VoIP Management: A Conversation With Qovia's Richard Tworek

"A VoIP network can easily achieve the same '5 9's' reliability as a traditional phone system if it is properly managed."

August 12, 2004

4 Min Read
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After a decade of effort, VoIP is going mainstream at both the enterprise and service provider level. The question is no longer when it should be deployed, but rather how it can be rolled out to support mission critical applications today. So just how should network execs manage and monitor this brave new world? Networking Pipeline reached out to Qovia's CEO and founder, Richard Tworek to get a perspective on this issue.

Networking Pipeline What are the unique challenges associated with managing and monitoring VoIP networking environments? I mean, how does it contrast with more traditional networking environments?

Richard Tworek There are a couple of myths out there when it comes to VoIP. One is that VoIP networks, like old phone systems, run themselves. The second is that monitoring and management tools that were designed for data networks can be used to manage VoIP networks.

First, unlike traditional phone systems, where a copper connection ensured reliability, a VoIP network is much more like a data network. It requires "care and feeding" to keep it running at optimum capability. A VoIP network can easily achieve the same "5 9's" reliability as a traditional phone system if it is properly managed. In addition, it has to be managed for more than simple Quality of Service (ie packet loss, latency, jitter, etc.). A VoIP network needs to be managed for reliability; it needs certain emergency service capabilities; QoS management; operational tools; and Security. And all need to be designed for VoIP.

Which brings us to the second point, which is that: VoIP networks are not like traditional data networks -- in that timing is much more critical. Data networks are designed to compensate for lost packets and with bottlenecks. And if your e-mail is 5 seconds late, it's irrelevant. But with VoIP, 30/1000ths of a second is critical and if packets are off by this much time, you get call quality issues. In addition, anyone -- from the CEO to the janitor -- can detect call quality issues because the call echoes or breaks up or sounds hollow. So tools that are designed for data networks simply aren't robust enough to manage a VoIP network. And it isn't enough to add some additional code to create a "me too" VoIP management capability. You need to be designed-from-the-ground-up for VoIP.Networking PipelineSo how aware is the user community -- in both the enterprise and service provider space -- of these challenges?

Richard Tworek It depends on the community. One of the characteristics of the VoIP world is that a "new" set of people are taking ownership of the phone system. Traditionally, the phones have been owned by a building manager or by a telephony manager, whose focus was solely on phones. These folks were frequently the people with a leather toolbelt and a test handset. For them, the concept of managing a phone system is quite foreign. That was what a service level agreement was for... or the phones simply worked when the wires were punched down.

But the new VoIP phone systems are often being managed by the IT departments. These are the same people who have managed data networks and storage networks and other networking equipment for years. And when they see a VoIP system, which is architected a lot like a data network, they immediately look for tools to monitor and manage the system.

So the short version? A year ago, the topic of VoIP management was not being widely considered. Today, it's about the most important area in VoIP.

Networking Pipeline How can these challenges be managed most effectively? Richard Tworek The main thing is by understanding that you need to monitor and manage a VoIP network right from the beginning. During pre-deployment phase -- and even while architecting the network -- it is important to build in the monitoring and management capability.

In addition, the choice of tools is important. Though the OEM's build some basic capabilities into their hardware, it is more effective to use add-on tools in the same way that you use a Tivoli or an Openview as an add-on to a data network. Of course those tools should be designed and eveloped to support VoIP. Data tools do not cut it in a VoIP environment.

Networking Pipeline Do we have any idea how large the VoIP network management and monitoring market is?

Richard Tworek VoIP management tools are rolling out in a manner very similar to data network management tools and Storage Area Network management tools. Typically, management tools cost about 10 to 20 percent of the hardware cost of a network. With the VoIP market is expected to reach about $18 billion by 2007 with the equipment portion reaching about $9 billion as enterprises and carriers replace legacy telephony equipment with VoIP. That makes the VoIP management market a $900 million - $1.8 billion market by 2007.

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