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Networking Decisions notebook: IBM's case for VoIP

When it comes to voice over IP, IBM hears the winds of change.

ATLANTA -- When it comes to IP telephony, IBM believes now is the time to act.

During a presentation Tuesday at TechTarget's Networking Decisions conference, Johnny Barnes, IBM's vice president of global IT solutions and standards, told attendees that his company plans to migrate at least 80% of its more than 300,000 employees to voice over IP by 2008.

Though the ambitious project will replace approximately 900 PBXs around the world with regional IP installations, Barnes said the effort will not only reduce voice costs significantly, but will improve worker productivity by enabling application convergence, as every new application going forward will have embedded voice capabilities.

"It allows us to get to a point where we have a more concentrated set of IT resources, fewer than we have today," which will reduce the overall cost of IT, Barnes said. As a bonus, he said, the IP telephony system will enable remote workers to use IBM's voice service as easily as they could from their offices.

IBM's server-based IP telephony platform will run on Linux and provide gateways for connection to the public switched telephone network (PSTN). It will also feature carrier-grade resilience, integrated support service and interoperable agents and end points.

Conference attendee David Vinson, a telecommunications manager with Atlanta-based Printpack Inc., said that his company is investigating IP telephony, but will likely pursue a hybrid implementation instead of IBM's rip-and-replace strategy.

Vinson said his firm has a significant number of new PBX systems that it wants to continue using, though he added that Barnes' presentation "brought up some interesting questions" about which strategy is best.

Dude, it's about the enterprise

Dell Dude Steve was nowhere to be found this week, but Dell Inc. was well represented by Kim Goodman, vice president of the company's public sector group and founder of its enterprise networking business.

In an on-stage interview with Paul Gillin, TechTarget's vice president of editorial, Goodman told attendees that Dell is very proud of its 2-year-old enterprise switching business. However, that doesn't mean it's trying to compete in every enterprise networking category.

"We will not do all things across technology, but we will do a few things really well," Goodman said, adding that Dell will only enter markets in which the technology has either already been standardized, or is on the verge of mass adoption.

Goodman said the company has been able to compete with more established enterprise switching vendors because it offers lifetime software upgrades, a three-year warranty and its own network management software, all for no additional charge.

Printpack's Vinson said that, based on Goodman's remarks, he feels good about Dell's strategy: "Even though they're still working out some things, I can see where there's value in where they're going."

Vinson's company currently uses networking equipment from Cisco Systems Inc. but has a heavy investment in Dell servers. Vinson was intrigued by the possibility of having a network environment based on Dell equipment. "They might be a good fit for us in some places," he said.

Save a buck or two

Don't believe in spending a lot of money on pricey disaster recovery equipment? Neither does Damian Walsh.

During a session on disaster recovery, Walsh -- the vice president of consulting for T-Systems North America, an IT services branch of Deutsche Telecom -- told attendees that even though DR is very important, DR budgets are better spent training employees, leveraging current network capabilities and developing an easy-to-understand emergency blueprint.

However, that plan shouldn't run as long as War and Peace. Walsh said the best DR plans aren't more than a few pages long.

"It needs to be something you can keep in a briefcase or a PDA so you can carry it around with you," Walsh said. "You're not going to carry a heavy binder around."

"I've helped 10 companies recover from disasters," he added, "and none of them have used a long plan." In fact, he said, some well-designed plans start with a picture that describes what happens to workers, systems and other resources during a worst-case scenario, in which key DR personnel aren't available to execute the strategy.

Ten minutes of fame

During the first two days of the conference, a number of small networking vendors embraced opportunities to pitch their wares from the stage in rapid-fire format, with each company given only 10 minutes.

The audience held its breath when Singlestep Technologies Inc. CEO Chris Noble appeared to trip while stepping up onto the stage. However, he gracefully performed a barrel roll and landed on his feet, quickly noting that in networking, "It's not about the fall; it's about the recovery."

Another stage gimmick saw MetaInfo's Grant Asplund address attendees in a totally dark room with only a flashlight strapped to his forehead. Fortunately, no fire marshals were in attendance. Other companies presenting included SIPquest Inc., Caymas Systems Inc. and Valt-X Technologies Inc.

TechTarget is the organizer of Networking Decisions and owner of the family of Web sites that includes


See more of our special coverage of Networking Decisions.

Read more stories by News Editor Eric B. Parizo.

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