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IP ready for prime time

Despite what some heel-dragging IT industry veterans in Canada think, this is no longer a technology on the horizon.


July 1, 2006  


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Internet Protocol (IP) communication products and services have proven their ability to help organizations streamline business processes and diminish costs.

For years, Canadian companies have been realizing the benefits that carrying all forms of communications — voice, video and data — across a common, IP infrastructure can bring.

Yet despite solid and progressive implementations in Canada, some IT industry veterans still seem to be dragging their heels when it comes to this technology due to questions and uncertainty.

Perhaps it is time to stop wondering about IP and start benefiting from it.

No need to run

It is no longer a question of if customers will deploy IP; it’s a matter of when. Consider that telecommunications vendors have divested from PBX development and now have all their R&D in IP going forward.

Also, consider that IP is being applied to every application — in enterprise, industry, public sector and the home. Despite perceptions, current implementations are demonstrating the technology is ready for prime time, and that one network in fact makes processes easier and more effective.

Take, for example, Canadian surgeon Dr. Mehran Anvari who in 2003 performed a routine anti-reflux operation on a patient and made medical history — and continues to do so. In scenes straight from science fiction, the founding director of the Centre for Minimal Access Surgery (CMAS) at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton carried out the procedure on a patient lying 400 kilometres away at North Bay General Hospital.

Within IT circles, the operation served as a powerful demonstration of the types of highly-advanced, robust applications that service providers are being asked to support on their networks, increasingly based on IP technology.

Even more remarkable: this surgery was done across an IP network belonging to a major carrier. With tens of thousands of other enterprise data packets on the network, CMAS was able to perform real-time surgery with a robotic assisted device on one end and a surgeon on the other. Dr. Anvari has since performed more than 22 live tele-robotic surgeries.

Too often I hear from colleagues about issues such as delineating different traffic types, despite the fact this was solved a long time ago. Canadians and people across the globe are investing in IP. It’s not just talk anymore. Cisco Systems Inc. has sold 400,000 IP phones in Canada, to more than 800 companies.

Globally, Cisco is displacing 12,000 Time-division multiplexing (TDM) phones every business day with more than 8 million IP phones shipped. To date, Cisco has deployed over 5 million unified messaging seats; 985,000 contact centre seats and 144,000 MeetingPlace (IP Conferencing) licenses.

Cisco is not the only one seeing an interest in IP. In May 2006, Infonetics Research announced its most recent projections for VoIP deployments in North America. Its findings: Almost half of small and two-thirds of large organizations in North America will be using VoIP products and services by 2010, and VoIP adoption will triple by 2010 among small North American organizations.

As well, 36% of large, 23% of medium, and 14% of small North American organizations interviewed were already using VoIP products and services in 2005.

The top drivers for deploying VoIP included having an integrated phone system across multiple locations, scalability, operational cost savings, and converging voice and data networks.

How could IP not be a viable option, given these figures?

Automating the process

An IP network reduces the headaches that multiple, disparate, disconnected and in some cases proprietary networks can cause.

For example, real time, deterministic protocols for process automation and control is a requirement for the factory automation and manufacturing industry, so it has traditionally had separate networks for real-time control.

Manufacturing was a laggard when it came to IP because it was thought the technology couldn’t handle its needs, and wasn’t reliable enough.

Fast forward to today: We are now seeing all of the leading global manufacturers abandoning old, expensive, proprietary, non-flexible protocols and moving their automation systems to the very same IP networks their business and voice traffic flows on.

There is no doubt IP communications offer unprecedented integration of interpersonal communications technology with other critical business data. It is time to overcome the fear of the unknown, and realize that IP is not a technology on the horizon. It is in fact here and being used now by Canadians in a wide range of industries.

The sooner this is accepted, the sooner Canadian customers will be able to reap the benefits.

Brantz Myers is Director of Enterprise and Industry Marketing for Cisco Systems Canada. He can be reached at brmyers@cisco.com.