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As VoIP matures, payback remains an issue for users

The VoiceCon agenda focuses on finding business uses for the technology

February 7, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Voice-over-IP technology will again be the major focus of this week's VoiceCon conference, with an emphasis on finding VoIP applications that are beneficial to business users.
Network managers who were waiting to see if VoIP was mature enough have discovered that it is, said Fred Knight, general manager of VoiceCon 2005, which is taking place this week in Orlando. "So the next question is, What can I do with this technology to help businesses work?"
Showing companies where to look for a return on their investments in IP telephony is really at the core of VoiceCon's agenda, Knight added. About 4,000 attendees, 60% of them users, are expected at the conference, which is sponsored by MediaLive International Inc.
Craig Hinkley, senior vice president of network architecture at Bank of America Corp. in Charlotte, N.C., said VoIP is "pretty much a foregone conclusion" for next-generation corporate networks. "The discussion used to be 'if VoIP,' and it is now 'when,' " he said.
Hinkley will deliver a keynote address at VoiceCon describing Bank of America's planned VoIP implementation, which is designed to put 180,000 users on IP phones from Cisco Systems Inc. over the next three years. Up to 50,000 users should come online this year, Hinkley said.
About 35 pilot projects involving 1,000 users are already under way, he said. Much of the VoIP work is being coordinated by Electronic Data Systems Corp., which Bank of America hired in late 2002 to manage its networks under a 10-year, $4.5 billion contract.
In his keynote, Hinkley will offer advice aimed at helping other IT managers navigate through the minefield of bringing voice and data teams together to build VoIP systems. "The first thing that happens when you mention you're doing VoIP is that the room splits and the voice and data guys set up castles and start lobbing grenades," he said.
Hinkley has broken Bank of America's VoIP project into separate infrastructure and application services components. The latter is "where a lot of innovation and the value of VoIP is driven from," he said. But he declined to detail the VoIP applications that are being discussed at the bank or the cost of the rollout.
The security of VoIP systems could be a major topic of discussion at VoiceCon following last month's release of a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology that warned users to be careful about deploying the technology . But Knight and others said that VoIP security was a much bigger issue two years ago and that many vendors have more-secure approaches now.

Read more about Networking in Computerworld's Networking Topic Center.

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