VoIP test gear makers aim for the enterprise

Among the numerous solicitors looking to sell communication equipment to enterprises, it seems the voice over IP (VoIP) test-gear vendors are following the well-worn path to the network manager’s door.

According to Palo Alto, Calif.-based research firm Frost & Sullivan, companies like NetIQ Corp. and Qovia Inc. should turn to big businesses for revenue generation.

“Frost & Sullivan…believes that the enterprise end-user segment is likely to see a robust growth in VoIP deployment in the future and the corresponding need for test solutions for the enterprise segment will be high,” reads a statement from the company, outlining the highlights of its World VoIP Test Equipment Market report, published last month.

In an e-mail interview with Network World Canada, Frost & Sullivan research analyst Ganapathi Subramanian said, “The enterprises clearly require test equipment and solutions primarily for installation, maintenance and monitoring applications. The test equipment vendors…understand the needs of the enterprise end-user segment and they are focusing on developing test equipment and solutions specific to the enterprises.”

Pierce Reid, spokesperson for VoIP monitoring-equipment firm Qovia in Frederick, Md., said his company is targeting the enterprise these days. Qovia sells Ion, a VoIP management appliance that monitors T-1 status, UPS status and resource utilization, among other things.

“In the long term certainly the larger carrier and the public and home markets are going to be tremendous growth areas,” he said. “But right now the IP PBXs, the ability to leverage an internal network for voice over IP, is very attractive for the enterprise.”

But NetIQ, a San Jose-based network management tool provider, takes a slightly different view of the market.

“In our experience, only very large global enterprises that have internal test labs are interested in deploying VoIP test hardware,” the firm said in an e-mail response to Network World Canada’s questions. “We expect that there will continue to be growth in the managed service provider business.”

The firms agree, however, that it can be difficult to sell into the enterprise space. At Qovia, the greatest challenge is convincing potential clients that VoIP is not plug-‘n-play technology.

“There’s a myth that voice over IP networks run themselves,” Reid said, explaining that VoIP infrastructure requires monitoring to stave off jitter and latency, both of which can adversely affect the end user’s experience.

NetIQ also said it has to overcome a belief among customers that VoIP requires minimal care. “The other challenge we face with enterprises is that their organizational structures are not yet aligned to manage converged technologies. We must engage several departments (network, facilities, IT…) in the decision making process and this greatly increases our sales cycle.”

Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont. overcame the human resources convergence conundrum a couple of years ago, said Trevor Hanekamp, the school’s senior telecom analyst. Sheridan combined its data network, voice network and systems administration staffers under a single information communications technology (ICT) unit.

The new structure fits well with Sheridan’s VoIP network, which requires combined expertise to run well. “Slowly but surely the skill sets are crossing over,” Hanekamp said. “Now people in the voice group are programming switch ports.”

In Hanekamp’s opinion, VoIP is anything but plug-‘n-play. Although the individual components comprising the underlying network infrastructure snap together relatively easily, “you want to be able to manage them.”

Sheridan purchased NetIQ’s Vivinet Manager Suite, a voice and video monitoring tool, to ensure the school’s 2,000-plus users get a dial tone when they pick up the phone. Hanekamp said the NetIQ platform presents simple network management.

“This takes a look at all of your servers and resources out there. We could use it not only with our (Cisco Systems Inc.) CallManagers and our phones, but also the new voice mail system. We’re looking at a new call centre application; it’ll work with that as well.”

According to Frost & Sullivan, one of the biggest challenges facing test equipment vendors is the plethora of signaling protocols surrounding VoIP: H.323; MCGP; SIP, et cetera. The firm advises vendors to keep up their research and development efforts, and provide frequent upgrades.

In Frost’s estimation the global VoIP test equipment market pulled in US$133.2 million in 2003, and will hit US$606.9 million in 2010. Subramanian said the market yielded US$119.2 million in 2002.

For more information about Frost & Sullivan’s World VoIP Test Equipment Market report, visit www.frost.com.

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