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Commentary: When to use second-generation VoIP

The coming availability of second-generation VoIP gear--based on SIP, SOAP and SIMPLE--raises questions about the benefits and risks of migration.

Commentary: When to use second-generation VoIP
By Forrester Research
Special to CNET
October 15, 2003 8:45AM PT

By Vijay K. Bhagavath, Analyst

The coming availability of second-generation gear for voice over Internet Protocol--based on Internet standards SIP, SOAP and SIMPLE--raises questions about the benefits and risks of migration.

With current-generation H.323-based VoIP deployments sprouting in early-adopter industries like financial services and health care, IT and business executives have to make decisions about using second-generation VoIP gear.

What are some key reasons for companies to use Session Initiated Protocol (SIP), Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE)? The benefits of the three, also known as Triple-S, boil down to:

• Cost savings. A large retailer we spoke with expects to save handsomely on operational costs after it replaces its 1,600 legacy Private Branch Exchange (PBX) systems with four SIP VoIP servers. Companies we spoke with are looking to use Web services interfaces in Triple-S Internet Protocol PBX systems to significantly reduce the costs of integrating PBX systems with directory, messaging and back-office servers. Companies also cite lower deployment costs through best-of-breed SIP client-server combinations as key reasons to use SIP phones and PBX systems.

• Business productivity. Brokerages, retail banking and real estate are moving beyond cost savings from toll bypass. They now are seeking benefits like simplifying work flow in customer service or order fulfillment using live communications features like presence-aware click-to-conference in Microsoft Outlook, or displaying a customer's Siebel Systems record during an incoming call.

Which industries will be the early adopters of Triple-S VoIP?

Services-oriented ones like brokerages, retail banks, hospital systems and consulting firms are among the first to launch H.323 VoIP and will be the first to use Triple-S VoIP solutions beginning in early 2004. The reasons? These businesses rely on rapid communication among their employees, customers and partners, and the instant movement of information is critical to their business success.

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What are some key issues associated with migrating to Triple-S VoIP solutions?

Enterprise buyers need to examine a variety of planning issues while considering the deployment of VoIP systems. Key among them:

• Interoperability issues. Triple-S VoIP vendors, while touting multivendor interoperability, are likely to implement proprietary SIP extensions to realize advanced features like 911 calling, one-touch conferencing or on-demand call encryption. Companies will have to budget for engagement costs of independent software vendors--at about 10 percent of their VoIP launch costs--to ensure Triple-S feature set interoperability.

• Planning for security threats and disaster recovery scenarios. IT will need to work with disaster recovery outfits like SunGard to architect failover capabilities that provide phone service in the vent of outages. Key scenarios: buggy Triple-S clients or servers that cause midcall service disruptions, denial-of-service attacks on PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) or Internet gateways, hacker intrusions and eavesdropping attempts that could disclose market-sensitive information.

What are the business benefits of presence-aware live communications applications?

Forrester predicts that adding presence awareness to telephony and conferencing applications will spark a new wave of instant business communications interactions. For example, this will make it easy for traders to rapidly concur with their colleagues on pulling out of a stock position or for employees to click on their Outlook's IT tab to request tech support. People will increasingly prefer click-to-conference features in Outlook or Lotus Sametime, expected to be available from independent software vendors and VoIP vendors by early 2004, to initiate desktop conferencing sessions, saving their companies thousands of dollars in phone bills.

When can companies expect the availability of mature Triple-S VoIP solutions?

Virtually every phone vendor--from pros like Avaya to start-ups like Zultys Technologies--is shipping SIP/SIMPLE phones. Large gear makers like Alcatel, Nortel Networks and 3Com currently offer SIP/SIMPLE Internet Protocol PBX servers. And device pros like NEC and Symbol Technologies have been shipping SIP/SIMPLE-based handheld devices for some time.

Forrester expects several incumbents to ship Triple-S-enabled IP phones, PBX servers and presence-aware live communications applications for use in large production networks in early 2004.

© 2003, Forrester Research, Inc. All rights reserved. Information is based on best available resources. Opinions reflect judgment at the time and are subject to change.