Comms company Teleware says that no company ever plans a mixed architecture voice network. Costs for support and maintenance increase. Challenges of integration of applications across multiple networks and of providing consistent user facilities are costly and frustrating. And yet, based in independent research by PMP, 64% of enterprise networks in the UK today are mixed architecture.
The percentage is very much less amongst small businesses where the cost for moving away from existing hardware to a new system is less. Change for the small business provides an opportunity to reduce costs while expanding choice of applications and flexibility of deployment through moving to hosted telephony services. The reduced cost and prevalence of broadband services and the availability and stability of hosted services has opened the way for business to move to monthly fee based services, supported and maintained by a third party. For channel partners it provides an ongoing relationship opportunity and a revenue stream. A win-win situation.
Lesley Hansen, Marketing Director at Teleware believes for the large business the painful truth is that change really is the only constant.
“Mixed vendor networks are driven by competitive needs for cost controls, the demand for speed and for new applications and by the acquisitions and mergers that are a part of business today. It is the fortunate network manager who can maintain a single vendor network in this changing world.
Do we really believe that IP is, or even want IP to be, the last technology innovation? The panacea of a single consolidated IP based network with lower running costs and less support issues is overthrown by new technologies such as WiFi and GSM. Future technology innovations driven by delivering business advantage are inevitable. So migration and consolidation are a constant in the network manager’s world – and a channel sales opportunity.
What company will refuse to consider a solution that reduces costs? The original driver for voice and data convergence was cost saving from carrying voice traffic over spare capacity in data lines. Today justifying convergence based on transportation costs alone no longer works without applications and the soft benefits of increased productivity, collaboration and improvements in working practices.
The drive to change is usually related to a desire to reduced costs. Hot desking was introduced to reduce costs on office facilities. Today social pressures are creating the need for flexible working to deliver work life balance, but businesses are looking for savings in the cost of facilities, recruitment and training. Pressures to undertake change to achieve soft benefits can be channel opportunities through migration and consolidation.“
Migration to a new architecture such as IP has both direct and hidden costs. At a personnel level there are training costs, handling of increased numbers of user issues and time lost due to disruption.
Hansen says for productivity benefits the network applications need to be transferred, upgraded or new ones introduced.
„There are setup, training and support costs for new applications. Where applications such as video conferencing were used to justify the migration there is a need to ensure uptake to deliver the ROI.
There are costs associated with the upgrade of the LAN to support voice and provide QoS and the security and resilience needed as services migrate to a single architecture. There may be new or updated cabling. The desktop is a significant expenditure with costs for new phones which will provide for most users the same functionality – i.e. the ability to make a call.“
Drivers for Consolidation
The primary driver for consolidating is to lower the total cost of ownership. A single architecture is more cost effective to maintain than a mixed architecture. A proven and established solution can be lower cost to run than a new and evolving solution. There is less disruption to users and new phones are not required. Being part way through maintenance and support contracts or where the business can sweat the assets and defer capital expenditure can favour consolidation.
“Advantages are provided by the effective use of both applications and hardware,“ according Hansen, ”100 users using a single voicemail system require less applications ports than 50 users on one system and 50 on another because of port contention. The consolidated single telephony dial plan will provide soft savings from time and productivity.
To migrate strategically and consolidate where they can is a welcome solution to a business, provided the channel partner can show them how to achieve the soft benefits for the new IP enabled applications.”
There are three main capabilities to enable consolidation in the customers business.
Open Standards. One of the great benefits of standards is lack of vendor tie in. They provide the ability for telephony applications to interoperate and be delivered independently of the network architecture. In the same way as you install multiple applications on the PC you can operate multiple applications over the PBX, whether IP or traditional, hosted or on premise. The timing of migration and the cost justification, is not tied to the applications.
Integration. A single platform which interfaces to multiple applications and a mixed infrastructure will enable the use of existing hardware, plus strategic migration both to IP and future technologies. For example with the TeleWare platform a Cisco Unity voicemail system can be integrated to deliver a single contended voicemail system in a mixed Cisco/Mitel/Siemens PBX architecture. The result – a single voicemail application while sweating the assets and migrating at the pace demanded by the business.
Creating Solutions. Bespoke integration is costly, solutions that require ongoing tailoring are costly, solutions that demand change for consolidation are costly. The solution to migrate to a single vendor is costly in the short term and limiting in the long term. It will result in a loss of choice; it will limit the right to a competitive selection and will dictate a need to migrate when demanded by the technology, or the vendor. When an acquisition or merger occurs the network manger will be once again back to a mixed vendor architecture. A more effective solution is to install an architecture in the business that enables migration and consolidation ongoing.
Hansen concludes, “The channel partner’s skill of being able to build solutions from components that will integrate together and operate effectively delivering the new applications to achieve the soft ROI and accommodating change is critical to businesses today. Assisting a business with making the decision to migrate or to consolidate and when will be a key channel partner skill over the next 5 years.”