Deutsche Bank takes a long view on VoIP

For global financial giant Deutsche Bank, the road to a 20,000-user VoIP network begins with 1,000 small steps. But the bank's view on the future of IP telephony in the company is clear.

"IP telephony is not going away," says Reiner Bayard, managing director and global head of networks at Deutsche Bank. "The trend is irreversible for us. So the question is, What is the right time to jump on the bandwagon?"

The right time to jump presented itself recently when Deutsche Bank acquired Berkshire Mortgage, with around 10 sites in the U.S. and some 1,000 employees. The sites, all recently upgraded with new Cisco LAN and WAN gear, are located in the Midwest and on the West Coast. Each site has around 100 end users. The Cisco IP phones being deployed will connect to redundant, SIP-based CallManager 5.0 servers in the bank's New Jersey data center facilities via T-1 links.

"Survivability in the branch offices was of course a big topic when centralizing the CallManagers in the data center," Bayard says. The remote sites will use Cisco's Survivable Remote Site Telephony (SRST) technology, built into the WAN routers, which allows for public switched telephone network calls if the T1 network has a problem.

British Telecom is managing the deployment of the phones and CallManagers, as well as the WAN services connecting the branches. The carrier's professional services group is also responsible for managing the IP PBX servers and other VoIP equipment; secure links into Deutsche Bank's New Jersey data centers will be used for this to manage and configure the Cisco servers.

Bayard expects to see some productivity gains and modest cost savings from the U.S. deployment. "Right now, with 1,000 [IP phone] positions, we won't really see any significant cost savings" in terms of administration of the system. "But down the road, with the potential for 15,000 to 20,000 ports, we could see significant cost savings," he adds.

In the future, as IP telephony spreads across the global firm, the payoff for administrative cost-savings could be huge. And the promises of integrated voice, video and business applications are enticing. The "soft" savings of IP telephony are in productivity gains that CallManager's SIP-based features can offer.

"We expect that mobility will help us, as well as presence, especially in offices where people change workplaces," Bayard says. "There will probably be more applications around IP telephony that will increase productivity in the future. We're interested in providing a full desktop that provides messaging, telephony and video to [employees]. Are we there right now? No but this is the beginning of the deployment of the technology."

The fact that CallManager 5.0 can run SIP (Session Initiation Protocol)was a factor in the bank's decision to go with the Cisco IP PBX platform, Bayard says.

"We are a very international company," with around 2,500 locations worldwide he says. "When we think of the future integration of systems in the bank, it is a concern for us to have a standards-based platform."

Bayard says it was important to take a long view on IP telephony when picking a phone system for the acquired Berkshire offices. He says that when the IT group priced IP systems last year, the cost of acquisition, maintenance and support was around 20% lower than the offers he saw from other vendors.

"Now that number has eroded really," he says. "If I go and do a deal right now, I could get TDM [Time Division Multiplexing] technology cheaper than IP technology. But the business case over three to five years would not be beneficial ... and how much do you want to invest in old technology?"

Where Deutsche Bank goes next with VoIP, and which vendor will be used remains to be seen. Telephony inside the bank is still a smorgasbord of vendors, from Cisco in the branches, to Nortel in its major U.S. offices and Siemens in its European locations, and some "Avaya sprinkled in the U.S. and in Asia," Bayard says.

"We haven't really made up our mind on the global strategy yet," for IP telephony he says. "There are a number of decisions coming up in that. I'm not necessarily convinced that a one-vendor strategy is the way to do it. It all depends on the individual cases."

This story, "Deutsche Bank takes a long view on VoIP" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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