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The weight of the world — on one IP network

Experts tout the ability to send voice over an IP network as a plus because telephony and data can be sent on one network, thereby streamlining management of data and voice traffic as well as the network.

That works until users get too enthusiastic about bandwidth-hogging technologies — video and software-as-a-service, for example — and swamp the network, degrading performance and increasing security risks. In many ways, VoIP’s success is putting normal use of networks at risk.

Some VoIP customers have gone from thinking they’d cut corners by converging their networks to finding themselves waiting to complete even simple tasks across an overworked network.

Juniper Networks’ Sanjay Beri, director, product management, says there are three macro trends developing on this front:

The first is the need to appropriately assign bandwidth to specific applications via application-intelligent firewalls and intrusion-prevention systems. Businesses need to determine which applications are business critical and therefore have priority on the network.

The second trend, according to Beri, is a shift in network design; rather than using big pipes to overcome bottlenecks, packet collisions and awkward routing paths, VoIP- and video-enabled networks should be designed for performance, using varying quality-of-service levels to support critical high-performance applications like voice as well as asynchronous applications such as email that tolerate traffic delays. 

And finally, data-center consolidation is forcing network managers to accommodate users who need to access high performance, low latency applications over the WAN, says Beri. This is where WAN optimization and application acceleration products come into play.

The demand for VoIP is keeping VoIP specialists busy and pulling in non-specialists as well — VARs who can tune a network to accommodate the voice gear. If the trend continues — and gets even worse as more end users demand video, video chat and telepresence applications — there may very well be a market for the VAR version of the two barber shops joke: A sign in the window of one barbershop said, “Haircuts: $6.” A sign in the other said, “We fix $6 hair cuts.” 

— Crystal Ferraro

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