Data and Voice Convergence – oh ya, and now Video…

Before Voice and Data merged together there were two separate camps. The Telco guys and the Network guys. The two rarely talked as they had nothing in common and as a result nothing to say to each other. The Telco guys were usually an outsourced company that came in to your office, did there thing and then left. There was no need for ongoing support and the only time you saw them was when you needed an expansion to the phone system or there was a problem that needed rectifying. The Phone system of the past was made up of many different devices, usually from many different vendors. You had the PBX of course, the voice mail system,  the paging system, the music on hold system (usually a radio hooked up to some black box), and possibly a security system interface. These were all bolted to the wall on a big sheet of plywood, usually in a room that only maintenance had access to.

Today the Phone system resides with all the servers in the computer room is indistinguishable from any other server. In fact, it may even be a VM on a server that is also hosting more traditional Data apps. When data and voice started to merge, a battle ensued between companies that provided Telco Services and companies that provided Network services, each trying to solidify there place in the new converged market. From my perspective the Networking companies had an easier time adopting the new technology as Voice ended up being just another application on the Network. The Telco guys had to figure out the Networking part, which is the entire infrastructure of Routing, Security, Wireless, VPN’s, MPLS, QoS, VLANS, DHCP, TFTP and so on and so on. A much more daunting task to say the least. On the other hand, Networking guys had to figure out call flows (which is not entirely different than IP Routing), Scripting (for Auto Attendants), and some other technologies (PRI, DTMF, etc) that are not really a stretch for a Networking professional. Either way, some from both sides of the equation were successful and some were not.

I am starting to see this again, but this time with Video. Video Conferencing was always its own thing. And this thing required an expert, to do some expert things to make your video conferencing work. Now, I do not mean to take away from professionals that set up big boardrooms for optimal coverage of video and that best possible placement of Microphones and speakers to ensure the highest quality of audio, as that does require a certain level of expertise. The video conferencing equipment of the past was standalone hardware that did not integrate with your existing phone system and usually used its own private lines or network to ensure quality video streams. But today, this video equipment is now just another endpoint on your IP Telephony system. It has a phone number and extension number just like any other phone on the system. It can be tied to a user with Voice Mail just like any other phone. What level of expertise is required to ensure this device works correctly? Nothing new really,  just that Networking professional that has a deep understanding of VLAN’s, QoS, Routing and so on. So, as all of these Video experts come out of the woodwork, ready to provide you with the underlying network infrastructure and a phone system, just make sure they hired some Network and Voice professionals along the way.

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