Converged communications open up a host of opportunities for businesses, and IP is often seen as the ultimate solution to bringing various communication media together. From voice and data to video, security and surveillance, even wireless printing and more, the ‘Everything over IP’ (EoIP) phenomenon has taken the business world by storm.
However, migrating all of these various aspects onto an IP network is not as simple as ‘plug and play’. When looking to migrate services onto IP, there are many factors that first need to be considered, including the technical considerations regarding the network.
Addressing the network design and architecture up-front is critical to the success of migrating to IP. Data networks become more complex the more services are run over them, and as more services migrate to IP, it becomes increasingly important to ensure uptime and availability. Planning the network correctly, taking into account the needs of each IP service, and choosing the right network partner, are critical in ensuring that EoIP does not backfire on the organisation.
“Collapsing various services onto a single network makes sound business sense; when this is achieved the total cost of ownership of the various services can be lowered. From an end-to-end business perspective, once all services are collapsed onto the IP network, they can all be managed by the IT support organisation on a common platform which allows information to be shared across voice, video, data and so on. This means that content and context rich collaboration are made possible for enhanced productivity,” says Paul Fick, Managing Director of Jasco Enterprise.
IP applications also allow services that were traditionally confined to the office environment to be easily extended to mobile, catering to the ever-growing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon. Applications can be loaded onto tablets and mobile devices, hooking into business systems and providing the same type of services on these devices in remote locations. Services can also be easily provisioned to users, giving them a choice of the device they prefer to work on. This changes the way that users work, enhancing efficiency and productivity. However, in order to cater to these changes, both the network and the services need to adapt.
“When it comes to IP migrations, simply loading a host of previously separate functions onto a single network can have serious negative repercussions for the performance of the network, degrading the quality of all services and making them unusable. This then impacts the productivity of the business and in turn its profitability. For example, adding voice onto a data network without first considering the technical requirements will make voice traffic subject to latency and jitter, and at the same time will hog bandwidth and cause normal data traffic to come to a potential standstill. The quality of the experience is critical in ensuring maximum user adoption, to drive optimum value from investment,” says Andrew Larkins, Systems Engineer at Avaya Networking.
In today’s world it is not possible to retrofit an application onto the traditionally designed network. Deploying new services onto unsuitable network architecture can overload the network, causing bottlenecks in traffic, which in turn can cause the entire network to shut down, resulting in services outages, which pose a serious risk to business.
Agility is key and applications should drive the network, to ensure that applications work as expected and the user experience is satisfactory. IT needs to be proactive to deliver agile services in a fast, flexible and secure manner. Business critical applications need to be identified and prioritised on the network, to ensure that consistent levels of service are delivered to these applications regardless of the network load, thus preventing service degradation. This is particularly important with real-time services such as voice and video over IP.
“Voice and video have significant bandwidth requirements. This means that the current network design and capabilities have to be re-examined. Redundancy is also key as services need to continue without affecting quality even if a link goes down. The architecture of the base level network needs to be changed to deliver a stable, always-on network that can be grown and have capacity added as requirements change. The reality is that traditional networks simply are not designed to cater to this loading,” Larkins adds.
For EoIP services, the network must be always-on, scalable and reliable, with active-active forwarding to make the most of all available links, rather than leaving one as a backup. This enables more capacity to be available at all times, and provides automatic failover in the event of a link failure. Networks need to be fit for purpose today and be able to support change and innovation in the future, preventing the necessity to rip and replace the network every time new products or services need to be added.
“The best advice is to look forward to the future. Don’t plan for what you need now, this is the bare minimum and it will change. Organisations require a network that delivers on today’s requirements, with an architecture that can be expanded and scaled to meet future demand. Using open standards technology enables organisations to select a basket of best-of-breed solutions, regardless of vendor, which provides the agility and flexibility needed to match business requirements in an unknown future. And choosing the right service provider to partner with not only removes some of the complexity by giving you access to specialist network design skills, it also ensures that this vision can be brought to life and that networks can continue to add value to the business in years to come,” concludes Fick.