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What effects will new voice applications have on our network?

We are thinking about moving to VoIP. What negative affects will the added voice applications have on our network? What can we do to mitigate those problems?
The key element to ensuring that VoIP deployments are successful is guaranteeing that you have a sufficient networking infrastructure in place ahead of time. Whereas batch processing and bulk data transfers can often operate acceptably in lousy and congested networks, streaming media (both video and voice) require careful provisioning and assessment of your network resources. It's important to ensure that your network exhibits low latency, and that switches and routers in various parts of your network do not act as "choke points", especially when faced with the high rates of smaller packets that often characterize VoIP deployments.

Though many vendors often speak of QoS (Quality Of Service) tagging to prioritize latency-sensitive streaming media, these solutions only work up to a point, since what you really need is to actually reserve resources on your network for this interactive communication. Look into setting up dedicated VLANs and switching resources wherever possible for your VoIP infrastructure. Depending on the scale of your VoIP build-out, MPLS may also be a viable option for larger deployments.

As with any new technology, the primary driving factor will be the effectiveness of your planning, and the soundness of your infrastructure. Even when your network is adequately provisioned from a bandwidth and latency perspective, the weak link may turn out to be the call registration devices or Session Border Controllers. Ensuring that your SIP or call gateways can scale out laterally and do not present a single point of failure is an often-overlooked, yet critical part of this strategy.

This was last published in November 2005

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