CONVERGED NETWORK: Selecting Your Vendor

CONVERGED
NETWORK: Selecting Your Vendor

The white paper published by Lucent Technologies argues
the case of telecom vendors–why they are a better bet as supplier of
enterprise technologies in the converged era. You may agree or
disagree, but many points are worth a serious
consideration.

While Enterprise IT asset managers tend
to function mostly in real-time, meeting evolving needs and handling
crises, they also worry about how to get to where they need to be
tomorrow. Their jobs are to anticipate, meet, and (hopefully) exceed
business needs and objectives to the satisfaction of everyone–from
managers and internal end users to external customers, partners, and
suppliers.


And, they must do it all while
considering how competitive global issues and information technology
can leverage their positions. What these managers really need are
answers to four key performance/value questions on network computing
and broadband communications:



  • How can I, on behalf of our business,
    get the desired results in the best way possible while working
    within specific parameters for cost, reliability, security, grade
    and quality of service, bandwidth, etc.?
  • How can I be sure that the end results
    are compelling–i.e., that they satisfy or exceed the established
    outcome criteria?
  • How can I satisfy the needs of those
    who turn to me and my organization for IT support?
  • Who is the best vendor(s) to take our
    Infostructure to where it must be while insuring maximum asset
    performance, easy accommodation to dynamic changes, and minimal
    impact on budgets, staff, and end users?

The answers to these questions go to the
heart of why any enterprise buys IT. It is ultimately all about
people and work, and in this regard, IT must work to:



  • Please customers–internal and
    external.
  • Increase productivity by helping
    people manage their time better, and by shortening product and
    service development cycle times. 
  • Increase revenues by speeding
    transaction times, easily expanding to accommodate higher
    transaction volumes, pleasing existing customers, and easing the
    processes for obtaining and retaining new customers.
  • Cut costs for the creation and
    delivery of products and services, the operation and maintenance
    of the Infostructure components, and potential expansion.
  • Solve unresolved business
    issues.
  • Create new, highly differentiated,
    profitable business opportunities.

The focus of IT has undergone a
not-so-subtle shift. Qualitative assessments such as performance,
ease of use, and value have superseded quantitative measures like
speed, power, and cost as the true drivers of technology deployment.
IT asset managers want to know as much about what an IT product will
do for them as about what it does. And technology for technology’s
sake has taken a deserved back seat to using technology to enable
business success as measured by the new metrics. In addition, it is
important to acknowledge that there is no one path or a single
“correct” timetable to the promised converged network of the future.
There are only options and issues that need to be constantly
evaluated in the light of changing internal and external
circumstances. And every organization will need to be transitioned
to this future a little differently.

Thus, every such manager wants to know :

Thus, every such manager wants to know
“Whom can I trust on this journey to the future?”
What these
managers want is a vendor who has:



  • A vision of the future that has
    credibility–not just a technology blueprint but also a clear view
    of the roles and responsibilities of customers and
    suppliers.
  • The intellectual and financial
    resources to work with customers to execute against agreed upon
    plans of action.
  • A willingness to respond quickly and
    effectively to changed circumstances.

In short, what they desire is a strategic
supplier who is willing to share the risks as well as the
rewards.


Those vendors who best address the four
performance/value questions are the ones who will be successful,
because they will be solving customers’ business problems–enhancing
systems and people performance to create profits and sustainable
competitive advantage. Although some vendors are getting close,
currently no single vendor has all of the pieces in place to provide
“solutions” in all of these areas or seamless inter-mediation
between the areas.


The ideal market-leading vendor of the
future will be a company with a highly integrated systems and
services organization. The differentiation will arise from how well
the integration is executed. And ultimately, this entity will
dominate because it will have succeeded in making technology so
transparent that what it does best is to simply be taken for
granted. The vendor’s people and systems expertise will bring out
the best in customers as they create the multi-services networking
environment of the future.


Technology and Market
Trends
Given the lightning speed, at which taskmasters are
creating new requirements for Enterprise IT asset managers, it is an
enormous challenge to figure out how to continuously get the most IT
bang for the buck as the world becomes increasingly
information-centric. (The fact that large IT deployments are
redirecting corporate assets away from other projects, creating
friction across enterprises as to the value that is supposedly being
created, only heightens pressures on CIOs.)


Today’s IT asset manager is continuously
striving to arrive at optimal solutions for the short-term
objectives of:



  • Lower costs of ownership
  • Lower costs of operation
  • Retaining higher values for previous
    investments
  • Smoothing the way for cost effective
    migration to next-generation requirements
  • Enhancing asset performance while
    investing in fewer employees
  • Creating a networking environment that
    is always available, always working at peak efficiency, and
    totally secure.
  • Dealing with IT suppliers who are
    reliable and accountable.

Flattening networks to make them more
responsive, reliable, and easy to manage speaks directly to people
issues and, ultimately, bottomline concerns. Taking advantage of the
move toward packet communications to save money on voice traffic
through tariff  arbitrage significantly cuts costs in the short
term. It also positions networks to leverage the coming era of
Internet Protocol-based (IP-based) enterprise and public network
services and applications, and the evolution toward all-optical
networks.

giving end users personalized/customized access …

In other words, giving end users
personalized/customized access to synchronized information,
anywhere, anytime, is not just cost-effective networking but also
good business–today.


You Can’t Stop the Clock
It is
no secret that what is driving convergence and the explosion in
global network traffic is data communications and the concomitant
needs to cut networking costs while increasing reliability,
availability, and security. Estimates are that the average
Enterprise can expect 60 percent per annum increases in xNet usage,
and 30 percent per annum increases in server-to-server traffic as
browsers dominate the desktop and commerce adopts a Web-centric
model.


The nature of this traffic is also
changing as bandwidth-intensive client/server applications
proliferate, and as online commerce and user demands for richer
content and context for their messaging applications take
off.


In other words, we are living through a
historically unprecedented traffic explosion–and everyone is rushing
to deal with it. This said, there is no denying the two fundamental
realities of data networks today: They cost a tremendous amount of
money to own, manage, and grow, and they are increasingly complex.
In addition, voice traffic is increasingly totally digital and
growing at more than 10 percent a year on a separate and equally, if
not more, costly network. This is why service cost mitigation
without service degradation is at the top of most Enterprise
Infostructure managers’ lists.


One approach is to physically
aggregate/converge traffic from as close to the desktop as possible
onto a single network that provides the highest quality of service
for applications with very different transport characteristics. Case
studies of early adapters have shown that leveraging the benefits of
superior network resource utilization from this type of scenario
results in meaningful savings. These are on top of the savings that
can result from moving voice traffic onto an IP- or other
packet-based data network (ATM, Frame Relay, etc.), so that voice in
essence “rides for free.”


Voice over packet networks….

Voice over packet networks, specifically
Voice-over-IP (VoIP), will likely result in a revolution in service
pricing. Driven by the cost savings justification, it will also
result in the pervasive deployment of the Infostructure for
next-generation services and applications–making the networks
future-ready. Despite appearances, this is not a technology
revolution, because compressed voice over packet networks has been
switched and routed over private lines for years. The real issue has
been that putting voice over Frame Relay and IP networks raised
quality concerns. It was not until the year that VoIP matured to the
point of being close to commercial grade for phone-to-phone
conversations, and most latency issues have been resolved. While
VoIP has been slow to take off, by some estimates, fax over IP
already accounts for 30 percent of all international inter-corporate
fax traffic. The figures for intra-corporate fax traffic are
undoubtedly higher. The development of real-time fax capabilities to
make the IP experience an exact replica of the PSTN may soon make IP
transport the dominant mode of inter-country faxing because of the
tariff arbitrage cost savings. This is further driving the
desirability of enabling voice to “ride for free” on these existing
networks.


The case for going straight to an
enterprise-wide IP network–IP from the desktop, switched/routed
through the LAN and out over the WAN–looks attractive. Nevertheless,
the issues that IT asset managers must deal with are not just about
saving money or technological elegance, they are about optimizing IT
resources and personalizing them to perform the tasks at hand and
add value rather than drain dollars from the enterprise.


Enterprise Convergence: The Case for
Migration
From an architectural perspective, the goal is to
create from the parallel voice and data networks of today a network
that is future-ready (easily upgradeable), cost-effective, secure,
always on, always available, ubiquitously accessible, technology
transparent, and user friendly. This is because in an
information-centric world, giving end users the ability to leverage
the network assets and its functional capabilities and flexibility
is the only way to please customers, create profits, and derive
sustainable competitive advantage. One way of looking at today’s
world of parallel voice and data networks is from Lucent
Technologies functional layer approach. Despite the unique
characteristics of each, voice and data networking start life with
similar architectures. They both have:


They both have:They both have:



  • A device layer where the devices have
    specifically engineered capabilities for connection to physical,
    special-purpose access networks.
  • Physical access networks that have
    been optimized for the transport, switching, and routing of
    specific information types–circuit switched for voice and
    low-speed data (modem-based fax and e-mail), and packet for data
    and, increasingly, voice. 
  • Portfolios of “services” –that is,
    features such as queuing, transfer, and conference
  • Applications such as call centres,
    collaboration, etc. 

Convergence under this view is the coming
together of these architectures at each layer, to reduce costs and
enable new applications, resulting in new ways of doing business.
The convergence architecture needs to be engineered so that any of
today’s networks can be migrated to deliver information-enabled
business applications on any media over any network–a key to
answering the four value/performance questions raised
earlier.


What the end user wants is easy and
transparent access to the capabilities that make him/her most
productive, irrespective of the device used and network(s)
traversed. The Enterprise Infostructure manager’s task is to make
this happen in the best way possible–giving end users what they
need, when they need it, how they need it, in an environment where
price/performance is optimized and security and privacy of
transactions are sacrosanct. 


Consider Your Telecom
Vendor
Two questions lie at the heart of the “whom can I
trust” challenge facing IT buyers:



  • Are there options available to
    leverage the migration from predominantly either a voice
    infrastructure or a data infrastructure investment
    perspective?
  • Will disturbing the legacy environment
    in one of the layers cause major problems in other layers?

Lucent Technologies addresses the first
question in two ways. The first is through its expanding portfolio
of data networking products and services as offered by Lucent Data
Networking Systems (DNS). Solutions from this organization are
geared toward those 
customers who have decided that
leveraging their legacy data communications systems and/or starting
from scratch with a new data-centric architecture is the best way to
move forward. The second is through the product and service offers
articulated by Lucent Business Communications Systems (BCS) for
customers who, while moving forward with their data networks, wish
to also bring their legacy voice networking environment up to
future-ready status–transferring the best of that voice world to the
data world.


The decision about the migration and
upgrading of inter-connected boxes is an individual organization’s
decision. However, that decision needs to be made in the context of
the answer to the second question, which brings in the competencies
of any vendor to offer integrated systems and services support no
matter what path is chosen. 

Thus, a vendor’s “vision” story

Thus, a vendor’s “vision” story is not
complete without detailed explanations behind all the costs of
migration and all the responsibilities of the parties involved to
execute against a plan, including the crucial professional services
and support.


Because of where they are coming from,
PBX vendors are very sensitive to migration issues, having lived
through the rigours of moving from analog to digital, as well as
reliability and retained value challenges. Integration and service
support are second nature because the expectations in the voice
world have always been set extraordinarily high: Every voice call is
mission critical. Every voice call is expected to receive dial tone
and be connected to the address it called in real time. Every voice
call must be delivered to its destination. The capabilities of a
chosen vendor to explain what they are going to do about phasing in
their migration strategy, and how this will affect the performance
and cost of the network and its elements during the transition, are
tantamount. Competitive differentiation of vendors is going to be
based more on how they execute against their claims as integrated
systems and services companies, as opposed to whether they are
making the box du jour.


So, Whom Can I Trust?
Given the
extraordinary pace of technological change, and the disparate needs
of Enterprise Infostructure managers, there is no right answer about
the best way to get from here to there. The only thing that can be
stated with some clarity right now is that based on the users’ needs
for interoperability (e.g., utilizing standards), the broad vision
of the future is at least coming into focus.


It is also apparent that making legacy
network elements future-aware, if not totally future-ready, is
critically important because cycle times are increasing. As
enterprises increase their dependency on IT to help drive them in
the market, capabilities must be put in place for fast yet
non-disruptive moves toward converged communications, both
internally and externally. For the Infostructure manager, the
objective is to deliver the desired functionality, not technology,
to the enterprise’s various communications constituencies when they
need it, how they need it, in a secure fashion and at reasonable
costs for the highest level of performance.


What stands out is that despite the rush
to judgement to declare the PBX and supporting TDM infrastructure
yesterday’s news, smart Enterprise Infostructure managers might want
to put their preconceived ideas aside. For example, PBXs (which
several years ago morphed themselves into Enterprise Communications
Servers that sit as peers on corporate LANs and deliver real-time
distributed transactions on a large scale with virtual 100 percent
availability and reliability) are far from dead. With 85 percent of
all network failures diagnosed and fixed in real-time without the
end user ever knowing that there was a problem, the expertise of the
PBX vendors in doing the entire gamut of network management
functions—including network design, implementation and operation,
and systems integration—is the reason why some of the data
communications industry’s largest networks are managed and
maintained by PBX vendor services centres. Ultimately,
infrastructure/IT asset managers must be really good
listeners.


They listen to the needs of their various
constituencies—end users, corporate customers, suppliers and
strategic allies. They need to listen to their networks to determine
whether they are optimized to meet existing and emerging needs based
on the four value/performance questions. And finally, they need to
listen to their vendors.

Extracts from a Lucent Technologies
white paper by Peter A Bernstein, president, Infonautics
Consulting, Inc.

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