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Business Opportunities in the UC Channel – Part 4

by Russell Bennett, UC Insights

March, 2012

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This is the fourth of an 8 part weekly series of articles that leads up to the UC Summit 2012 that will take place May 6-9 in La Jolla, CA.  See the UC Summit website for more details.

Last week we covered the opportunity for the Telecom sales channel to assist customers in developing and implementing a unified communications (UC) migration and legacy integration strategy.   Obviously, no customer is going to sign up for a new communications infrastructure without a clearly laid out transition plan.  In many ways, this weeks’ topic is an extension of that; since we are going to be talking about Bandwidth Planning and Branch Strategy.

Anyone who has been involved in the transition from analog or digital telephony to IP telephony over the last 10+ years will be very well aware that moving real-time media onto the data network requires a great deal of deliberate planning with regard to bandwidth utilization.  ‘Back in the day’ bandwidth wasn’t an issue: the challenge was all about figuring out the cable runs from the deskset to the mux or the cable loom and then to the switch.  IP phones connect to the back-end infrastructure via the Ethernet or even the Wireless Access Point and each incremental call adds far more load to the IP network than, say, email traffic.

So what has changed since the H.323 era? The main challenge presented by UC when compared to IP telephony is that some UC media codecs are using an order of magnitude more bandwidth than H.323 telephony.  So-called ‘HD voice’ codecs only use about double the bandwidth than is used by G.729, and about the same as G.711.   However, instead of there being an ISDN video conference room somewhere in the building that people use ‘once in a blue moon’, now every UC user can potentially fire up an ad-hoc HD video conference call from their desk that is going to burn up 1.5Mb or more.  If that is going to work well, there is a whole network readiness assessment exercise that has to be undertaken, especially if the customer never deployed H.323 in the first place.

Clearly, this is a massive topic in itself, and I can’t even begin to scratch the surface in this article.  However, learning the process of the UC network readiness assessment is well within the capabilities of a channel vendor that has experience in deploying IP telephony.  Many UC vendors provide bandwidth planning tools that can be used to implement this phase of work.  At the end of this exercise, the customer will almost certainly be required to make out a sizable check to the IP network vendor of their choice, so appropriate expectations should be set up-front in this regard – as often happened with H.323 deployments.

Branch deployment strategy is essentially an extension of the bandwidth exercise.  The thing that is going to change from the H.323 days is the degree of centralization.  With telephony, most branches had some form of switch, whether it was a small unit that may have been placed in a closet, or a large unit that resided in a server room.  However, in the era of UC and centralization, most or all of those are going to be retired and the communications infrastructure is moving to the data center.  For the customer, this is part of the UC ROI, but it also presents some challenges in terms of re-architecting the branch communications network.  The following major issues need to be addressed and planned for:

  • The bandwidth that will be required on the WAN link (see above);

  • The route planning and directory integration (see next week’s installment);

  • The need for the retirement or co-existence of legacy equipment (see last week’s installment);

  • The IP outage survivability/business continuity mechanism (see part 6);

  • Whether PSTN access will continue to be required at the branch or is all traffic going to be backhauled to the data center (see part 7).

Another thing to note with regard to a centralization plan is that when all infrastructure moves to the data center, the corporate headquarters becomes a branch.  At face value this is obvious, but there are different business continuity considerations that need to be taken into account with a corporate or regional headquarters, not to mention other mission-critical facilities such as call-centers.

In part 1 of this series, I alluded to the Y2K era, when billions of dollars were spent (and earned) in a major technology transformation.  The implementation of UC isn’t just about people using a laptop instead of a phone, it is a transformation of business infrastructure and processes.  We are halfway through this series of articles and already it should becoming clear that someone is going to make a lot of money from your current customers when they implement UC: the only question is, who will it be?

Next week we are going to cover Route Planning and Directory Integration.

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