E-Commerce Nets, Voice Over IP Head ComNet Topics

Some 50,000 network managers and information technology brethren will come out of Y2K hibernation to attend this week's ComNet 2000 show in Washington. On their shopping list: new infrastructure that will support e-commerce and robust business-to-business communications over the coming decade, observers said.

Also, there's plenty of talk about sending voice over data networks, at least from vendors that are selling voice-enabling equipment.

Bill Laberis, chairman of this year's ComNet and a Computerworld columnist, said building e-commerce pipes is the order of the day for networking professionals now that Y2K has passed. "Construction of networks for a radically different means of doing business is what will [drive] 90% of what goes on in networking for the next 18 to 24 months," he said.

The coming wave of networking is all about "speed, speed and speed - faster processors and more bandwidth," said Scott Sherer, president of the Milwaukee-based Network and Systems Professionals Association.

The need for more bandwidth may push midsize users into deployment of Gigabit Ethernet over copper, but larger enterprises will be looking to optical networks, too, said Michael Speyer, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston.

Cisco Systems Inc., Lucent Technologies Inc. and Nortel Networks have all made optical announcements this past year, and a bunch of optical networking start-ups are in the wings, Speyer noted.

Other approaches to optimizing bandwidth, such as a policy management application from 3Com Corp. and caching technologies from Expand Networks Inc. in New York, will be presented at ComNet.

Vendors also foresee a buzz about convergence - sending both voice and data over data networks, according to an informal Computerworld poll. And while some companies will be pushing voice over IP, widespread adoption of that technology is probably two years out for about 60% of big companies, said Speyer. Dikran Kassabian, a technical director at the University of Pennsylvania, said voice over IP is viable for smaller companies, where traffic management can be handled through excess bandwidth provisioning but not on a much larger scale.

Still, voice over IP will get a lot of play at ComNet this year. Nuera Communications Inc. in San Diego, for example, has joined with several other companies to demonstrate protocols that further the cause for voice over IP.

And Paris-based Alcatel will introduce its OmniPCX, an integrated communications server that handles voice, fax and e-mail.

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