UC and VoIP Are Only as Good as the Networks that Carry Them


Unified communications and VoIP offer clear advantages. However, no matter how much potential an application has, it'll be a huge drag on organizations if it doesn't work well. Therefore, it's vital that organizations make sure that the underlying network on which they install these advanced platforms is solid and robust enough to support this type of traffic, which tends to be on the finicky side.


Processor points out that packets carrying real-time video and audio data are far more sensitive than those carrying static applications such as e-mails or Web pages. In the latter case, a few milliseconds of delay doesn't make a difference, whereas the slightest delay can play havoc with a voice or video transmission. The piece says the biggest problems are jitter, packet loss and latency -- and defines each term. Electronically bolting new infrastructure onto old networks can lead to serious problems, the story says.


The dangers of installing VoIP and its cousin, UC, on an inadequate network or in a substandard manner apparently is leading at least some organizations to outsource the exacting work of planning the network. This release highlights the opportunities presented by UC and subsequently describes the difficulties of successfully deploying the hardware and software necessary to provide those services. InfoTrack, a division of T3i, says that IT departments will increase outside partnerships for UC planning during the next two years.


Network World goes into some of the details of what needs to be done in order for a network to support UC and VoIP. The writer -- reporting on a presentation at the Interop Show in September in New York City -- says that switches, routers and bandwidth levels have to be optimized to simultaneously support multimedia and data traffic. This, the writer says, is leading vendors to embed more intelligence in these devices. He singles out vendors Foundry Networks, HP, Enterasys, Force10 and Cisco as those who have upgraded their products for this purpose.


The catch-all phrase used to gauge the quality of a network is Quality of Service (QoS). It isn't an either/or scenario, however. Computerworld says that there are subtle gradations in QoS. At the highest level, there are three varieties of QoS: best effort, differentiated and guaranteed. The QoS level is set and monitored through the use of four tools: classification, congestion management, link-efficiency and shaping/policy. The feature defines all of these terms and goes into a good level of detail on the tricky business of how QoS is implemented. A good primer on QoS is available from Microsoft, and a list of resources and links from Sliptijack.