The Beginning of the End of Telecom and Enterprise Networking

Carl Weinschenk

Question: What do you get when you take two different sectors, sprinkle in a good portion of technological evolution and a pinch of poor economic news? Answer: A completely different industry.


All those ingredients are present in the communications industry right now. Technology in both the telecom and enterprise sectors is evolving radically. The economy is heading south, which leads organizations to seek new ways to shave their operating costs.


IT Business Edge blogger Rob Enderle wrote a provocative post this week asking the rhetorical question of whether HP would or should buy Alcatel-Lucent. The premise is that HP, through its Halo telepresence line, is becoming deeply involved in telecommunications, a sector in which it has little or no expertise.


Telepresence may become a bigger deal than the niche it has been to date. Prices are declining, and the overall category is broadening to include more lower-priced platforms. Experts can quibble on where the line is between telepresence and HD conferencing. The bottom line is, as this Frost & Sullivan study released last month indicates, high-definition and IP technology has shaken conferencing from a "prolonged hiatus" from the days of ISDN. The acronym stands for Integrated Services Digital Network, though some veterans of teleconferences gone wrong may think the initials stand for It Seldom Delivers Nicely.


As Enderle suggests, telepresence is just the tip of the iceberg, albeit a lucrative one. The bigger picture is that companies with IT chops suddenly see opportunities in the wide-area network. Enderle does a terrific job of connecting the dots and pointing out where this all may lead.


This isn't the only time the concept of the merging telecom and enterprise sectors has came up recently. Dana Cooperson, Ovum's vice president for optical networking, told IT Business Edge last week that this is precisely where things are heading:

There is a big demand for 100 Gig for the data center and for the wide-area network. When we get to 100 Gig for the first time, we will see the local area and wide area meet. Datacom and telecom are coming together. That's your convergence theme. ... A lot of people are looking forward to that and saying it will be a good day. The [distinction between] the datacom and telecom network will disappear, at least in theory.

Telecom and enterprise networks are historically intertwined but distinct entities. The explosion of IP networks and the widespread use of Ethernet protocols in the WAN and LAN is driving those sectors toward a common future.

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