As organizations evaluate the telecommunications technology refresh strategies, 90 percent are taking a very hard look at whether enterprise-based Internet protocol telephony (IPT) is a good fit. According to analysts at Meta Group, IP telephony has achieved mainstream status and is being viewed on a par with dedicated circuit-switched connections of the public switched telephone network (PSTN) technology. The message IPT message of having a single, converged communications infrastructure for voice, data and video traffic is resonating, as organizations seek operational efficiencies and look for ways to establish a more flexible infrastructure.
"In cases where an 'impending event' has required revisiting telephony requirements, META Group finds users considering IP telephony 90 percent of the time. However, IPT must show value, or traditional time-division multiplexing (TDM) systems are chosen," said Elizabeth Ussher, vice president at META Group. "Although cost savings are always a factor, reliability, security, and proven technologies outweigh cost."
The performance requirements for IPT are fairly basic. Offerings must emulate the circuit-switched world for reliability and stability, while enhancing usability and integration capabilities to provide the enterprise with a better business tool. Commoditization of basic features will continue over time, emphasizing the importance of partnerships, which will provide more customized, vertical personalities to the basic systems. These enhancements will include teamware and collaborative multimedia applications supported, in many cases, by presence.
Analysts say users should deploy a single, converged infrastructure with the aim of creating operational efficiency and a foundation for future efficiencies, as opposed to expecting a quick return on investment. When evaluating IPT vendors, users should predominantly consider a vendor's financial and technical stability, openness to partnerships, and interoperability with other best-of-breed infrastructure, applications, and management products. Leading vendors will either offer supporting applications themselves or provide bulletproof documentation and best-practice guidelines for integration. Functionality that anticipates business requirements, coupled with implementation partners that understand a user's specific business, is key to the personality of the system once it is installed and for go-forward support and refinement when adding future applications and services.
"IPT market growth has accelerated in 2004, with IP phone shipments numbering in the millions. Indeed, vendors that previously were 'unable' to break out their digital and IP telephone shipments are now proudly displaying this growth in anticipation of continued success," said Ussher. "The market is also well populated by vendors that possess viable technology but lack presence or market acceptance, and we expect the market dynamic to change significantly over the next two years as these latecomers continue to execute."