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Cisco sees integrated-network future

Cisco Systems' chief technology officer, Ed Kozel, takes to the Networld+Interop stage to frame the future of merging of voice, video, and data on one network.

ATLANTA--There might not be another company that has more to gain from the widely expected merger of voice, video, and data on one network than networking giant Cisco Systems (CSCO).

With so many dollars at stake, the company's chief technology officer, Ed Kozel, took to the Networld+Interop stage to frame the future of an integrated infrastructure, highlighting future changes in user patterns, where new technologies will fit into the future, and how a lack of networking talent could stymie the Net boom.

"We do believe that, within three years, we will have deployed infrastructure that allows transmission of voice, video, and data," Kozel told a packed hall. "This is really going to shake up the industry. It's especially going to shake up the technology being used."

The networking veteran noted the fact that, by the turn of the century, data traffic will outpace voice congestion, causing current telecommunications and data communications service providers to rethink the manner in which they offer packaged technology as a service to customers.

"We're facing a very difficult time in the industry," he warned. "We shouldn't fool ourselves."

Dominating this integrated network, Kozel said, will be IP, the dominant protocol of the Net. Via IP, users--especially those using the public Net to traverse intranets--will send voice, video, and data information between sites. He called IP the "convergence layer" of this next-generation network topology.

To facilitate this migration to an amalgamation of data- and voice-networking, Kozel said SONet (synchronous optical networking) will become a more popular networking technology. SONet, a wide-area network analogous to frame relay, has found a wider audience in Europe to date, due to cost concerns and its niche in voice networks. He also said the processing power of infrastructure hardware, such as switches and routers, will need to follow Intel's path.

Kozel noted the swell of interest in technology that allows voice to travel over IP, and said that such technology will be the most significant new Net application in the years to come.

In closing, Kozel discussed his company's efforts to address a shortage of skilled networking professionals in the United States via education programs. "We have to nurture a base if we want to reach a mass market," he said. "It's not going to get addressed by the national government or local governments."