Divergence could mark firms

As the old saying goes, you can’t be everything to everybody. And in the large enterprise IP network, according to one analyst, no truer words have been spoken.

With the world’s voice and data networks slowly converging into one managed network, companies specializing in data are starting to offer IP telephony systems and companies specializing in voice are starting to offer data products. However, Gartner Inc.’s Bob Hafner says the trend of trying to target both sides of the network – at least in terms of large enterprise networks – will all but vanish by 2008.

“The key word there was ‘large’ enterprises. Clearly at the low-end, there’s going to be vendors that do both, and there’s going to be lots of little boxes that are switches and IP PBX things all in one,” said the Toronto-based Hafner. “But the very large customers, the ones that buy thousands of phones, are going to find that the applications that they use for the voice world and the infrastructure that they use for the multi-services network that will service the voice will not likely be from the same vendor.”

Hafner made his comments during a seminar entitled “Enterprise Network Equipment: The New Battlefield” at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2001 in Toronto last month.

Companies like San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems Inc. will do a very good job on the data side, and companies like Brampton, Ont.-based Nortel Networks will be the vendors of choice on the voice side, Hafner said. Each has their specialities, and that’s what they’ll be focusing on by 2008.

“Companies that have a PBX in there right now that has 5,000 phones on it – they’re not going to rip all that out to put an IP system in there,” Hafner said. “What they’re going to do is they’re going to let that evolve. They’re going to put some cards in their PBXs. … And over time, they’re going to evolve that. And guess what happens? That means the current voice vendors remain the current voice vendors for the very large enterprises.”

He added that voice vendors know voice applications and are good at making them, and data vendors know the data world. They’re already using the appropriate infrastructure and know what they’re doing. Essentially, customers are likely to stay with the experts when migrating their networks.

According to Hafner, it’s going to take quite awhile before voice and data vendors diverge and focus solely on their traditional area of expertise, but it will happen.

“There’s going to be some exceptions. There’s going to be people that do rip out everything,” he said.

Hafner stressed that this will mainly happen in the large enterprise market. Conditions will be noticeably difference in the small- and medium-sized enterprise markets.

The year 2008 is a long way out for a prediction, but Hafner noted that the market’s shift isn’t an overnight process. It’s going to take some time – and some technological advancements – before the market sorts itself out.