Networking::Wireless::VoIP::Network Management

Notes from Networking Decisions conference.
- We got a great deal since all meals but one were provided free and they paid two of my three hotel nights. And although the conference was free they had VP's and officers of network companies there speaking about network topics and talks from analysts from Gartner, Giga, and Yankee group. The sessions were very focused on technology and there were no "unadvertised" sales pitches.
- The same company is having an Enterprise Windows conference in a similar format at the same location next May. I think we could benefit from attending it as well.
- The Network conference focused on wireless technologies, Voice over IP, and network management.
- NETWORK MANAGEMENT: I was disappointed by the small amount of coverage of network management. But there were a couple good presentations and networking opportunities to talk with others about how they did stuff. And I saw some amazing products - one a "network management appliance" for just $2999 that can be setup to monitor services/devices and alert us when there is trouble. We are doing this now using cheap software and freeware, but this device brings it all together into one small machine that can do more.
-WIRELESS LAN: I got a good understanding of the technologies available for wireless LAN setup.
- The most manageable would be to install antennas in various locations above the ceiling and cable them back to wireless access points in a closet rack. This provides central maintenance and upgrade of the wireless access points.
- There are a good number of security issues. When setting up authentication there are other issues requiring additional hardware/software to provide for "roaming" between access points/etc.
- I don't have a detailed cost analysis, but my impression was that setting up a wireless LAN "right" would cost at least as much as a wired LAN - and you get less performance. I'm sure there are environments where the need for mobility outweighs cost and performance.
- I don't see any advantage to using a wireless LAN for "day to day" needs at my company.
- One idea though would be to provide a wireless internet "hot spot" in conf room(s)for client use in connecting back to their offices or for internet presentations with special furnature arrangement needs. To provide this securely would require cabling all the antennas to access points in the network closets and have them all terminated at a single network segment that is totally separate from ours and connect it directly to it's own firewall interface. This would require additional uplink ports on closet switches and/or cabling runs from the conference rooms on each floor into the datacenter.
- WIRELESS WAN: There continues to be a proliferation of new devices. Blackberry seems to me to continue to be the most suitable and convenient device for getting e-mail and basic PIM functions. Blackberry has a combo phone device and is coming out with an international phone/Blackberry device. Most cost benefit from palmtop computers(like Ipaq) seems to be with custom applications for veritical markets like sales and inventory management - low bandwidth transfers of transaction data and reference numbers. Since the HP/Compaq merger, the Ipaq will continue to be branded as Ipaq and HP palm devices will fade away.
- VOICE OVER IP - This point was brought out repeatedly: VOIP will fail without a thorough network evaluation and implementation of quality of service switches. VOIP causes drastic changes in network utilization and requires specialized skills and equipment to monitor and manage the resulting network traffic.
- VOIP continues to remain in a very long "early adopter" phase. The Gartner analyst projected that by 2008, 20% of new phone switch sales will be VOIP. The Gartner analyst predicted that in our present economy few companies will upgrade to VOIP since, in the best case, we are spending a lot of money just to give users what they already have. Whereas in a realistic case, the resulting user functions may turn out to be fewer and less robust, and numerous problems will be encountered and must be overcome in the process. So user perception would be that the project interrupted their business and cost money to achieve fewer features and more problems.
- What we would need to do to prepare:
- Training! - for telecom people, for data network people, for network admins. All of these positions will be affected by VOIP and all the staff in these positions will be "taken out of their comfort zone."
- Add a "Policy" switch to each closet and implement quality of service features on LAN switches
- Find out what IP capabilities our phone switch has, how "upgradable" it is for use with VOIP.
- I believe the Optiset phones we are replacing our Rolm phones with have an option to upgrade them by changing out the modules in the phones. Existing phones would have to be upgraded and remaining Rolm phones replaced with Optiset IP phones.
- Other presentations brought out that "Back office" opportunities may present themselves to position us for a future migration to VOIP. And some VOIP functions might become attractive for WAN voice.
- I believe we should continue making small steps in that direction so that hopefully next time we need to replace the FAX server we could implement Universal Messaging. I believe we could avoid repurchasing T1 cards and achieve a server hardware savings on the replacement FAX server (and our voicemail is in need of replacement now.) Universal Messaging could also provide us with a graphical interface into our phone mail options and deliver phonemail into our Outlook mailbox where they can be backed up daily. This would migrate us away from our old phonemail machines and eliminate contention for channels to the phonemail since internal calls wilould access voicemail access over the LAN instead of the voice channels from the phone switch.

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