A recent white paper written by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) noted the growing acceptance of converged networks in enterprises, but also highlighted the obstacles that are holding back adoption.
The paper, called Deploy or Delay, reports the findings of interviews with 103 senior executives. The companies interviewed were a representative sample of enterprises; nearly half had a turnover of less than £250m, a quarter had more than £5m, and the rest lay between the two.
Two-thirds of the companies planned to shift applications across most or all of their businesses to converged networks within the next five years, with implementation having begun or been piloted at 55 per cent.
Unsurprisingly, telecoms and IT companies have been the early adopters, with 68 per cent deploying converged networks at least somewhere in the organisation and 15 per cent in most of it.
Non-IT industries are not far behind, however; about 70 per cent of respondents from the consumer goods, durable goods and healthcare industries have begun to deploy converged IP networks.
Cost, quality of service and security were all issues that are holding some senior executives back from adopting convergence systems.
In a separate study, for example, the EIU and AT&T found that more than two-thirds of companies that have implemented voice over IP remain concerned about voice quality, and half are worried about network outages.
Security and service availability are perhaps the primary concerns, because all traffic is carried on a single network architecture and sent down a single pipe. This gives hackers a central point on which to focus, and a network outage would mean interruptions to both voice and data services.
But on the other hand, as Ross Patel, advisor on security to the British Computer Society, says: "With convergence you can concentrate security efforts on a specific area of infrastructure."
Vendors such as Avaya and Mitel are now concentrating on converged applications, such as IP telephony, and call centre provision, as opposed to the network infrastructure.
Avaya has partnered with Extreme Networks to use its switching products, but whether it can address security concerns without a homogeneous solution is debatable.
Nortel's new chief executive, Bill Owens, recently stated the vendor's policy on convergence and security. "Within the enterprise [convergence] market we see opportunities within the defence and government customer segments, particularly because of our recognised leadership in network security," he said.
What are the other reasons stated for not adopting convergence? As our chart (bottom right) shows, the main reason is that vendors and their partners are still not solution-oriented.
Keith Humphreys is managing consultant at EuroLan Research.
EuroLan Research (01202) 670 170
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