABX market in the Asia-Pacific region would grow at a CAGR of 65 per cent through till 2008, and that growth for 2001 was 324 per cent year-on-year, while traditional PABX sales declined 8.5 per cent during 2001.

Do the prognostications of Gartner and the other analysts on IP telephony gel with your experience? I’m asking because real-world case studies seem few and far between.

A search of our archives turns up Greater Shepparton City Council and the South West Alliance of Rural Health in Victoria and few others. Hmm, perhaps rural Victoria is the Australian VoIP hotspot? Rod Apostol, the manager of technology at Greater Shepparton City Council, says his organisation’s VoIP project ‘went live’ in the first week of April and has been an overwhelming success.

Perhaps the market has been talked up to the point of not resembling reality, and most organisations are STILL waiting out the long lifecycle of their existing telephony investments. But don’t get me wrong, I’m sure converged IP voice will be the way of the future — particularly with developments such as 3Com’s new SuperStack 3 Switch 4400 PWR offering inline power for handsets, the wide acceptance of SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), the IETF’s specification for IP telephony, and all the R&D on applications and call management done by the likes of Avaya (right here in Australia). Even IBM is in the midst of ripping out legacy Token Ring infrastructure and putting in Ethernet, as it works through one of the world’s largest and most complex VoIP projects.

But it’s also obvious the traditional switched circuit/dumb handset systems will retain a role for many years to come. The mainframe never went away, did it? Why chuck out what’s working fine? Then there’s still the usual security concerns associated with the IP world, such as suddenly having your IP PABX vulnerable to denial-of-service attacks. Don’t be shy, if you’re an IT manager like Rod or a vendor then have your say in a letter or guest column on where this technology sits on your own personal hype-to-acceptance curve.

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