Monday, October 23, 2006

Is IP The Most Cost Effective Choice For Your Business Communication Applications?

Too often a business assumes that IP based solutions are the best choice to satisfy their communication requirements. Particulalrly with convergence issues. But....don't get caught making a hasty decision. There are viable options...and factors to consider before making a final choice.

One of the problems with convergence is protocol, starting with IP.

While we tend to think in terms of Internet and IP, there are alternatives.

Dedicated circuits come to mind, followed by frame relay. One option that hasn't gotten much exposure but may offer some real advantages is Gigabit Ethernet via fiber optics. The fiber overcomes the distance limitations associated with Ethernet. Ethernet allows for layer 2 switching versus IP based routing. From a private network perspective, this may be an ideal way of lowering overheads and improving latency and jitter issues.

The same applies to other transports such as a private radio network. The IP headers are only one solution to source and destination, and are necessary only when joining the public Internet where IPv4 is the required protocol by agreement (not technical requirement). In 1985, the choice of protocol was still being debated, and Ethernet and Token Ring were still fighting for dominance.

Moving out of IP opens up other opportunities for improved performance and efficiency in other applications besides voice.

From a marketing perspective, "cost effective" applies when taken in the context of the five currencies people use - time, money, security, knowledge, and prestige. Consumerism exists only because people deal in all five currencies and products can find their "cost effective" niche.

"Money is rarely the issue, but when money is the issue it is the only issue."

Fiber to the home or fiber to the curb is a nice thought, and it is becoming more common in new developments here in the US. The economics of this are simple - installing fiber during initial construction costs little more than material at that time, and the cost is buried in the price of the new home to be recouped over 30 years. For the carriers, once a fiber infrastructure is in place at no cost to them its easier to take advantage of it than not. Fiber trunks are routinely installed when major road arteries are reworked. Again, its the economics of reinstalling copper versus installing fiber once the existing facility is compromised by road construction.

Unfortunately, this approach will only get FTTH/FTTC to new developments, For existing neighborhoods, conversion will occur when the providers are faced with a major rework due to natural disaster or infrastructure degradation due to age. To count on fiber anytime soon in these areas would be foolish.

It is possible today to get up to Gigabit Ethernet paths between major metropolitan areas in the US, and to some parts of Japan and Europe, much the way dedicated circuits are ordered. Bandwidth on demand capabilities are available to scale up and down in near real time as needed. Running a long haul Ethernet backbone can be significantly easier and more effective than running a routed backbone or using the Internet as the backbone for many companies. This can include companies that in turn provide services to individual users such as telephony services.

What I am suggesting is a review and selection based on what makes the best business AND technical sense. Is IP the right choice for the telecommunications you are supporting? Step back and take a closer look at ALL your options before deciding.

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