The news that Entuity has released Version 5.0 of its Eye of the Storm network management suite and that Narus has scored a big new investment -- $30 million -- for its network security and management products isn't surprising as VoIP continues to mature.
The issue is pretty simple: VoIP services are built on base networks that weren't intended to do anything as sophisticated and tricky as carrying voice services. Thus, as the revenue potential of VoIP grows, the need to revisit those networks and closely monitor, secure and manage them becomes greater.
We look for the VoIP monitoring business to explode. As penetration rates increase, carriers will want to move away from early deployment approaches, characterized by the desire to avoid problems (and the negative publicity that accompanied them) by over-provisioning connections. In other words, the initial approach was to throw bandwidth at problems. Engineers knew this approach wasn't "elegant." But it did the trick, at least while penetration rates were relatively low.
Two things make over-provisioning an idea whose time has passed. On one level, the increasing number of VoIP subscribers simply makes it inefficient to provide more than the absolute necessary bandwidth for each customer. Another issue is that the overall amount of capacity isn't always the problem. A network can have plenty of capacity, but for a number of reasons not have the ability to deliver packets in a timely enough fashion to support ultra-sensitive services such as video streaming and Web conferencing.
The bigger picture here is that the likely growth of Narus, Entuity and companies like them can be attributed to the legacy of the Internet.
Traditionally, a new technology or service is envisioned by its developers. They develop, test, poke and prod until the technology is ready to withstand the stresses of commercial use. The Internet -- and all those fun services and applications that run on it -- didn't have the luxury of that leisurely gestation period. The base technology was in the field, and customers told the developers what they wanted more of.
This is a great feedback loop, but leads to a game of catch-up in terms of robustness and stability. Narus and a group of lucky vendors and service providers are going to make a lot of money creating a stable environment with a consistent quality of service (QoS) level.