The key to a successful service deployment is to stay away from wishful thinking and pie-in-the-sky expectations and deal with cold, hard reality. What can go wrong will go wrong. If the infrastructure isn't checked and vetted, it most likely will throw more curves at IT than a major league pitcher.
For this reason, this survey from Apparent Networks can be greeted as good news. Of course, a quick scan of the results will suggest big problems. Those who did the survey didn't skimp: About 1,500 network managers were quizzed. A large number -- 36 percent of those surveyed -- said that they have delayed deployments because of network issues, with 61 percent of those saying the problems were outside the home network. The most sensitive applications, and therefore those that demand the most well-maintained networks, are the overlapping areas of VoIP, unified communications and real-time video.
The good news is that network managers aren't jumping the gun and deploying these applications on substandard infrastructure. Instead, it seems that they are taking an honest assessment of what is going on and acting accordingly. The study dovetails with an interview I did last week with Paul Wiggins, the Streamline product manager for Tone Software. Wiggins told me that deploying VoIP without a network assessment is a fool's errand (though he didn't quite put it that way) that most companies avoid. There is, he says, more than one type of assessment and it pays to dig down deep to find out the root cause of problems. Assessments, he says, should be done on an ongoing basis.
There really are two related issues here: What happens on the corporate network and what happens beyond. Engineers work with "loss budgets" and other complex sets of calculations, which essentially say how badly things can be allowed to get messed up before the application becomes unusable. One of the hard parts is factoring it all out when signals move from a company's network to the telecommunications network and, perhaps, back onto the company network at another location.
The corporate networks (the local-area networks, or LANs), of course, are under the control of the company and, if the will and budget are there, can be upgraded and repaired. The telecommunications network (the wide-area network, or WAN) is a trickier beast. The best way to protect quality in the segment is by eschewing the public Internet for higher-quality private networks and demanding stringent service level agreements (SLAs) from carriers.