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Are Network Engineers Really Ready for VoIP?

NETWORK ENGINEERS ARE CONCERNED that enterprise networks aren't ready to handle VoIP traffic--and worse, they aren't sure their skills are up to task either.

Those are among the conclusions from a survey of 273 U.S. network engineers fielded by network testing vendor Network Instruments. While a survey by a test vendor that concludes IT staffs need more testing tools and skills must be taken with a grain of salt, the results do highlight some important issues surrounding enterprise VoIP deployment. Almost 50 percent of those surveyed said they were concerned with their ability to monitor the quality of VoIP service, and 36 percent were concerned with the reliability of their VoIP application during periods of heavy use.

In the end, it's not so much the impact of VoIP on the network, but the network's impact on VoIP. And it's only going to become more difficult. An engineer's unfamiliarity with VoIP can be addressed with education and experience. The second issue is getting real visibility into network performance, and that's expensive--you need probes in numerous locations plus the appropriate monitoring software to make any sense of it. Finally, you must apply QoS (quality of service) everywhere, even if that means simply prioritizing UDP (User Datagram Protocol) over everything else. --Mike Fratto, [email protected]