Social Security Administration Gears up for Huge VoIP Rollout

Carl Weinschenk

For sheer size, the VoIP deployment by the Social Security Administration takes the cyber cake. The SSA is rolling out the platform to 1,600 locations, ranging from large offices to small operations of five or so people. FedTech tells the story well.


The story describes the typical yin and yang of a VoIP deployment: The great number of advantages are counterbalanced by the imposing technical hurdles and challenges that planners face. The benefits outweigh the difficulties, of course -- or at least they do on paper.


The intriguing factor in this case, of course, is the massive size of the undertaking. The writer says three key questions had to be dealt with in the planning phases: how to avoid voice latency and assure uptime, how to provide robust 911 and 411 services, and how to best prepare users for the new system.


An analyst familiar with the project, which is being deployed by a team led by Nortel Government Systems, says that it is a good time for government agencies to look at IP telephony. She says many government systems are reaching end of life, VoIP now is as reliable and offers similar quality to legacy services, and cost savings are becoming more important. In addition, government workers are similar to those in private industry: They want the cool new features VoIP provides.


Nortel will be joined by NetIQ in the project. This release says NetIQ has a 10-year contract with Nortel for network diagnostics, monitoring and professional services. Specifically, NetIQ will provide its AppManager for VoIP and its Vivinet Assessor and Diagnostic tools.


Another vendor to the project was announced this month. According to this release, York Telecom will provide integration, maintenance and on-site support for the gargantuan undertaking. The release says other team members include General Dynamics, Black Box Network Services, Shared Technologies, AT&T, High Wire Networks and Pal-Tech.


Hopefully, the SSA really is doing its homework. An Aberdeen Group report, "Benchmarking VoIP Performance Management," shows just how important planning is. The study, released last month, estimates that best-in-class organizations are almost four times as likely to reduce call rate failure as "laggards." The study offers interesting statistics on the aggressiveness with which companies are approaching VoIP and the money they are saving. Organizations spend an average of $1.6 million on VoIP deployments and need to have the right tools in place in order to drive the highest value out of those expenditures.


Streamcore makes the point that VoIP calls can be put in the position of competing for resources with other applications. To ensure that all the applications and services have adequate capacity, the organization suggests prioritizing VoIP ahead of less time-sensitive applications, making sure that adequate monitoring and reporting are in place, and including technology to monitor call quality and troubleshoot and tweak the system when necessary.

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