Today, companies are being challenged to simultaneously manage costs and grow revenues - to do more with less. Enhancing relationships with customers and improving employee productivity have become increasingly important as competitive differentiators.
Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is a signalling standard that is quickly evolving into a key underlying technology for converged communication to differentiate businesses and increase productivity. It enables seamless data and voice convergence in multi-supplier environments with multiple applications across a wide range of industry sectors.
SIP supports this by placing control of the communication across distributed networks and smoothly integrating the various system levels. It eases peer-to-peer communication sessions, allowing users to be reached at any location based on their individual preferences. Also, it allows them to communicate via any mode, or device, from desk phones to desktop multimedia clients, e-mail accounts to instant messaging accounts and so on.
One of the key differentiators between SIP and other similar types of technologies is that there is a real cross industry push for it to become the next signalling standard. Currently, it is being developed and championed by a whole range of suppliers including Microsoft, Motorola and Avaya.
So how does converged communication help businesses? SIP reduces the total cost of ownership for telephony in nearly all cases by exploiting a business' private IP infrastructure and, when combined with presence, instant messaging, location and mobility applications, SIP makes communication more efficient. Also, telephony administration, such as staff moves, additions and changes, can be handled more efficiently and at lower cost, either automatically or by in-house administrators.
This not only eliminates charges for those services, but also minimises the wait usually associated with such a request.
In the longer term SIP will improve business productivity by enabling new converged applications that allow enterprise software to better interact with customers and employees in the ways they prefer. Also, SIP can allow a business to respond more effectively to customers and provide them with a more personalised experience.
SIP will enable those with many devices, such as a mobile phone, desk phone, PC client and PDA, to seamlessly integrate these entities for increased efficiency and productivity.
If businesses are to evolve to converged communication I believe the evolution of IT infrastructures will occur in three key phases, which begin with the traditional separation of voice and data networks. Second, users should develop converged networks where business build their IP networks to provide a common infrastructure for both voice and data. Finally, as business becomes more distributed and business performance needs dictate enhanced user capabilities, businesses can consider evolving to converged communication.
It is important that businesses should evolve parts of their infrastructure from one phase to the next according to their business needs. Additionally, when considering the move to converged communication (such as SIP), businesses should start to educate themselves about the basic issues, such as understanding interoperability issues and knowing its supplier roadmap in this area.
For businesses around the world, SIP and the benefits that it can deliver can be a reality. SIP technology will continue to build on IP telephony momentum by providing the ability to quickly and seamlessly integrate with numerous internet-based applications and instant collaborative applications such as audio and video conferencing.
It offers a powerful means for businesses to enhance the efficiency of their communication environments, and provides a common point of integration across suppliers, service providers and application providers.
Ultimately, SIP provides users with the choice of "intelligence" at the endpoint, regardless of device or network, and also leverages the internet development community to create richer, converged communication applications via open, standardised interfaces. SIP gives businesses and its employees the ability to take control of their communication and increase productivity.
Roger Jones is convergence director EMEA at Avaya