Network managers should check whether their existing IT infrastructures are able to run new converged services before adopting BT's 21st Century Network (21CN), the Communications Management Association (CMA) has advised.
As well as checking the compatibility of older systems, CMA networked services forum leader David Brunnen said that users thinking of signing up to BT's next-generation unified communications services should also clarify what services will be available on the 21CN, and whether they might be better off managing services such as voice over IP in-house.
"Network managers should consider how many of their applications they run in-house under their own private IP networks, and which ones might be better managed by providers such as BT. Technical and strategic planning should begin now so that firms are prepared when BT's network launches," he said.
Brunnen said that businesses considering the move to BT's 21CN must be aware of the potential problems of using an IP network for converged services.
Brunnen said that IP networks can suffer delays in transferring packets of data between applications. This can cause significant problems when it affects critical applications. Businesses considering IP networks must ensure that such problems can be accommodated by their business.
Despite these problems, research from the CMA's Communications in Business survey found that businesses are moving towards converged IP networks, with 47% of respondents reporting that they use a converged IP network.
VoIP applications provided the main motivation for the uptake, with collaboration, mobility and unified communications cited as other reasons.
Brunnen says that those adopting IP networks face the challenge of achieving interoperability between the products and services of different suppliers.
"If deploying a converged network or using a managed service, enterprises should ensure that the partners they work with, such as suppliers, can still exchange information if they are using alternative providers," said Brunnen.
The introduction of BT's 21CN will be the largest ever upheaval in telephony systems. BT said it expected a large part of the migration to be complete by 2010, although remote areas would take longer to reach. The firm said it would offer advice to enterprises about how to prepare for the change nearer the time, and that it envisaged minimal disruption to customers.
"At the moment we are focusing on the migration process of our core network to ensure the minimum levels of disruption when we switch over to our 21CN," said a BT spokesman.
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