IP (Internet Protocol) Convergence is a term few describe with precision. The use of the term in popular culture has raised IP convergence (AKA ‘IP Everywhere’) to cultural icon status, leading CXO managers everywhere to feverishly ask, “So, what is our IP convergence strategy?”
There's one reason why network managers care so deeply about it.
The popular view is that with IP convergence, all information (data files, voice calls, e-mails, video streams, etc.) becomes bits and bytes transported in one consistent frame (or packet) structure across the networks of the world. The information is easily created, processed, stored, understood and communicated, and can be accessed from anywhere, at any time.
With the convergence of data and voice networks … and PCs and phones … and IT and telecomms networks …. and wired and wireless networks, questions arise as to how IP Convergence will impact the cabling industry both in the near term and in the longer term.
The growth of IP applications has created somewhat of a myth in the infrastructure market, that a key and prime benefit is the need for less cabling.
With the advent of IP applications such as Voice and Video over IP, and IP becoming the foundation for most wireless network as well, predictions are that it will only increase the number and type of network devices.
Therefore, I believe the focus should remain on the features and benefits of changing to IP applications in the first place, such as database integration and portability, decreased administration and equipment costs. Touting the virtues of less cable is a possible upside saving at best, but in my opinion a potential dangerous diversion if networks are found to be lacking the necessary infrastructure to support future demand.
IT managers should be aware that IP applications mean a ‘single type of cable’, but not necessarily a ‘single cable’. They should ensure they do not find themselves lacking the flexibility they need to take advantage of IP benefits and investment.
At the forefront of technical issues relevant to IP applications, especially those that require streaming such as voice and video, is quality and reliability. Even an application up 99% of the time is unacceptable to the modern business world as that would mean close to two hours per week of downtime. When many businesses conduct tens of thousands of dollars in sales every hour over the network, every second counts. Additionally, Quality of Service (QoS) is a serious concern, as the network needs to be designed for real time communications such as voice. People are used to having flawless telephone service. Static, fragmented sentences, and dropped calls are unacceptable.
What do these technical points mean to the infrastructure? Well, my belief is that good QoS needs a good QoC (Quality of Connection). The cabling that supports the infrastructure needs to enable high performance and low delay, to ensure optimum throughput and uptime. Therefore, the conclusion we can make is that IP requires higher grade cabling than that historically associated with applications such as voice. And more high performance cabling rather than less is required to support the growth in networks, devices and users that the IP applications will fuel.