Voice and data stumble at the altar

commentary If one could sum up current enterprise telecommunications trends in one word, that word would be "convergence". A whole generation of communications managers are fully aware that their voice and data networks are likely to become one and the same in the next few years.

commentary If one could sum up current enterprise telecommunications trends in one word, that word would be "convergence".

Renai LeMay, ZDNet Australia
A whole generation of communications managers are fully aware that their voice and data networks are likely to become one and the same in the next few years.

The wave of construction of networks based on the Internet Protocol (IP) is one indication of this inevitability.

Just this week, Gloria Jean's said it would connect its 340 cafes down under with its head office and data centre via an IP-based virtual private network.

And property group Investa revealed a move to IP telephony in its new Sydney HQ.

Another signpost on the convergence road is the the amount of interest shown in networking vendor Cisco's VoiceComm converged comms forums just last week.

The conferences held in Melbourne and Sydney were attended by 250 and 300 people respectively, solid numbers which a Cisco spokesperson described as not surprising, but certainly "impressive".

The giant vendor has recently sold its 400,000th IP phone down under -- double the total this time last year.

Your writer reflected on this trend over coffee with Dimension Data's Australian chief executive Steve Nola yesterday afternoon.

DiData provides ICT services (especially networking) to enterprise clients, working right at the coalface of the nation's corporate networks.

According to Nola, while convergence may have been hyped a few years back, it's finally hit the big time down under. And the CEO should know -- his staff are the ones actually linking voice and data networks together in the field.

Nola's view is that convergence is breeding a new brand of communications manager with skills in both voice and data. CEOs and other top level managers are increasingly looking to the same person for these same skillsets, he said.

Nola's opinion rings true -- after all why maintain separate personnel for functions that are increasingly becoming one?

However they also raise the question of training. Voice and data hardware has traditionally been worlds apart.

It's not likely traditional telephony experts are comfortable with logging into a router and configuring Cisco's IOS operating system. On the other hand, data gurus are probably loath to get their hands dirty configuring a PABX.

For this fully "converged" communications manager to step up to the plate it's likely some beefing up of skills will have to take place.

What's your opinion? Is convergence taking place in your workplace and what effects is it having? Drop us a line at renai.lemay@zdnet.com.au.

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