If you’re like a lot of network executives, you’ve begun to look seriously at deploying a converged infrastructure. And you’re probably aware that successfully deploying convergence means more than rolling out an IP PBX. It requires rethinking not just the phone system but everything from service provider service-level agreements (SLA) to network operations — and even more importantly, assessing the ways that converged applications can help improve the business bottom line.
Here are some best practices and lessons learned from companies that have successfully deployed convergence — or learned the hard way what doesn’t work:
• Review carrier contracts. If you’re tied to separate voice and data minimum annual revenue commitments, moving on-net traffic from your voice to your data network can expose you to unanticipated and expensive contract shortfalls. Make sure you’ve got enough flexibility to avoid them.
• Double check carrier SLAs. Voice and other real-time converged applications are exceptionally sensitive to latency, jitter and packet loss. Make sure you’ve got stringent SLAs in place and mechanisms for validating them.
• Converge staffs. Make sure your voice and data teams report to the same person. Provide cross training where appropriate, and make sure teams are clear on their respective responsibilities for service and support. If you’re outsourcing support, be clear on what the service organization will and won’t do.
• Review physical infrastructure. Issues such as missing inline power or insufficient redundancy can cause unexpected headaches. Make sure routers and switches are inline power-enabled (look for support of the IEEE 802.3af specification) and that critical hardware has appropriate redundancy. Don’t forget back-up power supplies.
• Don’t forget security. Most of the IT executives I work with assume VoIP security will be handled by the security organization. Yet the security folks assume VoIP security is handled by the convergence team. Make sure it’s clear whose responsibility converged security is.
But guess what? That’s all the easy stuff. The real challenge in ensuring the success of a VoIP rollout lies in making sure the business overall sees a tangible benefit from convergence.
— Johnson is president and chief research officer at Nemertes Research, an independent technology research firm. She can be reached at [email protected].